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6 Tips for Creating an Optimal Bedtime Routine

Good-quality sleep can change your life. But you’ll need to make it a pattern in order to reap the rewards. One of the best ways to encourage a consistent sleep pattern is to establish a nightly bedtime routine.

While ‘making’ yourself fall asleep is no easy feat, you can certainly give yourself an advantage with some soft cues that signal to the body that’s it’s time to rest. Here are 6 practical tips for creating an optimal bedtime routine.

  1. Set aside time to wind down when calculating how much sleep you’ll get.

The body doesn’t appreciate sudden changes! A transition period is much appreciated and reinforces the idea that it’s time to rest, both physically and psychologically. So, if you’re aiming for 8 hours and need to be up by 6am, abruptly quitting activities and heading to bed at 10pm won’t cut it. Try and carve out about 30-45 minutes before that 10pm goal line to start winding down. This also gives you some cushion room so you don’t stress if sleep doesn’t come right away.

  1. Keep a consistent schedule to help regulate your circadian rhythm.

Your body has a natural system built in to help regulate wakefulness and sleep over a 24-hour period. While sunlight, activity, and melatonin can affect your natural circadian rhythm, what the body really craves is having a consistent pattern. Keep a similar bedtime – for both weeknights and weekends – to help that circadian rhythm stay in harmony with your lifestyle.

  1. Set a curfew for screen time, heavy meals, exercise, and caffeine.

Phones, tablets, and TVs emit blue light, which can mess with your circadian rhythm and tell the body that it’s daytime – time to stay awake. Likewise, heavy meals, alcohol, and caffeine have a similar effect, keeping the body awake by raising the pulse and triggering the digestive system. While exercise is healthy and can make you feel tired, it actually keeps the body alert and awake as well. So, it’s best to avoid all these things starting at least 2 hours before bedtime.

  1. Create your ideal environment by anticipating distractions.

Nothing’s worse than a good dream interrupted! Anticipate possible distractions and create your ideal sleep space. This may mean setting your mobile device to DND, turning the thermostat down, turning on a humidifier or fan, setting a glass of water on your bedside table, and placing loud pets in crates or other rooms where they know it’s time to be quiet.

  1. Complete your ‘final bedtime prep’ in the same order every night.

The details of winding down do make a difference. No matter what those little things are, create a specific order for them. For example: shower, pajamas, brush teeth, lights off. Or: remove contacts, wash face, brush teeth, lights off. These things may seem silly and small, but doing them in the same order can create that regularity that helps the body know what’s next: sleep!

  1. Pick a calming activity for those final moments awake.

Finally, pick a tech-free activity that helps you relax in those last 5-10 minutes before stillness. Whether it’s meditation, light journaling, or gentle stretching while seated in bed, find a low-key activity to cap off the night and help your mind and body relax.


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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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