Winding down after a hectic day at work, or dealing with kids and home, or both, can be a real challenge. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that good sleep is crucial to focus, productivity and general well-being (have you been paying attention to every single wellness magazine article, blog and post written in the past five years?) If you struggle to find that “zen” mindset before you make that exhausted crawl into bed each night, try establishing a few regular evening routines to help you relax, get to sleep, and get ready to tackle the next day feeling refreshed and renewed. There are three routines that I’ve found particularly helpful for both myself and clients that help with settling down at the end of a long day.
- Prep for tomorrow tonight.
In order to really relax before you try to sleep, it’s important to clear your mind. Take a few minutes before you head off to bed to do a mini brain dump and write down any tasks you need to take care of the next day. Highlight the three most important things you need to accomplish, and anything else (errands, etc.) that absolutely must happen tomorrow. Get it down in writing – paper and pen are always best (the physical act of writing helps memory), but if your phone or laptop works better for you, use that.
Have you ever been just about to drift off to sleep and a thought about something you need to remember for tomorrow just pops into your head? Now you’re wide awake and worrying! Keep a small sticky note pad and pen next to your bed, write it down, and stick it on your bedside light. You’ll see it when you wake up, and now you can drift off to sleep without worrying that you’ll forget it in the morning.
What else can you do tonight to clear your head for sleep, AND make your morning less of a frantic rush? Even if you’re working from home, taking a few minutes to prep what you can will help clear your mind for sleep.
- Pack your lunch.
- Prep what you can for breakfast and set up the coffee pot.
- Gather any materials you need to take with you in the morning. Pack your briefcase or backpack with paperwork, laptop, chargers – whatever needs to leave with you.
- Hitting the gym on the way home? Grab your workout clothes the night before and throw them in, too.
- Choose your next day outfit and lay it out.
- Need to drop off dry cleaning on the way to work? Set that out, too. Put it all near the door where you leave every day.
- Phone, keys, glasses, etc. Whatever eases that morning crunch so that your brain isn’t working overtime when you finally crawl into bed is what needs to happen the night before.
- Shut down screens an hour before you go to bed.
I know, I know, you’ve heard it all before! But that blue light really does interfere with your brain and can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, plus it just keeps your brain working when you’re trying to wind it down. I realize that that precious time in the evening after you finally have the chance to relax and enjoy your time may be the only time you have to do “fun” stuff – streaming shows and movies and catching up on social media. It serves as a kind of “revenge” me time as a reward for a tough day, and you definitely deserve some mindless, enjoyable activities! But scrolling for hours past your ideal bedtime just interferes with a restful night and makes it harder to get up and feel good (well, at least reasonable) in the morning. While the reward may feel good in the moment, remind yourself that you will pay the penalty later.
- Play hard to get – don’t sleep with your cell phone!
Get it out of your bedroom and away from your brain. There is nothing that interferes more with good, sound sleep than a buzzing, dinging, cell phone that lights up every other minute (well, maybe a crying infant, but sleep deprivation from that is hard to control!) Yes, I can hear all the excuses now:
- I use the alarm on my phone to wake up (buy a cheap alarm clock.)
- I have teenagers or elderly parents who may need me in the middle of the night (put those loved ones in your Favorites list and set your phone to Do Not Disturb. Set it in the hallway OUTSIDE your bedroom and put the ringer on loud. You’ll hear it when you need to…)
And if you’re in the habit of waking up in the middle of the night and picking up your phone to scroll around, thinking it will help you get back to sleep – seriously? Seeing that email from your insomniac boss is exactly what you need to help you fall asleep again, right? Don’t let that stuff get your brain going again. Get the phone out of your bedroom, resist the temptation to check it every second, and finally get that rest that you so desperately need.
Institute these simple, easy to implement, evening routines, and you’ll find that you’ll free up your brain for that deep, refreshing, good night’s sleep that you may have been missing all this time!