Building A Nighttime Routine

Older woman in pajamas on couch reading a book in the evening
Written by Risa Schulman
clock-line icon
5 minutes

We’ve all heard that getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being. But while getting a full night of sleep might sound simple, in reality, it’s not always so easy for us to tune out the world and relax. In fact, one in three adults don’t get enough sleep - and that lack of sleep can lead to real health issues. Sleeping less than the recommended seven hours is associated with an increased risk of developing some chronic health conditions - so making good sleep a priority is crucial.1 In this blog, we’ve shared some tips for building a nighttime routine for better sleep and health that can work for you, your schedule, and your lifestyle.

Read More: Tips For Better Sleep

What Is A Nighttime Routine?

You’ve got a lot going on during your days. From work to family obligations to checking off your to-do list, your days are probably filled to the brim. A nighttime routine helps you separate from the stress of your day to prepare your mind and body for a good night’s sleep. Generally, a nighttime routine is performed in the same order each night, usually about 30 to 60 minutes before you plan to go to sleep.2 A nighttime routine might include:

  • Listening to calming music
  • Meditating
  • Coloring or knitting
  • Taking a walk or doing yoga for bedtime
  • Reading a book
  • Preparing a to-do list for tomorrow

A good nighttime routine should help you wind down from today by doing calming activities that avoid overstimulating your mind and body. Additionally, a nighttime routine can help you prepare for tomorrow: getting a head start on your to-do list or preparing a healthy breakfast can help lighten your mental load as you fall asleep, and can make tomorrow morning feel less hectic3 and reduce sleep anxiety.4

How To Establish A Nighttime Routine

Ultimately, you want to make sure your nighttime routine fits your lifestyle and schedule. You might enjoy incorporating some physical activity, like a long walk, into your nighttime routine, or you might lean more toward meditation or reading. There are many different activities and strategies you can incorporate into your routine - here are a few of our favorites.

Create An Electronics-Free Space

In the era of work-from-home, many of us are tied to our electronics throughout the day. We video chat with colleagues for work, have constant access to our email, and spend our evenings scrolling through social media. While it’s great that we can stay connected in this way, it’s probably best to keep electronics out of your nighttime routine. Using a computer or phone before bed has been shown to interfere with sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin and leading to feelings of alertness.5 Thankfully, there are some great alternatives to incorporate into your routine.

Find A Creative Hobby

Instead of scrolling through your phone until you hit the hay, try working on a creative hobby. Finding a hobby that is engaging and productive can help you feel positive and inspired, and can also help you wind down from the stress of the day.6 Some great creative hobbies you might want to try:

  • Coloring: Adult coloring books are all the rage these days - and it’s easy to see why. Coloring can actually help to relax your brain,7 which is exactly what you want in your nighttime routine.
  • Playing board games: If you’ve got a few other people in your home, gathering everyone together for board games before bed is a great way to have fun and wind down from the stress of the day.
  • Reading: Picking up a book before bed is one of the best things you can do for your nighttime routine. Reading has been found to reduce stress and improve sleep quality, and can even have long-term effects on your mental cognition.8

Practice Meditation

Meditation is a fantastic practice to incorporate into your nighttime routine. Research suggests that meditation may increase melatonin, reduce heart rate, and activate parts of your brain that control sleep.9 New to meditation and not sure where to start? There are plenty of resources available that allow for guided meditation, including meditation apps like Headspace. And best of all, you don’t need any special equipment to meditate - just yourself and a quiet space.

Read More: What Is Meditation And How Does It Help Your Mental Health?

Do Some Light Exercise

While you probably don’t want to hit the gym for an intense workout before bed, incorporating some light movement into your nighttime routine is a great way to relax and prepare your body for sleep. You might try taking a walk or creating a nighttime stretching or yoga routine . Gentle exercise is a great way to calm your body and your mind before bed.

Read More: The Get-Moving Walking Plan For Beginners

Eat A Healthy Snack

Go ahead and grab that nighttime snack - just make sure it’s healthy and well-balanced. Studies have shown that certain foods can help regulate your hunger and energy usage before bed, leading to a more restful night of sleep.10 Try peanut butter on rye toast or some heart-healthy homemade trail mix before you head off to bed - you might just find you have a more restful night of sleep.

Take Your Time

Building a nighttime routine that works for you might take some trial and error - and that’s ok! You might find that you prefer exercise in the morning, or that reading before bed just makes you want to stay up all night with your favorite book. It’s a good idea to try several different routines before settling on the one that works best for you.

Written by:

Risa Schulman


Risa Schulman, Ph.D. has been helping companies and people build wellness for 25 years.

Connect With Us

As seen in:

  • ABC Logo
  • The Dr. OZ Show Logo
  • Fox Logo
  • Whole Foods Magazine Logo
  • CBS Logo