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evening routine tweaks for better sleep: woman reading book

Make These Changes To Your Evening Routine To Sleep Better

If someone offered you a simple path toward better nighttime sleep, we’re betting you’d take it, right? After all, so many of us are chronically sleep deprived. According to the CDC, one in three adults doesn’t get enough shuteye. And all that not-sleeping can add up to consequences like weakened immunity, cognitive decline, and even weight gain—not to mention feeling groggy and grumpy throughout the day.

But there is a way forward! As with most areas of health, making small changes to your sleep routine can go a long way in helping you score more rest over time. In fact, a few fairly minor adjustments can yield surprisingly big results. Try these seven totally doable expert-recommended tips to spend more quality time with your pillow.

1. Try Magnesium 

Among many of its superpowers, magnesium steadies blood sugar, helps keep headaches at bay, and yes, promotes better sleep. Yet, many of us don’t get enough of it. “Almost half of the U.S. population is deficient in magnesium and may not even realize it,” says functional medicine practitioner and health coach Dr. Amy Sapola, Pharm.D., I.F.M.C.P., Director of Farmacy at The Chef’s Garden

Read More: Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?

You can talk to your doctor about the best magnesium supplement for your needs, but in general, magnesium glycinate is considered the go-to for sleep. “Magnesium glycinate has a calming effect that may help with sleep, especially for people prone to feelings of anxiety,” Sapola says. The other good news: Unlike some forms of magnesium, mag glycinate is what Sapola calls “bowel neutral,” meaning it won’t mess with your tummy. Try starting with 200 milligrams 30 minutes before bed.

2. Stay Off Devices (Really!)

“You’ve probably heard it a million times, but blue light is the enemy of great sleep,” says counselor Ginger Houghton, L.M.S.W., C.A.A.D.C., of Bright Spot Counseling. Blue light, which is emitted by all your favorite devices (including computer screens, TVs, and cell phones), has been shown to suppress melatonin production and impact how much deep sleep you get throughout the night.

Not to mention, your devices are portals to all kinds of stimulating information and emotion-inducing content, so using them at night can make it hard for your brain to slow down when it’s time to sleep. As such, experts recommend an hour or two of screen-free time before hitting the hay.

So, rather than scrolling or Netflix-ing right before bed, consider how else you might spend your pre-sleep hours. “Find something that you love to do that doesn’t involve electronics, such as puzzles, reading, journaling, or gentle, restorative yoga,” Houghton says. Not only can these activities help you sleep, but there are legit brain benefits to picking up a new hobby or skill, she notes.

3. Skip the Bedtime Snack

Some foods are known for their sleep-inducing effects (hey, tart cherries), but experts believe it may be best to skip snacks altogether before bed. “Ideally, you want to finish eating for the day at least three to four hours prior to the time you’re going to sleep,” recommends naturopath Dr. Ben Schuff, N.D., L.D.N., the director of naturopathy and nutrition at BIÂN Concierge Medical. “The body is shifting into a different mode of physiology overnight and eating forces it back into a daytime type of physiology that can disrupt sleep and metabolism.”

If you find yourself ravenous around bedtime, consider adjusting your eating schedule toward a slightly later dinner or including an early-evening snack. Try noshing on melatonin-rich pistachios, almonds, eggs, or tart cherries for an extra nudge toward dreamland. 

4. Choose the Right Lighting

You know the right lighting can set the mood for a romantic date or a swanky dinner party. Turns out, your lighting can also set the mood for sleep. “Bright overhead lights should be avoided during the later hours,” says board-certified internal medicine physician Dr. Marcie Claybon, M.D., medical director of BIÂN. This is because overhead lighting, especially when bright, can cause you to feel ultra-alert, basically by tricking your body into thinking it’s still light outside.

Low, dim lighting from lamps is a better bet for a calming environment in the evening. As you create your cozy lamp setup, choose a simple white light bulb. A 2019 study found that normal white light had the least stimulating effect, compared to other types of bulbs (like those with more blue-enriched hues).

5. Say No to Nightcaps

Having a nighttime drink is a double-edged sword for sleep. “While alcohol may initially make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt your sleep later in the night,” says Schuff. Studies show that drinking (especially in excess) often leads to insomnia. If you’re struggling with sleep, cutting back on the booze is a no-brainer.

That doesn’t mean you can’t sip on anything after sundown. “There are so many great alternatives that contain teas and relaxing adaptogenic herbs that provide the social and relaxing benefits of alcohol without disrupting sleep,” says Sapola. Consider chamomile tea, tart cherry juice, or ashwagandha tea, which have all been linked to better-quality sleep.

6. Only Get into Bed When You’re Ready to Sleep

We get it, your bed is probably the most comfortable place in your home for activities like reading, watching TV, or fiddling around on your phone. But lingering in bed when you don’t intend to sleep sets up quite the conundrum for your brain: Is this the place to sleep or just another place to hang out? 

Read More: The Best And Worst Sleeping Positions For Health

Stay out of your bed except for sleep and sex,” advises Sapola. “As a rule, don’t get into bed more than 20 minutes before you want to be asleep.” If that sounds like a tall order, don’t sweat it; with the right routine (ahem, all of the tips listed here!), 20 minutes may be all it takes to drift off.

7. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If sleep doesn’t come right away when you finally get yourself settled under the covers, don’t stress! Some of us require a little extra help with winding down. Enter the delightfully chill world of progressive muscle relaxation.

This strategy has been around since the early 1900s and has persisted in popularity because it really works. Progressive relaxation involves systematically tensing and releasing muscle groups individually, moving up and/or down the body, explains Houghton.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Tense and relax all the muscles in your feet two times.
  • Move up to your calves and tense and release two times.
  • Move up through your body, tensing and releasing each large muscle group and ending with your face muscles.
  • Now, repeat the process, moving from top to bottom. Start by tensing and releasing your face muscles and continuing all the way down to your feet.

“Most people don’t make it all the way back down before they are asleep,” Houghton says. Sounds pretty promising, doesn’t it?

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