By now, you know the benefits of sleep—from improving your mood, memory, and performance to helping you maintain a healthy weight and lower stress levels. So, of all of the New Year’s resolutions you make this year, getting more sleep should be at the top of your list. And the best way to ensure a full night of shut-eye? By rebooting your bedtime routine.
“I refer to it as ‘preparing for bedtime’, and the routine has to literally be looked at as a preparation,” says Nancy H. Rothstein, MBA, The Sleep Ambassador®, Director of Circadian Corporate Sleep Programs. “In the same way as you prepare for work or for exercise or for other things, you also need to prepare for bed. Your sleep routine needs to be looked at in the same way you honor any other routine you have.”
Commit to treating yourself to these sleep-friendly habits for at least a month, and chances are, they will make you feel so well-rested that you’ll want to stick with them for the rest of the year.
Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule
If you’re a morning person during the week and a night owl on Saturdays and Sundays, you might not be getting the REM rest you deserve. “A good sleep routine will ‘train’ your body and in turn, your body will respond accordingly, falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer,” says Leo Echeverria, COO of Snuz.com. “A regular schedule not only tends to increase the amount of sleep people get each night, it can also improve the quality of that sleep.” As difficult as it may be, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekends) to keep your body’s clock running smoothly. Echeverria also suggests skipping nap time in the hours before bedtime, which leaves you tossing and turning.
Steer clear of substances
Coffee may feel like the only way to fight that afternoon slump, but the reality is that the extra cup may be what’s haunting you come midnight. Echeverria advises avoiding caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep. Think of it this way: The more well-rested you are, the less you’ll really need those four shots of espresso to get you going in the morning. Rothstein also suggests avoiding any big meals within three hours of bedtime to maximize your sleep potential.
Create your ideal sleep environment
Your bedroom is your sanctuary, and it’s important to make the effort to actually make it feel that way. “Comfort is a key ingredient for your body to relax and prepare for sleep,” says Echeverria. “Anything that takes away from that will make it harder to fall asleep. A good mattress with comfort and support will relax your body, cool sheets and proper pillow support will do the same.” Consider this your excuse to invest in a set of expensive 450-thread count sheets—it’s all in the name of health.
Set an alarm to start the routine
It may seem like overkill, but Rothstein suggests setting an alarm 45 minutes to an hour before bed to signal that it’s time to start winding down. “It's a signal to tune out from tech and tune into you in order to transition into sleep,” says Rothstein.
Hop in the shower
“Shower time is a great time to practice mindfulness,” says Rothstein. “Honor this time for your body to transition from a busy day to sleep. We can't just expect to run, run, run, and then be able to settle down. We have to accomodate what our biology calls for.” The warm water will help relax your body and your mind. For even more zen, invest in an aromatherapy shower kit like this one from Essio.
“Recharge your phone outside of the bedroom so you can recharge in bed,” says Rothstein. We’ve all heard the advice about keeping screens out of the bedroom ad nauseum, but that’s only because it really is key to falling asleep. If you need an alarm to wake up in the morning, invest in the old-fashioned kind. Just be sure to face it away from the bed, so you aren’t tempted to stare at it all night long.
Chill your thoughts
The last step before sleep sets in is to quiet your mind. Rothstein advises taking this time to practice more mindfulness, namely focusing on body awareness and breathing into different parts of your body—from head to toe—and being grateful for each of them. She also suggests keeping a journal on your bedside table so that you can get any stressful thoughts out of your head and onto paper, so they won’t interfere with your ZZZs.