Don’t we all want to fall asleep faster, improve the quality of our sleep, and wake feeling well rested? I know I do. It’s taken me 30+ years to master my evening routine and truly practice good sleep hygiene. I still have off days, but for the most part I’ve become a great sleeper. In this post we will talk about the healthy sleep habits and routines you will need to master to get your best sleep ever.
It’s time to throw out your old, bad sleeping habits and replace them with ones that will actually help you get a good night’s sleep. If you want to get better sleep, it’s time to make a few simple changes to your evening routine.
Are you getting enough sleep? The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults and young adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re not practicing good sleep hygiene then you may not be receiving enough sleep. Sleep deprivation affects your entire being.
According to Camille Peri, sleep deprivation does the following:
- Impairs judgment.
- Negatively affects our moods and emotions.
- Increases the risk of accidents.
- Impairs cognitive ability (dumbs us down).
- Decreases libido.
- Increases incidence of depression (by five times that of the normal population).
- Accelerates aging in the skin.
- May cause weight gain and obesity (and makes losing weight more difficult).
- Is linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early mortality.
- Increases the risk of death.
That’s more than enough reasons for me to make sure I get adequate rest and establish the best healthy sleep habits I can. I’m sure it’s enough for you too!
Here are eleven tips to uplevel your evening routine and finally develop good sleep hygiene.
1. ) Good sleep hygiene starts with an earlier, lighter dinner
For me, eating an earlier, lighter dinner is my keystone habit for wellbeing. If I don’t eat an early, light dinner I struggle to fall asleep when I want to, I struggle to wake up when I want/need to and I feel sluggish the entire next day. For healthy digestion and sleep it’s important to eat dinner at least two-three hours before you want to go to sleep. In our house it means dinner is done by 7pm (most nights) and the kitchen is closed.
No snacking after dinner. If you must snack before bed, then make sure it’s healthy and nutritious. On nights when I’m feeling hunger pains before bed I fix up a cup of warm golden mylk. The warmth of the golden mylk is comforting and their are just enough calories in the coconut or nut mylk to stave off my hunger.
Another tip to making an earlier, lighter dinner work for you is to have a larger lunch with plenty of protein, vegetables and carbs. A larger, well-balanced lunch will keep you satisfied until dinner and you’ll be able to eat less at dinner.
2.) Get proper exercise
Moving your body is huge. And knowing which type of exercise is best for your constitution, or dosha, is also huge. It’s imperative to get the right type of exercise for your dosha. Do you know what your dosha type is? Take this dosha test.
Kapha types, who tend towards excessive sleep, can exercise with a strong physical yoga practice like vinyasa yoga, or running, cycling, etc. Kapha types, should exercise first thing in the morning. Movement early in the day improves circulation and digestion, removes kapha sluggishness and improve mental clarity and focus.
Vata types, who tend to wake in the middle of the night, need gentle and grounding instead. Those who are more vata should try activities like walking, hiking, gentle cycling, yoga, or chi gong.
Pitta types, who tend to burn the midnight oil, should try activities like walking, hiking, light jogging, swimming, cycling or yoga in the morning or evening (when it is coolest).
3.) Incorporate stress management into your evening routine
Stress management is easier said than done. Nearly all adults have experienced disrupted sleep due to stress related anxiety. Meditation, yoga, pranayama, exercise, and yoga nidra are all proven to be effective in reducing stress.
4.) Create a bedtime routine that focuses on healthy sleep habits
What do you do before bed each night? Here is a chance to really create healthy sleep habits that will nurture and nourish you. Give yourself plenty of time to wind down. My husband, Steve, and I both tend to be workaholics. We have a strict no work after dinner policy because we know that once we get started it’s a slippery slope that leads to late night jam sessions and sleep deprivation.
After dinner, clean your kitchen, walk the dogs, bathe the children and then give yourself some time to rest and relax; curl up with a book and a cup of relaxing tea like chamomile, do a few restorative yoga poses, take a bath with jasmine and rose essential oils. According to Ayurveda, rose and jasmine are said to reduce stress, open the heart, and purify negative emotions.
In Ayurveda, the daily routine is called dinacharya. If you’re wondering how you can start your day better, check out this article on the Ayruvedic morning routine.
5.) Aim to be in bed between 9 and 10 pm
According to Ayurveda, the time between 6am and 10am and 6pm and 10pm is dominated by kapha. Kapha is often described as dense, slow, and heavy. In the Ayurvedic practice they recommend that you’re in bed and asleep by 10pm, so you don’t get caught up in the second wind of pitta, which is associated with action and activity.
If you follow the healthy sleep habits of the Ayurvedic practices you want to rise by 6am each morning. At 6am, the energy of day is transitioning from the lightness of vata into the heavy, slow, dense energy of kapha. Have you ever noticed that if you stay in bed a little bit longer that you feel more tired and sluggish? This is why!
Remember. our bodies need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function optimally. Early to bed, early to rise.
6.) Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine before bed
I think this should be a no-brainer, but none the less I will include it in my list of good sleep hygiene tips because sometimes we forget. I have a rule of no caffeine after 4pm. What do I do if I’m tired? Move my body. I get my blood flowing. I go on a walk, shake it out, have a mini dance party or practice a couple of inversions. Way better than caffeine… I promise.
As for nicotine, there are so many reasons not to smoke, dip, etc. Just don’t.
7.) Alcohol in moderation
Alcohol is a depressant and may help you fall asleep faster, but overall quality of sleep is sacrificed. Too much alcohol disrupts sleep and diminishes the quality of sleep as your body processes the alcohol. Your body wastes precious energy breaking down the alcohol instead of using it to restore the rest of your cells.
8.) Expose yourself to natural light (and darkness) everyday
Exposure to natural light helps the brain and body stay on a healthy circadian rhythm. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the circadian system keeps us in sync with the 24-hour day. Our body’s internal clock sends signals to many different parts in the body, affecting things like digestion, the release of certain hormones, body temperature, and much more. Our circadian system also helps us adjust to jet lag and seasonal changes in daylight. It’s an adaptive system that allows us to be alert when we need to be alert and rest when we need to rest. Those with circadian rhythm disorders will need extra help creating new healthy sleep habits.
8.) Self massage
Self massage, or abhyanga as it is called in Ayurveda, is the simple practice of massaging your body. A full body massage is typically done in the morning with warm sesame oil. In the evening, rubbing warm ghee into the temples and navel can help promote relaxation.
One of my favorite parts of my evening routine is to rub essential oil mixed into a carrier oil onto the soles of my feet. For a good night’s sleep I like to rub lavender, frankincense, cedarwood, vetiver, jasmine and/or rose essential oils onto the soles of my feet. The scents are grounding energetically and calming to the nervous system.
9.) Make your bedroom a sacred space
One of the most important parts of good sleep hygiene is turning your bedroom into a sanctuary. Clear out the clutter, get rid of anything unnecessary, install soft lighting, and the best linens and mattress you can afford. Set some ground rules for the bedroom too: no screen time, no work talk, all kids/pets out of the room at a certain time.
10.) Good sleep hygiene includes eliminating screen time in the evening
One of the most important healthy sleep habits is to remove electronic devices from the bedroom. The blue light from laptop, tv, and cell phone screens is no bueno for your health and your quality of sleep.
Associate neuroscientist at BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Dr. Anne-Marie Chung states, “We know from previous work that light from screens in the evening alters sleepiness and alertness, and suppresses melatonin levels.” In Chung’s study they found, “iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night and had shorter REM sleep compared to the book readers, researchers found. The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep. They were also more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full eight hours of sleep.”
Even though I typically read paper books before bed I still struggle with this one. I use my phone as my alarm clock, which means I have to get on it to set my alarm, which usually turns into checking email or social media. I’m thinking I need to go old school and get an analog alarm clock! Do you struggle with this too?
11.) Keep a journal by your bed
Journaling is a great way to wind down. Before bed, take a moment to jot down a few things you’re grateful for in your journal. Also, when an idea does strike you in the middle of the night, know that you can write it down in your journal and go back to sleep. Once your mind knows that the idea is safe and sound (and won’t be forgotten) you’ll hopefully be able to drift off to dreamland quickly.
12.) Alternate nostril breathing
Is one of my favorite breath work practices because of it’s calming effect. It gives the brain something to do and simultaneously balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain and calms the nervous system.
Alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodhana, is practiced by bringing your right hand up in front of your face and taking your index finger and middle finger to your third eye, your thumb rests on your right nostril and your ring finger rests on your left nostril. To begin, block your right nostril gently and inhale to a four count through your left nostril; block your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril for a four count; keep your left nostril blocked and inhale through your right nostril for a four count; block your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril for a four count. Practice alternate nostril breathing for 5-10 minutes right before bed.
To simplify, one round equals:
- Inhale left
- Exhale right
- Inhale right
- Exhale left
13.) Create a bedtime yoga routine
Create a bedtime yoga routine by linking together a series of gentle yoga poses. Restorative yoga and yin yoga are both great to practice before bed because the majority of the postures stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (your relaxation response). A few postures to try are child’s pose, seated forward fold, supine twist and reclined butterfly pose.
I hope you see that a few “simple” lifestyle changes to your evening routine can help improve your sleep hygiene, so you can get the rest you need. Start incorporating one or two of these healthy sleep habits and you’ll be well on your way to a better night’s sleep. Good sleep and nourishing meals are the key ingredients to our vitality and quality of life. What tips do you use to sleep better? Do you already have some of these sleep hygiene habits automated? Share what works for you in the comments below.