Preparing your body and mind for a restful night’s sleep is not something you want to leave to chance. Following the same nightly routine insures that you won’t forget any important steps, and gives you the best chance at a night of undisturbed slumber.
1. Drink Tart Cherry Juice
You’re already aware that there are some beverages best avoided at night, like coffee and colas that can keep you tossing and turning. But there are also some drinks that can have a relaxing effect on the body and get you to konk out more easily.
Tart cherry juice is a great way to unwind and signal to the body the day is over and it’s time for rest. Tart cherries are high in melatonin, the hormone that helps induce sleep, and getting into the habit of having a glass about an hour before you plan on going to bed works wonders. Herbal tea is another option that provides the same relaxation as regular tea but is caffeine free.
How It Helps: Tart cherry juice can help you get that sleepy feeling because it increases the amount of melatonin in your system. This sends signals to the brain that it’s time for sleep, and should bring on a case of the yawns. Don’t fight the sensation, let it carry you away into a good night’s sleep.
2. Get Into Something Comfy
You choice of sleepwear is essential, and making it a ritual can help you establish a “getting ready for bed” routine that will help you shut down more easily and get more restful sleep. Wearing something different every night or not putting any thought into what you’re wearing is one way to leave it to chance and get varied results.
Experiment with different options depending on your personal preference and the time of year. In the summer you might like to wear cotton pajamas that are loose and breathable, or perhaps nothing at all. In the winter you might find that pair of flannel pajamas makes you feel warm and cozy.
How It Helps: Choosing pajamas and sleepwear that is comfortable and doesn’t constrict you will help you feel better and in turn sleep better throughout the night. Getting into these clothes is also a way to trigger sleep hormones and start to make a habit out of going to bed.
3. Do Some Light Stretching
The nighttime isn’t the right time for extreme exercise, but you can do some light stretching so that you’ll be able to fall asleep faster with fewer aches and pains. Rarely do we prepare ourselves for a night of rest, but it is a good idea to stretch muscle and tendons before an 8 hour block of non-use.
A basic yoga routine is perfect at this time, and you can simply hold a few poses until you feel your body relax. You definitely don’t want to exert yourself or work up a sweat. Take it easy and use this time to clear your mind and meditate one what a great day you had. Run the day’s highlights through your mind so that you can have some positive momentum before you get in bed.
How It Helps: Stretching helps get the body in alignment and can prevent you from waking up with stiff muscles and joints. No matter your lifestyle, whether you spend your days sitting in an office setting or moving around a lot, stretching helps to calibrate the body and get it ready for sleep, and gets things off to a better start in the morning.
4. Set the Right Temperature
Getting the temperature right is one of the most important things you can do to improve your sleep. Waking up in the middle of the night because it’s either too hot or too cold is a sure way to disrupt your sleeping cycle and make you feel groggy the next day.
Keep in mind that your core body temperature will drop as you sleep, so even though you may be warm now you’ll probably get cooler during the night. Keep an extra blanket nearby so you can easily warm yourself up without having to get out of bed. Consider changing your bedding to suit the season, with thicker, warmer sheets in the winter and cooler, lighter sheets in the summer.
How It Helps: Keeping your sleeping quarters in the comfort zone for sleep is essential, and you’ll wake more refreshed in the morning if you make sure the temperature is right before you hit the hay. Contrarily you could be up several times throughout the night adjust the temperature and your bedding due to lack of planning.
5. Floss Your Teeth
This is a sticking point for most, but once you make it a ritual you just won’t feel right unless you do it. Plus you’ll get your dentist off your back and they won’t have to remind you to floss next time, they’ll be able to see that you do.
Try out different flosses and flossing gadgets until you find one that suits you. There are floss picks that give you a plastic handle to hang onto if you don’t like using ordinary floss. There are also different flosses, some thick and others thinner to get between teeth that are a bit crowded.
How It Helps: Flossing gives you a satisfying clean feeling and is one of the best things you can do for your oral hygiene. It’s a reassuring feeling knowing that you’ve done all you can for the health of your teeth and gums, and as this becomes a habit you’ll see the difference in your smile.
6. Scrape Your Tongue
After you floss and brush your teeth, scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper. This will give you mouth a very clean feeling and can even help you wake up with less harsh morning breath.
There are special tongue scrapers that you can buy that do a much better job than simply brushing your tongue with your toothbrush.
How It Helps: Scraping the tongue removes bacteria that would otherwise be festering in your mouth throughout the night. You’ll go to sleep with a fresh, clean feeling in your mouth which often makes it easier to fall asleep.
7. Read Something That Makes You Feel Good
Reading activates your imagination in a positive way, and ready a page or even just a paragraph of something that makes you feel good right before you go to bed can make a huge difference.
Some good ideas for what to read: Any self-improvement book that provides uplifting guidance that resonates with you, a Chicken Soup for the Soul book or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff book, a book of poems that you like, really anything that you enjoy reading and will look forward to each night.
How It Helps: Just like the body, the mind needs to be fed every day. You don’t have to read something new everyday, but reading something that you love and that puts a smile on your face will help you get into the right frame of mind for sleep, as well as help you greet the next day with a brighter outlook.
8. Listen to Soothing Music
Putting your mind in a state that’s conducive to sleep is what it’s all about when crafting your bedtime habits. Putting on some Classical or New Age music can help your body relax, and your mind calm down.
If music isn’t working out for you, try turning off any noise making electronic devices such as the TV, computers, or your smartphone and just have an hour or so of quiet time before bed. This will send yet another signal to the body that you’re wrapping up for the day and it’s almost time for bed.
How It Helps: Instead of listening to something that is stimulating or that could give you a headache, switching it over to a lighter sound can really help. Experiment with different types of music to see which one helps you fall asleep better.
9. Write Out Your Top 3 for Tomorrow
If the stress of tomorrow is creeping into tonight, write out the three things you definitely want to get done tomorrow. You’ll be turning these over to your subconscious mind while you’re sleeping, and you’ll wake up with idea on how to get them done more efficiently.
You might notice that our morning rituals article has this same step. It’s good to revisit the three items when you wake up and determine if these still are your top 3 things that need to get done today.
How It Helps: When your mind is racing and coming up with all sorts of things you need to do tomorrow, you can help the situation by identifying the most important things and you’ll literally rest assured knowing that they’ll get done.
10. Say Your Prayers
Whether or not you’re religious, you can still say your prayers. This puts you into a feeling of appreciation for the things you’re thankful for, and allows you to sum up the things in your life that you’re glad about.
If you’re atheist just say your prayers to your highest sense of yourself. If you’re agnostic say your prayers to a benevolent universe, and if you’re religious you can say your prayers to your respective concept of God. It doesn’t matter as much where the prayers are directed, but just that you’re feeling good about what you have. There’s always something to be thankful for.
How It Helps: You can use prayer time to ask for things you want, or to be thankful for what you have. It helps to get things off your mind and also to put out an energy of thankfulness rather than worry and overwhelm.
3 Things to Avoid That Can Screw Up Your Sleep Patterns
Late Night Eating – If you’re body is still digesting food when you’re trying to get to sleep, you’ll have a tougher time falling asleep and wake up feeling worse off than if you just stayed hungry.
Watching Movies or TV – The flashing images and intense scenes in today’s movies and TV shows will still be flashing in your mind while you’re trying to go to sleep later. This can overstimulate the brain and make it so you can’t turn things off when you’re ready to sleep.
Using a Computer or Smartphone – Using a backlit device like your computer or smartphone right before you go to sleep can make it harder to get to sleep once you’re ready.
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