When it comes to falling asleep, the hours before you climb into bed can make a big difference. With this in mind, we have created the ultimate bedtime plan.
Customize the plan in a way that works best for you, but remember that the more consistently you follow your routine, the more effective it will be.
Start During the Day
There are certain daytime activities that influence your nighttime sleep. Exercise, in general, is good for sleep, but try to work out in the early part of the day when possible. Getting sun exposure in the morning for at least 30 minutes will help your body induce sleep at the right time of the night. If you nap, keep it under an hour and don’t nap in the late afternoon or evening, so you won’t wake up drowsy or have trouble falling asleep at bedtime.
Eat Sleep-Friendly Foods
In the two hours before bed, limit your foods to those that promote rather than disrupt, your sleep. A heavy or spicy meal before bed can interfere with sleep, so keep your snacks light. Try a banana and a handful of almonds, a slice of whole-wheat toast and a cup of chamomile tea, or a small bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with flax seeds—all foods with sleep-inducing properties. Avoid caffeine after 5 or 6 p.m. and alcohol before bed (alcohol can make you drowsy, but it leads to poor sleep quality).
Set an Early Bedtime
Most of your deep, restorative sleep occurs in the first few hours after you fall asleep. Establish a reasonable bedtime that gives you at least seven to eight hours before you need to wake up (allowing time for you to fall asleep and wake up briefly in the night if you need to). After you’ve decided on a bedtime, try to stay with it even on the weekends, so your body’s clock becomes accustomed. The regularity will help you establish a more reliable sleep-and-wake schedule.
Two Hours Before, Power Down
Your body and mind need to downshift as bedtime nears, so dim any bright overhead lights in your home. Have a light snack. If you work in the evenings, choose a room in the house that is not your bedroom—you don’t want work thoughts to invade your sleep environment.
One Hour Before, Relax
It’s now time to let your mind and body relax. Turn off close-range electronic devices, as the light from these screens and their interactive nature can be stimulating to the brain. Close your laptop and shut down your work responsibilities until the next day. Avoid any stressful conversations that can wait for the next day.
30 Minutes Before, Calm
Choose an activity that is calming. Read a print book or use an e-reader without a backlight, listen to music while you sip chamomile tea, or take a warm bath and use soothing body and face creams.
At Bedtime, Invite Sleep
When you climb into bed, use a breathing exercise or a relaxation technique to help clear your mind and invite sleep.