Nov. 18. 2015
Articles
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder and CEO

Just like a morning routine, establishing a nighttime routine sets you up for success and a restful night’s sleep. Discover my seven tips to sleep better, longer, and deeper.

Feeling exhausted? We’ve all been there at some point in our lives, especially as the routines, schedules, and business of fall start creeping back in. Sleep is vital to nearly every aspect of health, from energy levels to mood and mental health. However, when sleep becomes an issue, insomnia can feel like a sticky cycle you can’t get out of.

You don’t sleep well one night, then the next day you’re not focused, not as productive, not present, etc., which may increase cravings, skyrocket stress levels, throw off digestion, and disrupt hormone levels. Let’s put an end to sleepless nights with this Ultimate Nighttime Routine for Better Sleep — you may want to bookmark or share this for later!

A Nighttime Routine For Better Sleep

Poor sleep can affect weight regulation, insulin sensitivity, stress levels and thyroid hormone levels (1, 2, 3, 4). Finding the best nighttime routine for you can optimize these aspects of health, and more. Less sleep has also been associated with fat gain, weight gain, and general obesity as well (5, 6, 7).

Life happens, and sometimes our sleep can completely suffer because things are out of balance in our lifestyles. Sleep will always show you what’s going on in your body during the day, so there are several things to consider before we get started with creating a good nighttime routine.

For starters, there are many different components that can contribute to a lack of sleep. Stress, anxiety, nutrient deficiencies, illness, high stress, digestive issues, supplements/stimulants/medications, hormonal imbalances, and external factors like noisy neighbors or newborns can all damage your sleep cycle and cause energy levels to tank.

Although research has turned up mixed findings on exactly how much sleep we should be getting each night, scientists generally agree that 7-9 hours is optimal for promoting health (8). However, no matter what studies show, it’s all about what works for you! For me, eight is my sweet spot, nine is normally what I get in the fall and winter, and at just six hours, you probably don’t want to talk to me!

That being said, it’s not just about the hours you sleep, but it’s about the quality as well. Just like a morning routine can be beneficial to your health and wellbeing, so can your evening routine and bedtime routine. Setting up a healthy nighttime routine to reach REM sleep is key for restoring health and boosting energy levels.

Here are my top seven tips to sleep better, longer, and deeper as part of a relaxing nighttime routine.

1. Let it go

Some of my clients, myself included, with sleep issues and insomnia also have racing thoughts. These are thoughts that don’t seem to go away because of overstimulation with being on social media, on the computer, or around electronics at night or before bedtime.

Do you notice things just boiling to the surface as soon as you lay down? Most of us go through our days unconscious, or not 100% present and in the moment. This causes us to finally hit that space as soon as we lay our heads on the pillow!

That may be a sign that you’re not addressing thoughts as they come in, letting go of bad energy, and observing those thoughts throughout the day. Work them out and let them go! Also, the more you focus on being a “bad sleeper” the more you set it up in your mind that you’re a “bad sleeper.” Try positive affirmations at night that reinforce a good night’s sleep. Even simple mantras such as: “I will rest easy tonight,” “I’m going to sleep well,” “I give myself permission to let thoughts go and rest,” and “I will sleep” can help set yourself up for a good night of sleep.

Try positive affirmations, journaling, setting all technology to “sleep” at bedtime, or meditating to relax.

2. Use essential oils

Studies show that aromatherapy can be incredibly beneficial for sleep and relaxation. Lavender, in particular, is one of my favorite essential oils for creating a sense of calm and peace. One study actually found that lavender was able to improve sleep quality in new mothers compared to a control group (8).

Try adding a couple of drops to coconut oil and then rubbing it on your arms, neck or chest where you’ll be able to easily smell it while sleeping. Another tip I use as part of my nighttime routine is to spray my pillowcase with a mixture of essential oils in rose water. Be sure to use pillowcases that aren’t fancy because the oil can leave little marks on it. Another option is to invest in a room diffuser, which you can set to diffuse for a certain amount of set time before bed.

3. Try magnesium

Magnesium is one of many minerals that most of us are lacking. Whether it’s from stress, environmental factors, digestive issues, or high activity levels, your magnesium could be low.

Why does this matter? Well if you’re having frequent headaches or not hitting the hay hard enough, then you may want to try magnesium. One study even found that supplementing with magnesium was able to reverse changes in sleep associated with aging (9).

I enjoy using this powdered magnesium drink whenever I feel I didn’t get a restful sleep the night before. If you decide to try magnesium, be sure always check with your doctor and use sparingly. Additionally, keep in mind that magnesium is also used to move digestion along, so taking too much can cause stomach discomfort the next day!

4. Eat well

What you eat throughout the day can have a huge impact on how you sleep at night. In fact, switching up your diet is an essential component of any nighttime routine for adults.

For starters, balancing blood sugar levels throughout the day with meals that are high in fiber, vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates will keep you feeling amazing and help you sleep later on. Be sure to also drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.

Additionally, despite the negative reputation of carbohydrates, eating carbs at night can actually help you sleep by increasing your serotonin and melatonin levels. Try enjoying whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, or barley for dinner to sleep a little easier later on.

Need some ideas? Check out the recipe page and find some comforting warm meals that soothe you from the inside.

5. Move your body

Moving your body and exercising is key to overall health, but it can be especially beneficial for helping you sleep (10). According to one large review of 34 studies, 85% of studies showed that exercise improved both sleep quality and duration in participants (11).

If you can’t head to the gym, no worries! Try a yoga DVD, use some YouTube videos from Shape magazine or another reputable resource, walk around your neighborhood, go to a park, or have fun jumping rope. Aim for at least 30 minutes just to get going, and try to squeeze in some activity at least 5-6 days per week.

6. Limit light exposure

Watching television or using your phone right before bed can wreak havoc on your sleep cycle. Light exposure can inhibit the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your natural sleep cycle. This is why it’s so important to limit your screen time around bedtime. Set a specific time to turn off the electronics, preferably an hour or two before bed. Use this extra time to read, journal, or practice meditation instead.

7. Skip nap time

While a nap may sound tempting after a long, tiring day, napping can actually make it more difficult to sleep later on in the day. Therefore, if you’re having difficulties with sleep, be sure to limit your naps to just 15-30 minutes, or try skipping them altogether. Allowing yourself to feel more tired at the end of the day can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep for longer.

Other Strategies for Better Sleep

If the tips listed above don’t do the trick, here are a few other simple strategies you can try to promote better sleep:

  • Hit the infrared sauna
  • Sleeping in cooler temperatures
  • Wearing cozy PJ’s
  • Mentally going through a nightly gratitude list
  • Meditation
  • Journaling a stream of consciousness for 10 minutes to “clear your mind”
  • Sleeping with fans on for white noise and cool breeze
  • Not eating too close to bedtime (close the kitchen at least 2-3 hours before bedtime)
  • Drinking hot tea like chamomile
  • Avoiding caffeine entirely, or at least afternoon
  • Take a hot bath

Resources to Support Sleep

Setting up a healthy nighttime routine starts with equipping yourself with the right products. Here are a few must-haves to add to your next shopping list:

NS Recommends

Getting a good night of sleep starts with a good nighttime routine. In addition to switching up your diet and getting plenty of regular exercise, there are plenty of other strategies you can use to maximize your sleep quality each night. Try limiting your screen time before bed, practicing positive affirmations, using a magnesium supplement, or adding aromatherapy into your routine.