It seems like you can’t look anywhere without seeing people touting the importance of a solid morning routine. But I would argue that your bedtime routine is actually FAR more important. Why? Well, a great start to your day is established by getting a good, restful night’s sleep. And the best way to do that is by creating an incredible bedtime routine.
While every bedtime routine will vary based on your lifestyle and family structure, some key elements remain the same, and they fall into two categories, reset and rest. That’s why having a two-part bedtime routine is essential for everyone.
The first part of your bedtime routine is the reset stage. This phase of your routine often includes “Success Set-Up” as well. During your reset, your goal is to clear your mind of the odds and ends that tend to pop up just as your head hits the pillow. An excellent reset helps you reduce stress and shake off the day so you can fall asleep faster. So, what exactly does the reset phase include?
Straightening up the house before bed helps you create a restful atmosphere. This isn’t deep cleaning but simply loading the dishwasher and addressing any clutter or toys laying around. You can make this a game and get your whole family involved by setting a timer for 15 minutes, or you can do it on your own after everyone is in bed. For example, I like to carry a laundry basket around the house and toss any out-of-place items in it. Then as I go room to room, I put away anything in the basket and add things to be taken where they belong.
Tidy time could also be moved to immediately following dinner or skipped all together. But if you’re anything like me, going to bed with a mess is super stressful and waking up to one is a great way to start my day overwhelmed (which is SO not the goal).
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I first wake up, I’m not totally with it. And I use this to my advantage by creating a morning routine I can click through without thinking about it. That means that I need to avoid morning decisions as much as possible. So, I prep for the morning during the reset phase of my bedtime routine.
To do this I…
- Set out my workout clothes.
- Get out anything I will need to remember or take care of in the morning (i.e., car keys if I’m going somewhere, gym bag, sunscreen, etc.)
- Prep breakfast and lunch if I need to.
Having everything at my fingertips in the morning helps automate that part of my day and makes it go smoother. I’ve found that if I don’t do this, I’ll be much more likely to skip my workout, grab a bag of chips for lunch, or forget essential items when I head out the door. That’s no way to start the day.
Even if you are a morning person, getting things ready the night before will save you time and energy and help prevent the mid-day slump and decision fatigue.
Brain dumping is pretty specific to me, so you likely haven’t heard of it (though I do teach it to my clients all the time)! This super simple practice is essential for overthinkers and people who are a bit more prone to anxiety.
Here’s how it works…
- Get out a piece of paper or notebook and pen
- Spend a few minutes writing everything that pops in your head
- Review your brain dump and look for things that need to be added to your to-do list. Circle all of your to-dos and put a star next to those that need to get in your schedule asap.
- During the schedule and To-Do Review add these items to your schedule or weekly to-do list.
If you aren’t sure if you need to add a brain dump to your bedtime routine, ask yourself these questions…
- Do I lay in bed and evaluate conversations or interactions I’ve had throughout the day/week?
- Do I suddenly remember things that need to be done and then worry about forgetting them in the morning?
- Does my brain spin out about how to solve life or world problems when I should be falling asleep?
- Is it hard for me to settle down and fall asleep because I feel like my mind keeps running?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, it’s time to incorporate a brain dump into your bedtime routine. It’ll change your life, literally!
Schedule & To-Do Review
Morning prep and schedule and to-do review are both essential parts of setting up your day for success. If you’ve taken a look at my post about the 12 Life-Altering Daily Habits, you know that success set-up is vital. Incorporating it into your bedtime routine is an easy way to get it done. That said, many people prefer to do this step as part of their morning routine, and that works too.
Take a look at your schedule for today and what you were able to get done and simply move anything you didn’t get to to tomorrow. You can also add new items that came up in your brain dump and shuffle anything you may need to for the rest of the week.
The next phase of the ideal bedtime routine is the rest phase. This is the time you’ll dedicate to winding down and preparing your body to fall asleep.
No Screen Time
This is the one item that’s totally essential to every bedtime routine. It’s imperative that you turn off ALL screens at least 30 minutes before bed. This includes your computer, phone, TV, and tablet. There are no exceptions to this, not even blue-light-blocking glasses or “dark mode”.
Screens are overstimulating to the brain, and even with blue-light-blocking glasses and “dark mode”, the light they emit prevents us from getting into rest mode. This is because our brains are effected by screens in the same way they are by sunlight. Which means you’re telling your brain it’s daytime… as in, time to be awake. To sleep restfully, your brain needs to know it’s night and start producing melatonin. (No… taking melatonin supplements isn’t a way to get around this… it’s just not the same).
I know this may sound harsh, and I love Netflix as much as the next person and want to binge right up until I pass out too but doing so not only impacts your ability to fall asleep but also the quality of that sleep. So, just shut it down and pick some of the following items to do instead.
There are few things I love more than my nightly cup of chamomile lavender tea. Just the act of brewing it makes me start feeling relaxed, and the smell and flavor are so soothing.
Having a nightly ritual that starts the resting part of your bedtime routine is a great way to get into relaxation mode quickly. I love a cup of tea because it engages all 5 of my senses. The sound of the water pouring, smell of the lavender, taste of the chamomile, warmth and beauty of the cup are immediately relaxing and everything about it feels so indulgent. It’s like self-care for my soul.
There are many varieties of tea to choose from, and you can even get a sample pack to try out a few. It’s important to be sure that your nighttime tea is sugar and caffeine-free and to minimize add-ins like creamer or honey.
If you don’t like tea, you can also try lemon water before bed.
Nope… this is not the same thing as a brain dump. This is simply writing about your day, your dreams, and your goals.
Most people tell me they struggle to journal on the good days but on the rough ones, they have so much to say. Making journaling part of your bedtime routine helps keep you consistent, so you don’t have journals that are overflowing with heartache. Journaling is also an excellent way to stay connected with yourself.
If you’re feeling stuck, try writing…
- An encouraging letter to yourself.
- Where you see yourself in 5 years.
- Your hopes and dreams for yourself or someone you love.
- Or… check out these 31 journal prompts for self-discovery.
Reading is a staple in my bedtime routine, and starting a book club in Inner Circle has created accountability for sticking with it even when I’m tempted to start another show and just skip the whole thing.
Over the years, I have discovered that there is a secret to reading at bedtime, at least for me. I MUST stick to non-fiction. One too many nights spent reading a great book cover to cover, and I learned my lesson. Do I regret it… not exactly… but did it help me rest and ready myself for sleep? NOPE.
I tend to read a lot of personal development and business books in the evening, and I always stick to hard copy because there’s just something about the feel of a book in my hands. Reading is not only an awesome way to help you wind down, but it’s also a great way to exercise your brain and helps you accomplish your goals.
Meditation / Spiritual Time
I know a lot of people like to incorporate meditation, prayer, and worship into their morning routines, but it can also be incredibly beneficial in our bedtime routines. And hey, who says you can’t do it twice a day?!
Connecting spiritually and clearing our minds before bed are great ways to help us fall asleep faster and stay asleep. I’ve found that this practice also helps prevent nightmares and works in tandem with the brain dump technique to keep my brain from wandering before bed.
Ahhhh… baths! They’re not only good for relaxation and sleep, but they’re also incredibly good for your health. Check out all their benefits here.
A nice warm bath helps prepare our bodies for rest and is an overall awesome way to end a busy day. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting out of the tub and into a cozy warm bed in a cool room to help you feel pampered and relaxed.
Try adding essential oils like lavender to your bath for extra relaxation. And consider reading while you’re in the tub as well. Just be sure to not fall asleep in there.
Oh… and you don’t need anything fancy, just roll up a towel to go under your head/neck, fill your tub with warm water, toss in your add-ins like Epsom salts or essential oils (or both), and get ready for a restful night’s sleep.
Creating a bedtime routine is the easiest way to ensure that you get quality sleep every night and set yourself up for daily success. Just be sure to start slow. We’re not trying to create overwhelm at bedtime. Add one or two items from each segment to get you started and put it into practice for a month before adding anything new. The R & R (get it?) method described above is sure to have you sleeping well in no time. If, however, you’re still struggling with sleep, be sure to talk to your doctor. There are several health factors that can impact sleep, and sleep deprivation is a serious medical concern.
Cheers to you and your new restful sleep!
By the way… this isn’t an exhaustive list. Make it your own and add things you love to your bedtime routine! Tell me your fave bedtime activity in the comments below. And don’t forget to grab The Routinely App to help you build routines and habits the fun and easy way!