Right now, many of us aren’t sleeping very well. We have real, big fears about the present, about the future. We have extra responsibilities, and when the sun sets, we finally feel like we can unwind—and inevitably, we end up staying up way too late.
But a bedtime routine, or some version of it, is vital.
“A bedtime routine cues your body that it is time to begin winding down and preparing for rest,” said Kirsten Brunner, LPC, a therapist who specializes in perinatal mental health and relationship counseling at her private practice in Austin, Texas. It allows your mind and body to come down from an alert, awake mode and begin transitioning to a restful [state].”
And here’s the thing: Your bedtime routine can be small and simple. Super simple.
Here are Brunner’s tips for creating a calming, helpful routine:
- Keep devices out of your bedroom—and charge them in another area of your house. “It is important to associate the bedroom with rest and relaxation, not entertainment or stimulation,” Brunner said.
- Stop using your devices (TV included) 30 minutes before bedtime. “Most of what we see on TV and/or social media is stimulating and even anxiety-provoking,” which disrupts sleep, Brunner said. She also noted that the blue light from screens can disrupt our circadian rhythms.
- Drink a hot cup of nighttime tea or warm milk—another calm-promoting cue for your body.*
- Engage in activities that relax your nervous system. You might listen to soft music followed by a 5-minute guided meditation. You might do a 10-minute yoga video that’s specifically designed to help you wind down. Or you might journal about how you’re doing and jot down one thing you’re grateful for. You might read a poem about nature or pen your own words. You might read a page from the Bible or from one of your favorite books (which always puts a smile on your face). You might put lavender essential oil on your pillow and take several deep breaths as you lie down. You might acknowledge one thing you did today.
- After you find a routine with activities you like, try to do them in “roughly the same order.”
In sum, your bedtime routine can consist of several soothing activities that actually fill you up. That’s it.
There’s no need to create an elaborate, complicated routine, unless, of course, you want to. Because what matters most is what works well for you and contributes to your emotional well-being. And when difficult times arise, it is these small rituals that can ground us and nourish us immensely.
*Currently, there are thousands of memes and social media posts around drinking to cope with the stress (or boredom) of being at home (or homeschooling, parenting, etc.). While some might be funny, they also normalize numbing ourselves with alcohol. Some people also assume alcohol helps them fall asleep.
As Brunner pointed out, alcohol interferes “with restful sleep and can cause middle-of-the-night insomnia.” It also amplifies our anxiety the next day, and leads us to feel tense and on edge (it’s a vicious cycle). I know that quitting or reducing drinking is not easy. This post on unwinding without wine may help. And so might this post on sitting with painful emotions and this one on being afraid to feel your feelings.