Feb. 15. 2017
Health Articles
McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

A guide on how to create an evening routine for better sleep.

One of my not-so-secret secrets to staying productive, focused, and passionate about the day ahead is utilizing the framework I shared in my Morning Routine. Since sharing that post months ago, it’s brought in so many follow ups, comments, and questions from the NS community through email and social media, and I’m so happy that post helped you! To follow up on that post, I’ve also had a request about the evening routine, i.e. how to unwind from the day, how to set up for a good night’s sleep, and how to cultivate relaxation. For me, it’s not just about the beauty routine before you go to bed (more on that later). For some of you who have trouble sleeping, this post is for to you and optimizing your evening time to set yourself up for the best and most relaxing nighttime routine.


Just as important is the morning routine, your bedtime/evening routine is another “non-negotiable” to help keep you balanced and live a happier and healthier lifestyle. Again, my evening routine will look different than yours, but my hope is that by sharing mine it’ll help you cultivate yours and show you a framework to create your own. I’d love to hear in the comments below what’s part of your evening routine – I’m sure we all can benefit from learning more from each other.

My “evening” routine starts whenever I stop working – the goal is ALWAYS around 5pm, but with owning a business comes a lot of moving parts, and sometimes it’s really hard to put work away this early so sometimes I work up until about 8-9pm. Not my ideal, but hey, that’s life and it’s all about recognizing where you can create stability and a routine the MAJORITY of the time. Many of you are in the same boat with juggling school and work, commuting to and from work, raising families, having a booming social life, etc. I challenge you to develop your goal and ideal evening routine and work your way up to achieve it – trust me, you got this if I do!

So here we go, here’s my evening routine:

+ 5:00 pm: My first attempt to shut off work. Again, creating boundaries with work/personal life will always be a daily practice for me so I typically will set alarms on my phone or be mindful not to work more than 10 hours a day in order to create balance in the other beautiful parts of my life like spending time with my love, friends, and little Luna bug (omg I can’t believe how big she is compared to this picture below – she’s growing up too fast!). A tip and something that helps me “shut off” work and create a boundary between working hours and “me-time” is to go on a walk. Going outside with Luna and taking her on a quick walk is a nice mental, physical, and emotional separation between work and other parts of life. It really helps shake the day off!

+ 6:00 pm: Dinner always depends on the day, but we actually prefer to eat dinner quite early, so 5-6pm is my happy place giving enough time to digest before bed…and squeeze in dessert of some kind later 😉 Some of my go-to dinner recipes are Simple Stir-frys from batch cooking on the weekend and from the Society, soups like the Zinger Warming Soup or Moroccan Tomato-Chickpea Stew with Walnut Gremolata from the #NScookbook, breakfasts for dinner like scrambled eggs with veggies, avocado and sauerkraut; etc. Endless possibilities and it all depends on the season, but as I’m writing this it’s winter in Nashville and my body is craving warming foods!

Need a little help with meal prep to speed up your routine? Here are a couple things to help you plan ahead for dinners and/or in case you’re new to the NS lifestyle – I’m all about batch cooking (you can join the Society if you need help with meal plans, batch cooking, and grocery shopping lists galore!), there’s also a great resource section I was really excited to share in the #NScookbook.

+ 7:00 pm: Again, every evening looks a bit different, but typically after dinner we may take Luna on a quick walk and I’ll follow up with a quick 10 minute stretch/foam rolling session to stretch out the day. The rest of the night just depends on our schedule, some weeks I have nightly meetings with a Mastermind group I started, or I’ll have evening yoga or art class. Mostly we’ll go hang out with family and friends and have a low key hang, typically with a nice glass of red wine and a movie or grounding chats. Otherwise, I watch movies, read books, etc., which just goes to show that simpler and more low key activities are the best for me since most of my career and work is give give give. It’s nice to take the time to give back to myself before the next day.

+ 9:00 pm: this is typically when I’ll take some time, anywhere between 20-30 minutes, to do a little self-beauty care with my nighttime beauty routine which I’ll be sharing more of later! It could be putting on a mask (some of my faves. are from Fresh) and following with the rest of my beauty routine, changing into PJ’s…because who doesn’t love cute and comfy PJ’s to cuddle up with. I chatted about the concept of hygge and THIS is such a great example of hygge – the coziness that comes when you start to unwind and get comfortable. That immediately gets me into relaxation mode and I’m ready to snuggle up, drink some Turmeric Milk, read a book, watch a movie, catch up with friends and family out of state on FaceTime, or do some art work.

+ 10:00 pm: If I’m waking up at 6am, I’m definitely hitting bed around 9pm which ensures I get a full 8 hours. Sometimes in the fall and winter since it gets so dark early I often go to bed even earlier with ease and catch up on massive amounts of sleep and get 9hrs! That’s an ideal scenario and doesn’t always pan out haha. I also exercise a lot of flexibility with my bed time because that’s life! Some nights I’m up very late, past midnight and adjust my morning wake up time accordingly. It’s all about balance and finding what works for your life, and for me it’s about making time for relationships and the things that matter most to me at the end of the day. Right before I go to bed, I’ll recite some mantras followed up by filling out my Five Minute Journal right before my head hits the pillow!

You can read more about My Skincare Routine: Body and Face Edition and the ultimate routine for better sleep. I’ll be doing a post more on my nighttime beauty routine in the future.

Additional things I love in the evening to help me relax: essential oil diffuser, adult coloring books, Desmond & Dempsey pj’s, cozy blankets, and the Five Minute Journal.

Tips to creating space for a relaxing evening routine…

because that’s sometimes half the battle!

  1. Set your “bedtime” to ensure you’ll sleep 8 hours from your wake up call #beautysleep
  2. Write out your evening routine and really envision it.
  3. Now close your eyes and envision yourself practicing that evening routine. This helps work out those little “in between” steps you might not think about.
  4. Make time for relaxing and downtime.
  5. Go with the flow. The first time you start your evening routine it might be best to start adding in 1 thing at a time and then working up to it.
  6. Be “selfish”. Embrace this time all about you, for you.
  7. Change with the seasons! My evening routine stays pretty consistent year round, but I’m always checking in with myself about how I can improve or switch it up if I’m feeling stagnant.
  8. Just. Do. It. Try it for 2 weeks straight and report back to me – but I think you’ll have positive outcomes from it.


Have any questions? Ask! I hope that sharing my personal routine helps you cultivate your own routine and ritual, doing things that you absolutely love and that make your heart and spirit happy. I’d love to hear some of your evening routines – let’s start the conversation here as well.