Till a few weeks back, I used to be the poster girl for revenge bedtime procrastination.
My typical nighttime routine was to just brush my teeth, slap on some face oil, and then a choice between reading the latest romance novel on my phone or mindless web browsing, usually accompanied with some snacks till I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore (which would typically be around 1.30/2 am!!!). So basically, a whole lotta screen time + late-night snacking! Naturally, most mornings were a struggle for me and it used to be hours before I felt like a functional human being.
Since then, after some meaningful conversations with friends and doing a life audit of sorts, I realized that if I really wanted to build better habits and practice meaningful self-care, my nighttime routine was definitely due for an overhaul.
Why Do You Even Need a Good Nighttime Routine
When people try to get started on creating a better lifestyle for themselves, they usually tend to start with improving their morning routine. While there is nothing wrong with that approach, the reality is, if you’re going to bed at 2 am every night and expecting to wake up bright and chirpy at 6 am to follow your ‘ideal morning routine’, that’s almost like setting yourself up for failure.
A good nighttime routine can be a game-changer for sleep.
Without enough sleep, it’s hard to function at our best. But poor quality or inadequate sleep can also negatively impact our physical and mental health in big ways – both short-term like daytime fatigue and long-term such as chronic illnesses like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
But Nighttime is My Only Real Me-Time…
Listen, I totally get the attraction of staying up late to catch up on your hobbies (see above!). In a world where our days are usually dictated by work and family responsibilities, it’s comforting to have a few hours for ourselves to indulge in some mindless activities with no one else to stake a claim on your time and attention.
Sleep becomes a casualty in this cycle and it’s only taken me 5+ years of reading self-help books and following wellness gurus on Instagram (cue the massive eye roll at my own self!) to realize that it is a sacrifice not worth making.
Establishing a better nighttime routine does not have to mean giving up your favorite screen-time hobbies, but perhaps, tweaking your habits such that they do not disrupt your sleep hygiene.
How to Establish a Nighttime Routine
- One key is to keep things consistent. Pick a bedtime and stick to it as much as possible. This way your body will start to naturally wind down in preparation for sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime. Caffeine can keep you awake and alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns.
- Establish a regular winding down routine that includes calming activities like reading, yoga, or meditation.
- Make sure your sleeping environment is dark, quiet, and cool. Consider using a noise machine or blackout curtains to create an environment that is conducive to sleep.
- If you still have trouble sleeping, consult with your doctor to rule out any potential medical causes. Nighttime routines can be a great way to improve your sleep, but if there is an underlying medical condition causing your sleeplessness, it’s best to address that first.
11 Ideas for Calming Nighttime Routines
After trying out a few different tips and ideas for better nighttime routines, here are some of my favorite ones.
1| Put away the screens
This is actually the start of my nighttime routine. I shut down my laptop, set the alarm for the next day, and then keep away from screens till I finally fall asleep. It was initially hard to resist the temptation to scroll through Instagram for a few more minutes, but this gets easier with time.
Try turning off phones and computers an hour or two before bedtime to avoid exposure to blue light, which can disrupt sleep patterns.
2| Dim the lights
This one is simple but can make a big difference in creating the perfect calming atmosphere. Turn off the bright lights in your house or apartment and switch to lamps or candles. It’s a lot easier on the eyes and will help you relax quicker.
If possible, take it a step further and try to avoid working or studying in brightly lit areas during the evening.
3| Clean up a bit
I am not suggesting a major clean-up before hitting the bed, but it helps to just take 5-10 minutes to put things back in place.
For instance, it could be the dishes in the kitchen sink, clothes on your bed, or counter-tops. Just get rid of any clutter and you will sleep better for sure!
An organized room = a clearer mind = peaceful night sleep.
4| A warm shower or bath
The heat from the water can help relax your muscles and prepare you for sleep. Add some soothing aromatherapy or add a few drops of lavender oil to your bathtub to help promote relaxation.
5| Indulge in some skincare
Round off your warm shower/bath time with a little bit of skincare TLC. Once you’ve taken off any makeup from the day and cleansed your skin, slather on some toner and follow up with your preferred treatment routine (aka: acids that are suitable for your current skincare needs), and finish off with a moisturizer or face oil. Some nights you can even try out a sleeping mask.
Just be careful about mixing up your active ingredients and seek expert advice when needed.
My favorite nighttime skincare products these days are (not all on the same night though!): L’Oreal Hyaluronic Acid Serum, Neutrogena Retinol Cream, Korres Plump-Up Sleeping Facial, and Boissance Squalene and Vitamin C Face Oil.
6| A hot comforting drink
A cup of herbal tea, warm milk, or chamomile tea can help you relax and unwind before bed. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
I usually alternate between chamomile tea and caffeine-free rooibos tea these days.
7| Reading before bed
This is one of the favorite parts of my nighttime routine. A 2009 study showed that reading could help reduce stress levels by 68% while reducing heart rates and muscle tension. It is important not to read on a screen because studies have shown that the light from smartphones or other devices keeps us awake and disturbs our sleep cycles.
I’ve switched over from reading on my phone to reading actual physical books. It’s mostly non-fiction and graphic novels for me right now, but I am also looking to stock up on some of my favorite children’s books as well.
8| Yoga stretches in bed
I can’t say I have been super regular with this, but on the nights that I manage to add in some light yoga stretches in bed, it helps me feel even more relaxed and zen. It’s nothing too strenuous, just a few gentle poses that help me relax my body and clear my mind. Here are some bedtime yoga poses to start off with.
Writing down my thoughts before bed helps me declutter my mind. I don’t necessarily write anything specific, but it’s a way for me to wind down and reflect on the day that has passed.
If nothing else, I definitely do my gratitude journaling at this time. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been using this gorgeous planner to do my gratitude journaling, and it’s been really heartening to see the entries filling up with all the goodness.
10| Nighttime affirmations
Nighttime affirmations are positive statements about the things you want to attract into your life. They help you focus your mind and retrain it for an abundance of positivity, prosperity, happiness, and success in all areas of your life.
I’ve been going through a bunch of these bedtime affirmations for the past few weeks and I’ve found it really helpful to drift off to sleep afterward.
11| Say a little prayer
Of course, this is entirely optional. Nighttime prayers are a way to thank the universe for all that you have in life and ask for protection while you sleep. I find it soothing and calming as well. There is no right or wrong way to do this – just choose something that resonates with you, religious or otherwise.
I hope some of these ideas resonate with you and that you are able to build a helpful nighttime routine for yourself. What’s your favorite nighttime ritual? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!