“I’m so tired.” Think about the last time you heard that or even said it yourself. You probably don’t have to go back that far in your memory. Whether it’s from the stress of daily life or from insomnia that seems to have no cause, we all seem to be getting less sleep than we should.
I know how frustrating it can be to go without a good night’s rest and have tried numerous products and methods that claim to be a magical cure. While I’m still searching for that miracle product, I have taken my favorite methods and put them together for a nighttime routine that helps me resist my night owl tendencies and get a full night’s sleep.
Here are my recommendations for someone who wants to fall asleep at 11 p.m.:
5:00 p.m. – De-stress your commute
Right after work seems a little early to be thinking about sleep, but the earlier you start to relax, the easier it will be to fall asleep. Heavy traffic or train delays can rile you up to the point that you’re still on edge hours later. So find something to do that gives you a sense of accomplishment and takes your mind off of the ride. Educational podcasts, language learning CDs from the library, and audio or physical books are all great ways to spend a commute. And the longer your trip is, the more you learn!
6:00 p.m. – Warm up dinner
When I get home from a long day of work, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. To stop myself from ordering delivery, I make a week’s worth of dinner on the weekend that I can simply warm up and eat. It cuts down on the dishes you have to wash, too! And make sure you stay away from caffeine, I try to cut it out by noon at the latest.
7:00 p.m. – Cut out all alcohol
If you must have a drink, make sure to stop drinking four hours before bedtime. Alcohol can interrupt your sleep pattern.
7:00 p.m. – Go for a walk
Exercise is good for your sleep, but make sure you don’t schedule it too close to hitting the hay.A half-hour of brisk walking outside is my favorite way to exercise and will help work off your dinner.
7:30 p.m. – Quiet time in Epsom salt bath
I prefer to wash up at night since I’m not a morning person and like getting into bed when I’m clean. Go through your usual skincare routine and then soak in a hot bath with Epsom salt for as long as possible. I try to aim for a half an hour because the Epsom salt helps soothe sore muscles and the scent of lavender encourages relaxation. Cut out all distractions, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. This is an easy way to practice mindfulness!
8:00 p.m. – Drink a glass of tart cherry juice
Tart cherries contain melatonin and tryptophan, which are both excellent for a good night’s sleep. Tart cherry juice is much easier to find in stores than actually tart cherries and is available all year round. Keep it to one glass a day though as juice can be high in sugar.
8:15 p.m. – Use an acupressure mat
I recently bought an acupressure mat, and it has been life-changing. Put it behind your back while sitting in a chair, lie on it while you’re reading in bed, or lie on it on the floor as you meditate. While it’s going to take a while for me to work up to the recommended 2 hours of use, it does help ease any aches in my body that could keep me up at night.
10:15 p.m. – Chamomile tea and journaling
While the relationship between chamomile tea and sleep isn’t concrete, it doesn’t hurt to have a cup 30 minutes before bed. I like to drink it while checking off my accomplishments of the day and making a list of goals for the next day.
10:30 p.m. – Screens off
TVs, computers, and cell phones should be turned off a half an hour before bed. In the case that you must check your device after that, make sure you have installed apps like f.lux or night shift installed on your phone to help block out the blue light that can affect your sleep.
10:30 p.m. – Turn on the diffuser
Aromatherapy has gained popularity over the past couple years, and essential oils and diffusers are becoming more commonly available in stores. Lavender essential oil is my favorite for sleep, but bergamot and Roman chamomile are also believed to help you drift off easier. I turn on my diffuser 30 minutes beforehand and set it to shut off after 90 minutes of running. Make sure it is close to your bed, but not so close that it gets your sheets wet!
10:45 p.m. – Cool down your room
There is nothing worse than waking up in the night because you’re hot. Set your thermostat in the range of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid night sweats. I’ve been known to set it as low as 60 degrees since I sleep hot.
And there you have it. On nights that I follow this plan, I’m more likely to go to bed earlier, sleep through the night, and wake up more refreshed. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to complete the entire plan, try one or two a night to see what works for you. And of course, please see a doctor if you have chronic sleep problems.