Routines and rituals help to relax and train your body and mind. You’ve likely experienced this in your daily life: an exercise routine is often easier to stick to when it’s done regularly at the same time. The daily array of tasks you face at work and at home can feel eminently more manageable when you take care of them on a schedule. Healthy habits and rituals make our lives flow with greater ease, productivity, and purpose. Rituals aren’t just helpful to your busy, daily life – they’re also very good for sleep. Research shows routines enhance sleep quality, and can reduce the risk for sleep disorders like insomnia, particularly as we age.
Taking care of day and night
Your sleep life and your waking life in are constant interplay. How you live during the day affects your sleep, and how you sleep at night has a profound influence on your waking day. Preparing for the transitions between these two fundamental phases of daily life can enhance both. A relaxing evening routine helps your nightly sleep and sets you up for a better, more productive day. A smart morning routine gets your day off on the right foot, and has benefits that extend to your night’s rest. Taking time to create rituals that focus on sleep can allow you to fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly. They also help you wake feeling refreshed and prepared to meet the demands of your day.
Keep it simple
Sleep unfolds in biologically driven cycles throughout the night. The evening and morning routines you create can help strengthen and support these cycles, enhancing both the quality and quantity of your rest. Sleep rituals need not be complicated. In fact, simple is often best when it comes to sleep routines.
Winding down at day’s end
The end of a busy, active day can arrive abruptly, and it’s all too easy to carry the responsibilities, stress, and worry of daily life into the evening hours. Taking daytime worries to bed often leads to difficulty falling asleep, and to restless sleep throughout the night.
Evening rituals for sleep help to create a buffer between hectic days and bedtime. Designating time in the evening to wind down and set aside the cares of the day allows you to transition into sleep more easily, and to sleep better throughout the night. Take a couple of hours before bedtime and devote that time to a gradual preparation for sleep. Fill this time with quiet activities that soothe you and release your focus on the day’s events. Watching television, chatting with a friend on the phone, or relaxing with your partner over a cup of tea are evening habits that can help you unwind. Taking a shower or soaking in the tub roughly 90 minutes before bedtime is a relaxing, sleep-promoting ritual. Your body naturally lowers its temperature in preparation for sleep, and a warming shower or bath can enhance the effects of this process, stimulating both physical relaxation and feelings of drowsiness.
A quiet hour
The final hour before bed is time for quiet rituals. Dim the lights in your room. Turn off the television, log off the computer, and stow away the phone for the evening. Within this hour, create a regular routine that combines simple preparations for sleep – brushing your teeth, washing your face, climbing into comfortable pajamas – with simple and relaxing activities like reading, or knitting, or listening to soft music. Light stretching and simple meditation or relaxation exercises are other sleep-promoting rituals to try. Once you’ve created a routine that feels easy and relaxing, stick to it. The repetition of these actions night after night creates deeply ingrained habits, and sends signals to your body and mind that it is time for rest.
Start your day right
We don’t always think about morning rituals as important for night-time sleep. But they are. Having a morning routine in place helps you wake at the same time every day. Both consistent bedtimes and consistent wake times are hallmarks of a strong and healthy sleep routine. Morning rituals promote alertness. They also boost your mood and energy level. These positive effects of a regular morning routine don’t just send you into your day feeling better – they also help to strengthen your body’s internal sleep-wake cycle, helping you sleep more soundly at day’s end.
Waking at the same time every day is the first step in creating a sleep-friendly morning routine. Planning your first actions in the morning is also important. Having something purposeful to do upon rising from bed helps you transition out of sleep. Your first activity out of bed can be as simple as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. It can also be something physical: yoga, stretching, or a walk to the end of the driveway to retrieve the morning newspaper. Choose a first activity that you can look forward to, and one you can repeat most every morning. Getting out for even a brief period in morning sunlight can be both mood-boosting and highly beneficial for sleep. Early morning exposure to light stimulates energy and alertness, and strengthens sleep-wake cycles. Including a healthy breakfast – low in sugar and carbohydrates, full of sleep-friendly foods like fruit, dairy, whole grains or eggs – will help you feel more energised during the day and will benefit your sleep at night. Getting out the door to work or school can feel chaotic and routine-less, but with a little planning you can ground your morning in rituals that help you feel relaxed, alert, and prepared for your day.
Take your time
These morning and evening rituals may take some time to put in place. Focus on keeping things simple and sticking to the routines, and before long they will no longer require effort. Instead, they’ll feel like second nature – small acts that promote healthy sleep and well-being during your waking life.