You know the drill: you should already be asleep, but you’re still wide awake. It’s starting to become a regular occurrence. Sound familiar? Well, here are 3 things you should be doing before bed.
No, it’s not about avoiding your phone, drinking sleepytime tea or murmuring sleep-positive affirmations to yourself (although those can’t hurt!).
Let’s skip the surface-level tips and get to the good stuff. Time to step up your pre-bed routine. These three things are rarely talked about but have a dramatic effect your quality of sleep.
Get ready for some restful sleep!
1. Dim your lights
We’ve all heard how we should be limiting our screen time at night. The blue light emitted by our devices tells our brain that it’s daytime—even when it’s not.
Ok, so we put down our cell phones and log off our computers but every. overhead. light in the house is still blazing.
Sure, you’re not looking at your screen, but that light shining in your face is doing the same thing!
Instead, think about matching the level of light in your home with the light outside:
When the sun is out, turn all the lights on (well, maybe not all; we still got electricity bills to pay here).
But when the sun goes down, start turning off those lights. Try switching to “lamp mode”: instead of overhead lights, set a chill, romantic vibe by using only lamps. Nightlights are also a great option.
Even better, although it sets quite a unique vibe in your home: switch to red lights in rooms you know you’ll be in at night (think: your bedside lamp).
Your circadian rhythm (the system that regulates your sleeping and waking) is less sensitive to the long wavelength of red light.
Whatever you choose, both of these methods will have a softer effect on your eyes and will signal your body to prepare for sleep.
If you’re one of those people who likes going all in, you can go completely dark. Turns out you don’t actually need the light on to brush your teeth. Who knew?
2. Designate a “bedtime activity”
No, not that kind of bedtime activity.
We’re talking about something that puts your mind in a sleepy state of mind.
Now, this is where you have a lot of freedom.
Don’t follow the typical suggestions. I fell prey to that when I tried to meditate right before bed. In theory, it should work, but it didn’t really help me, so I ditched it.
It’s not about what should work or what you think you should be doing. It should be individualized. Just think about what you usually need to do before bed and make it your “bedtime activity.”
There’s only one caveat here: choose something undemanding and do it SLOWLY.
Exercising right before bed is just going to jazz you up (duh). So is work, cleaning, taxes…you get the point. Choose something that requires minimal thinking and slow movement.
It doesn’t matter what it is. You just need something that you’ll do every night so that your brain eventually realizes “Hey, we do this thing and then we sleep.”
It’s similar to the habit stacking that James Clear talks about in his book, Atomic Habits. By associating two events, eventually, when you do one you automatically do the other. You’ve created a beneficial sequence of habits.
Then, when you do Activity X, your brain and body is already halfway down the road to Sleepytown.
3. Off-load your thoughts
This one slightly contradicts the previous one because it does cause you to think a bit, but it results in less things on your mind by the end of it.
I have this app called Todoist on my phone. It does what its name suggests: it creates To-Do lists.
But it’s so much more than that. Just take a look at any one of the many Youtube videos raving about its features.
But why do I use a To Do list app right before I go to bed?
Well, part of why so many of us have trouble sleeping is because we have too much on our brain. We’re either reviewing what happened that day or planning the next one.
Todoist lets you offload what’s on your brain so you don’t have to keep thinking about it, but you also won’t forget it.
I’ve created a shortcut on my phone so that I’m able to input what I want to remember and then it disappears.
I don’t see the rest of my todo list. I don’t hype my brain up with more stuff to think about.
This shortcut allows me to write it, attach a day or time to remind me about it, and it’s done with.
It’s like that old infomercial: Set it and forget it.
Sure, you could right it on a piece of paper, but Todoist enables you to have everything organized in one place. Saves time the next day and saves trees. #environmentalistoftheyear
Where to start
Sometimes adding a bunch of things to your routine is overwhelming, so just start with one.
I recommend starting with #1 on this list: dim your lights. It seems so simple—too simple, really—but it’s truly effective.
Yes, it prepares your body physiologically, it’s also a great mental cue for you.
Each time you walk into another dimly-lit routine, you’re reminded that you’re supposed to be winding down and it just reinforces that sleepy state.
So start simple and switch to lamps. Your body will thank you.
Sweet dreams 😉