Self Care

Evening Ritual Dos and Don’ts For Better Sleep

If stress is affecting your sleep, read this.

By: Emma Lunsford

You can’t wait to do your night routine and hop in those warm, silky sheets. But as soon as your head hits the pillow, BAM! Racing thoughts, worry, anxiety, and overwhelm swarm in, and all of sudden you feel like you can’t sleep. Sound familiar? 

You’re not alone in this horrible stress-sleep cycle. Stress causes insomnia, and insomnia causes even more stress. But how exactly does this start? Think of it as a snowball effect. Most people are in a stress response 24/7 from work deadlines, family obligations, and doom-scrolling world news. This response causes a chain reaction of nervous, immune, and endocrine (hormone) system responses to prepare your body for flight/fight/freeze. 

In the cave days, this stress response saved your life from a lion chasing you. And while we don’t necessarily encounter lions on our lunch break now, our brains can’t tell the difference between a lion chasing you and your boss yelling at you. On a physiological level, the responses are the exact same. 

So, our bodies are constantly on high alert, survival mode. No wonder we can’t sleep! Studies show hyperarousal is an underlying cause of insomnia. And once the cycle starts, then comes the downward spiral of even more stress from lack of sleep

Alright, enough disaster talk. There are lots of things you can do to ease stress and promote better sleep.

Enter: a solid night routine

No Need to Count Sheep! Use These 10 Do’s & Don’ts of a Night Routine for Better Sleep

Evening Ritual Do’s

#1 Brain Dump

Most of us try to “push through” and sit with all those racing thoughts and worries while we toss and turn. Instead, why not let it all out?

Here’s how to brain dump: 

  1. On a scale of 1-10, narrow down where your stress level is. 
  2. Get up, take out a blank piece of paper, and write down everything that comes to mind– even the thoughts you don’t think matter. (While writing, release all expectations to fix anything — you’re solely releasing your thoughts.) 
  3. Go through your writing, and notice anything that needs to be done the next day. Set a reminder/write yourself a note for what you need to do.  
  4. Reevaluate your stress level. If it’s still high, try one of the relaxation techniques mentioned below. Don’t go back to bed super stressed! 

#2 Turn Your Bedroom Into a Spa

The goal with a night routine is to remove any stress triggers — this means even little things like family pictures since they invoke emotions and memories.

So to get into a super relaxed response, you can turn your bedroom into a spa. Think of the last time you were at a spa and what was there: there probably weren’t pictures of people or bright-colored curtains.

Go for relaxing colors, textures, sounds, and pictures.  

#3 Try Different Relaxation Techniques

Studies show relaxation techniques before bed help promote restful sleep. Everyone responds to various techniques differently, so you’ll want to experiment to find what relaxes you the most. 

Some Relaxation Techniques:

  • Listening to soothing music
  • Reading a book
  • Taking an Epsom salt bath
  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation (Try Letting Go Meditation with Elise Joan)
  • Gentle stretching (Try Nightly Unwind with Breann Mitchell)

#4 Be Consistent

The human body regulates itself in cycles, or more specifically, the circadian rhythm. This cycle uses light and hormones to signal sleeping and waking and works best when initiated at consistent times.

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Our bodies thrive on routine!  

#5 Set Aside At Least 30 Mins For Your Night Routine

The more stress you’ve encountered in the day, the longer it will take your body to relax. Do your best to set aside at least 30 minutes in your night routine for better sleep.

Evening Ritual Don’ts:

#1 Drink Alcohol

Yes, alcohol may help you fall asleep faster since it’s a depressant, but it ruins the quality of your sleep because it’s also a toxic substance your liver has to work hard to clear out. This results in your body working to get rid of the alcohol instead of doing a lot of the deep sleep cell-regenerating it needs. 

Instead, try a relaxing drink like a warm turmeric latte.  

#2 Eat Lots of Food

Food has a similar effect as alcohol right before bed. When you eat lots of food before bed, your body spends more time digesting food than it does sleeping to its full potential. If you get too hungry to sleep, try eating a handful of almonds or some sliced avocado — just nothing full of sugar.

These 8 Healthy Evening Snacks will do the trick! 

#3 Watch Intense TV

You know how your brain can’t differentiate between a lion chasing you and your boss yelling at you? Well, that pretty much goes for anything super stressful — even watching intense TV, like a scary movie. 

If you do watch TV, go for something soothing that won’t rev up your body. 

#4 Work In Bed

Our brains love association, so if you make it a habit to work in bed, your body will get into work mode every time you get in the sheets. Hello, stress! To avoid this, try to keep your bedroom as the sanctuary you retreat to for relaxation and sleep. 

#5 Leave Your Phone in Your Room

From social media pressure to the blue light inhibiting melatonin receptors, your phone isn’t a great tool for easing stress and promoting sleep. 

Just leave your phone in another room all together and buy an old-fashioned alarm clock to help you wake up. 

Bonus Tip For Better Sleep 

Don’t Let Stress Get the Best of You

Stressors are unavoidable, but it doesn’t mean they have to rule your life. When you learn how to successfully manage stress, sleeping doesn’t feel so much like trying to solve world peace. It’s possible, especially once you narrow down the perfect night routine for you. You got this!