21 Tips for Better Sleep and Create a Bedtime Routine That Works
Try these 21 tips for better sleep and create a bedtime routine that actually works.
We live in a society that isn’t very conducive to sleep. But don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t improve your sleep. It takes a holistic approach rather than quick-fixes and the creation of a bedtime routine, but better sleep is 100% attainable.
Create a Bedtime Routine
Our brains love creating habits because it makes activities easier and requires less energy. Our brain will create habits whether we try to create them or not.
Additionally, our neurons do this thing that is best described as “what wires together fires together.” When two activities are done together over an over, your brain associates them together.
Sometimes when we can sleep at night, we grab our phone and start scrolling to alleviate the frustration and boredom. This doesn’t improve our sleep but it does create a habit in our brain. Frustration with sleep -> scrolling through phone = temporary relief.
It’s our job to create healthy habits that improve our life, our sleep included. Otherwise, our brain will do it for us while we subconsciously do activities that only give us temporary relief.
I know it can be annoying to take extra time our of your evening to create a bedtime routine. But if you’re already spending time tossing and turning at night, are you really at a loss for time? Your health and wellbeing are worth a little extra time.
The tips below are merely suggestions. Don’t try to do all of them because it’s not necessary and it’s also hard to create more than one or two habits at once. Instead, start by choosing one or two habits that resonate with you. Try techniques to see which work best for you, and add habits over time.
21 Tips for Better Sleep
We've included a lot of the basics here – things that you can do around bedtime to help promote better sleep.
Toward the end of this list, we've also included more holistic ideas. Our lives aren’t compartmentalized – everything is connected. And so you may not be able to solve your sleep problems by just creating a bedtime routine. You will likely have to adjust your lifestyle and take a holistic approach.
1. Practice Mindfulness at Bedtime
It can be hard to switch the thinking mind off and just rest. Incorporatingmindfulnessinto your bedtime routine can help the transition be more seamless.
Mindfulness is being aware – having good control over your attention. It can be hard to rest when you’re thinking about tomorrow or worrying about what happened earlier in the day.
As you go about your bedtime routine, try to bring yourself back into the present moment and focus on whatever activity you’re doing. Shifting your mindset to being aware that it’s time to rest can help you actually rest. Because what we think, we create.
It’s okay if your attention wanders in the evening. When it does, gently bring it back to the present moment and remind yourself that rest is valuable.
For a lot of us, not being able to shut off our mind at night is one of the biggest culprits contributing to our lack of sleep.
I mostly meditate in the morning to start my day with a clear mind. But on the nights when it’s hard to sleep, I do a quick meditation to help clear my mind and switch off my thinking mind and body.
Even a quick 5-minute meditation while lying in bed can help calm your mind and prepare you for sleep.
Yogais a great activity to work into your evening routine to improve your sleep.
Similar to meditation, yoga can help you quiet your mind. Yoga has the added benefit of the mind-body connection and can help relax your body and mind at the same time.
4. Use Essential Oils for Sleep
Aromatherapy is a great way to improve your sleep naturally by using essential oils that have calming and relaxing effects.
Lavender is the most widely known essential oil for sleep, but it’s just one of many.
5. Put Away Your Phone & Other Technology
You know that technology isn’t conducive to better sleep. Let this be yet another reminder that the blue light and addictive qualities of your phone are preventing you from getting the sleep you deserve.
Try putting your phone away as the first step in your nighttime routine.
6. Dim the Lights and Avoid Blue Light
“When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes your body tired.” (1).
Our natural circadian rhythm coincides with lightness and darkness, but our lifestyle doesn’t match up as well with this.
We often go from stark brightness to complete darkness when we shut off all the lights at bedtime. But this doesn’t give our bodies enough time to adjust. Think about the setting of the sun – it happens slowly, not all at once.
You can use dimmable bulbs or automatically dimming light bulbs that turn to a lower setting at night to help you transition into bedtime.
Reading is a great winding down activity to do in the evening. Unlike playing on your phone or watching tv, you have to be relatively alert to read. So you’ll be able to notice more quickly when you are tired and ready to sleep.
By reading instead of using technology, you’ll be avoiding blue light, doing something quiet, and avoid the black hole that is the internet.
8. Plan the Next Day
If you have trouble falling asleep because you’re running through your to-do list for the next day, try planning out tomorrow in advance to avoid the need to think about the next day as you fall asleep.
Ideally, don’t plan the next day right at bedtime. Instead, plan it at the end of your ‘workday’ which may include family and household tasks.
Try to remember that you cannot complete tasks while laying in bed at night and that worrying about tomorrow is useless. You’ve already planned out your next day, so there’s no need to worry about it.
If it’s not just tomorrow’s to-do list that plagues your mind at night, try journaling to put to paper all of the thoughts running through your mind.
Journaling before bed can be helpful if you often overthink the events of the day, if you worry despite having tomorrow planned out, or if larger problems in your life are on your mind.
It’s okay to have thoughts and emotions, and you don’t often have control of whether they come and go. But do have control over whether you hold on to these thoughts and emotions.
Journaling is a great way to let go of thoughts and emotions that aren’t serving you, work through problems, and save ideas for later. All of which can quiet the mind and make sleep come easier.
10. Use White Noise
It can be hard to sleep in the dead quiet. And it can be even harder to sleep with distracting noises. You can use a fan or a white noise machine.
11. Use Sleep Sounds
If white noise isn’t quite cutting it, you might try sleep sounds to help lull you to sleep.
The benefit of sleep sounds is that it not only blocks noise or fills the silence, but it also gives you a sound to focus on. This is a great option to help calm a busy mind.
12. Lower the Temperature
Our bodies sleep best in cold temperatures. If you find yourself tossing and turning at night because you're too warm, it might be time to turn your thermostat down.
You can also try limiting physical activity in the evening. If you exercise late at night, your body will still be warm for a while and this might make it hard to fall asleep.
13. Upgrade Your Mattress
Getting a new mattress is a big purchase. If you're tossing and turning all night or waking up with pain, then it might be time to consider it.
14. Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary
In addition to these small changes like noise and temperature, it can be helpful to make your bedroom a space that feels like a sanctuary.
We are affected by our environment, so creating an environment that is calming and relaxing can actually improve your sleep!
Here are some ideas to create a bedroom that feels like a sanctuary:
- Use a relaxing color scheme – warm grays, earth tones, blues, and greens are all great options
- Reduce or eliminate technology (TVs, computers, etc)
- Declutter– it’s hard to relax in a cluttered space
- Use blackout curtains to reduce light pollution from outside
- Decorate with calming decor and consider having plants
15. Adjust Your Bedtime Eating Habits
There isn’t one eating habit in particular that will help you fall asleep, especially since our bodies are all different. Here are some eating habits to consider if you’re struggling to sleep.
Don’t Eat Before Bed
Its best not to eat right before bed, but this is especially true for those of us with sensitive digestion. The digestion process can keep you awake and make you restless.
If you do crave something warm and soothing before bed, try drinking tea instead of having a snack. A warm drink as part of your bedtime routine can be a comforting habit. And it won’t require much digestion.
Stop Drinking Caffeine Earlier
You might not associate the effects of your afternoon coffee to your lack of sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of about 5 hours, meaning that half of the caffeine will leave your system in that amount of time (2). But half of the caffeine is still in your body and can take varying amounts of time to completely leave your system depending on body composition, diet, etc.
Although some people recommend stopping drinking coffee 6 hours before bedtime. But if you’re having trouble sleeping, it could be that some caffeine is still into your body well past that 6-hour mark.
Try adjusting what time you have your last cup of coffee, and find other ways to boost your energy later in the day.
Lifestyle Changes for Better Sleep:
16. Eat Foods That Make You Feel Good
Our bodies run best when we nourish them well. And since sleep is a function of our body, it is most definitely affected by the foods we eat.
We talked about reducing caffeine and not eating before bed. But in general, a diet full of foods that make you feel your best will help your body function better and in-turn help to improve your circadian rhythm and sleep.
Regular exercise is a great way to help regulate your circadian rhythm (3). Try to exercise earlier in the day so that you aren’t energized at night or too warm.
You want to regulate your body so that you are alert during the day and more relaxed at night.
18. Get Sunlight Exposure During The Day
Another way to regulate your circadian rhythm is to get exposure to natural light during the day (3). We’ve already talked about reducing light at night, but it’s even better if you can continue the cycle and get natural light during the day.
19. Consider Health Issues
Although lifestyle is the biggest factor in our lack of sleep, there may also be deeper health issues that cause a lack of sleep.
Hormone imbalances, digestive problems, pain, sleep apnea, acid reflux, and many other health issues can disrupt your sleep (3). If you think there might be a deeper health issue, talk to your doctor. It’s also important to do your own research on these health issues because you know your body best and are the best advocate for your own health.
20. Simplify and Prioritize Your Schedule
We have an epidemic in our society – we are perpetually busy. We have way too much on our to-do list, and we feel like we need to be busy in order to be valued.
But when we try to do everything, we can’t do anything fully. Simplifying your schedule by prioritizing what is most important and saying no to what is not will not only improve the quality of your life overall, but it will also improve your sleep. When you simplify your schedule, you’ll have more time for an evening routine, less stress throughout the day, fewer worries that keep you up at night, and you won’t feel like you rushed through your day and haven’t had time to just relax.
21. Create a Mindfulness Practice
If you’re looking for a holistic approach to better sleep, creating amindfulness practice (not just practicing mindfulness at bedtime) is a great place to start.
Being mindful is the practice of being aware and present. And when we are aware and present, we are in the perfect spot to find growth as well as balance in our lives.
Mindfulness can help you calm your mind throughout the day so you aren’t plagued with worries at night. It can help improve your time management, prioritize, reduce stress, and slow down so that you can create time for an evening routine. Mindfulness can help you find clarity to realize which factors of your life are affecting your sleep the most.If you enjoyed this list, we think you'll also enjoy our Free Essential Oils for Self-Care Guide where you can learn our favorite essential oil for self-care picks and lots of ways to use them all. Sign up below and we'll send it right over.