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bedtime rituals for better sleep: reading in bed

Steal These Health Experts’ Nighttime Rituals For Better Sleep And Well-Being

News flash: A bedtime routine isn’t just for kids. In addition to making space for seven to nine hours of shut-eye a night, a consistent nighttime routine can help you achieve more regular (and quality!) sleep, which supports a healthy immune system, better mood, improved memory, and more.

Of course, the contents of that nightly routine matter—and though we’ve all been told time and time again to put away the tech in the hour-plus before hitting the hay, that’s easier said than done. So, we tapped health experts for their go-to rituals for inspiration. Use their favorite moves to build yourself a wind-down routine that’ll help you fall asleep faster and sleep better all night long.

1. Sweat Away Any Stress

Before you start slowing down, physically working through anything lingering from the day can help you transition into greater rest. “I like to start my evening routine by exercising after work,” says Matthew Kulka, D.O., a board-certified family medicine physician. “I find it helps me unwind from the day’s stress, which can build up after a long day at work. After I exercise, I often find I can’t even remember what was stressing me out in the first place.” 

Read More: 6 Physical Signs You’re Way Too Stressed

Not only does this set the stage for a relaxing end to the day, but studies also show that evening exercise can help you fall asleep quicker and improve sleep quality. Just avoid heavy cardio at least an hour or two before bed since higher-intensity work can increase endorphins that may keep you awake.

2. Take A Warm Shower

Kulka takes a warm shower after that evening workout—but you can benefit from some soothing water regardless of whether you just exercised. “This relaxes my muscles and helps reduce my body temperature as I dry off, which mimics the natural cooling process that occurs during sleep, helping my body ease into the late evening circadian rhythm,” he says. Talk about a simple but enjoyable way to signal to your body and brain that it’s time to transition to sleep mode.

3. Set The Ambiance  

While bright lights can signal the brain to stay awake, darker, subtle lighting such as a soft night light or candle can alert your brain that it’s time for bed, increasing melatonin production and making you sleepier, says Chelsie Rohrscheib, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and head sleep expert at Wesper.

“Thirty minutes before my bedtime, I turn off all overhead lights, put away my screens, and use a soft night light to read while listening to relaxing music,” she says. My routine is very low stress while still being enjoyable, and the consistency of it triggers my brain to shift into sleep mode early, allowing me to fall asleep quickly.” She recommends listening to the same relaxing melody night after night.

4. Take Sleepy Supplements

“Every night, I take 400 milligrams of magnesium glycinate, a dropperful of organic lemon balm tincture, and 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of triple-strength turmeric,” says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N, L.D.N., C.P.T. “I undoubtedly deplete magnesium during daily workouts because of my high sweat rate, and replenishing this nutrient supports muscle- and mind-calming,” she explains. “Without it, my muscles become twitchy and restless.”

Read More: Ways To Boost—And Balance—The ‘Feel-Good’ Hormone Serotonin

“I use turmeric for its antioxidant support, consuming larger doses on higher-intensity or higher-volume workout days, and lemon balm is a calming adaptogen that counteracts the negative effects of stress on hormones,” says Michels. “This nightly, relaxing regimen leaves me feeling rested and rejuvenated every morning.”

5. Apply Magnesium Lotion To Your Feet 

To help wind down, functional medicine physician Shivani Amin, M.D., applies magnesium lotion to the soles of her feet. She swears by the calming properties for enhancing relaxation and prepping for sleep, Plus, research also found that foot reflexology (massaging and applying pressure to specific points on the feet) significantly reduces sleep disturbances. 

6. Try Meditation And Deep Breathing

“My routine concludes with light breathwork and yoga, as this helps me unwind and prepare for a night of restful sleep,” says Amin. “Dedicating time to meditation or mindfulness is a core component of a good nightly wind-down process, and engaging in mindful breathing and relaxation exercises can dissolve the day’s stress.” The yoga-breathwork combo primes both your physical body and psyche for more peaceful sleep.

Michels, meanwhile, listens to guided meditations on the Calm app before bed to help keep stress hormones at bay. Research shows that meditation can calm the body’s sympathetic nervous system (or the “fight or flight” response to stress), while aiding the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes your body from previous stressors. 

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