We all know that busy days can lead to restless nights—getting into a sleep-ready state isn’t always as simple as snuggling in and turning out the light. How do you quiet your chattering mind and set yourself up for sweet dreams?
Follow these tips to help you—and your family—wind down and sleep well, starting tonight:
1. Set a bedtime and stick to it
Bedtimes aren't just for kids—adults need them, too.
That's because going to bed and waking up at consistent hours helps reinforce your circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock) which can improve sleep quality, according to the National Sleep Foundation. It also establishes boundaries for you (and your kids), so you know when it's time to stop texting and video chatting and start getting ready for bed.
As difficult as is it, try sticking to the same bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends and vacations, when you can. Because, contrary to popular belief, you really can't make up for lost sleep and get the same benefits as having quality sleep every night, research shows.
2. Phase-out screen usage
The blue light from electronic devices can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and trick it into thinking it’s not really time to go to bed, according to a report from Harvard Medical School.
So, it's a good idea for kids and adults to avoid TV and power off devices 30 minutes to one hour before bed. That way, you have some quiet time to clear your head before it hits the pillow. If you must leave your phone on, think about setting it to "do not disturb" where only emergency calls get through.
Disconnecting may feel awkward at first. Soon enough, you may look forward to those moments without digital distractions.
3. Develop a relaxing ritual
Taking the time to calm your mind and slow down not only helps you fall asleep faster, but it can also lead to longer, deeper sleep—the kind that helps us feel restored, boosts our mood, and reduces the risk for health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Plus, practicing a soothing activity before bed can create healthy sleep patterns for your brain, so you get better rest throughout the night, says the American Heart Association. Bonus: You'll clock in more of that precious rapid-eye-movement (REM), a cycle of sleep that helps the brain unpack the day’s thoughts, store memories, and learn.
To get in sleep-mode, try meditating or journaling. Quiet activities for kids can include listening to soft music, coloring, or talking about the day. Also, the bath-book-bed regimen can be effective for all ages.
Start about 30 to 60 minutes before you want to fall asleep, and then go to bed when you’re finally ready to drift off. If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up and try another activity to help you wind down, like reading or listening to soft music. Just make sure you pick a routine that travels well and can be done anywhere, even on vacation.
4. Watch what you eat and drink
We all know that caffeine can keep us awake for hours, but that's not the only sleep disruptor you should be concerned about. Alcohol is another one.
That glass of wine with dinner might make you drowsy, but it can also ruin good sleep by impacting REM patterns, studies show. Eating a big meal right before bed or indulging in spicy foods can also lead to stomach troubles like heartburn that can keep you up at night.
However, you don't have to go to bed hungry or thirsty. Sip water or a soothing mug of decaf tea. You can also have a small snack like half a banana with peanut butter. Bonus: Bananas and peanuts contain tryptophan, a component known for inducing sleep.
5. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary
Surrounding yourself with sleep-friendly vibes in your bedroom can signal to your brain that it's time to wind down. Consider making these tweaks to your space:
- Bring in color: Some researchers suggest that certain colors can help relax you better than others (one study showed that navy blue is the world's most relaxing hue).
- Try specialty pillows: Sleeping with a body or cervical pillow can help put your spine in proper alignment and relieve pressure from your joints for better sleep.
- Clear out clutter: Having an organized room can help you feel less stressed, and for some, more able to drift off to sleep.
- Eliminate electronics: That way, you're not tempted to scroll through your phone or force yourself to finish a TV program before bed. For kids, make sure to keep toys off the bed so they don't get distracted when it's time to sleep.
- Choose the right temperature: Keep the room dark, quiet, and cool. Set the thermometer to 60-67 degrees F. That may sound chilly, but studies show the cold can help you get more restorative sleep.
Having healthy sleep habits is one way of practicing self-care. When you put a little effort into your sleep routine, you're more likely to wake up happy. And the phrase good morning could take on a whole new meaning.