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Last Updated on May 15, 2019

The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

I’m sure you’ve come across ‘morning routines‘ being talked about as something very important if you want to be healthy and successful. However, I’m guessing you haven’t heard of ‘night routines’ being talked about so much.

Night routines are not popular, as sticking to a healthy routine isn’t easy, especially at night after a whole day of work. Let’s be honest, all we’d really like to do after work is relax. Routines? Not so much!

I understand your feelings about this issue as I used to think this way too. But after reading this article, I’m confident you’ll change your mind – as you’ll learn about the fantastic benefits of a night routine (e.g. no more sleep issues, a smoother morning and a more energetic day).

I’m going to provide you with some great tips (and some exact steps) to make the perfect night routine.

Why a Night Routine Matters

A night routine is the things you do immediately prior to going to bed. For example, it may be your habit to have a hot drink before going to bed, or perhaps you like to read a book in bed before going to sleep.

Of course, you might have no specific night time routine whatsoever and just take each evening and night as it comes. While it might seem that having a flexible and easygoing night routine is the best thing, I would caution you, and ask you to think about the following:

Your nighttime routine is as important as your morning routine.

By creating a routine for the morning, you don’t have to put much effort into thinking about what you need to do to get ready before leaving your home for work. Clearly, having a morning routine is beneficial. And guess what? Having a night routine is beneficial too.

Here are some three benefits of having a decent night routine:[1]

  • You’ll have a more restful and higher-quality sleep.
  • You’ll be able to tackle the morning in a smoother and more productive way.
  • Your brain will be sharper throughout the next day.

So, what are the ideal components of a night routine? I’ll reveal these now.

The Ultimate Night Routine (With Exact Steps to Follow)

Before You Head Home…

    1. Get rid of caffeine after 4:00pm

    Your night routine begins well before your head hits the pillow. If you work a 9 to 5, you need to think about how everything you do after 4:00pm affects your sleep.

    For example caffeine stays in your system for up to six hours. If you’re accustomed to having a cup of tea in the evening, make sure it’s an herbal, caffeine free tea. Otherwise, you might be jittery until 10:00pm or later.

    2. Stay hydrated

    Dehydration can make you feel sluggish and tired when you want to be awake. You can’t go wrong with having some good old-fashioned H2O throughout the evening.[2]

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    3. Decide when the work day ends

    To have a solid night routine, you must decide when you’re leaving work. It’s easy to lose track of time and stay too late. Establish a cut off time for work-related emails and phone calls as well.

    If you don’t set boundaries, it’s hard to enjoy life and get a good night of sleep.

    Immediately After Work…

      4. Avoid alcohol

      If you’re heading out with friends, be mindful of your alcohol intake. Alcohol may make you drowsy, but the sleep you get won’t be restful. Skip the booze altogether, or stop consuming it at least two hours before bed.[3]

      5. Have a healthy dinner

      Aim to have your dinner a few hours before you go to bed. Overeating or having heavy or rich meals around bedtime may lead to discomfort and indigestion. When you need a snack closer to bedtime, reach for something light and healthy.

      The time immediately after dinner is a great opportunity to pack lunch for the next day. Pull items from the freezer and package leftovers from dinner into individual servings.

      Check out here for 20 Quick and Healthy Dinner Recipes For You To Choose.

      6. Take time to tidy

      Being in an organized environment will help you feel relaxed and in control. Cleaning dishes and counter tops after dinner is an absolute must.

      You can also take some time to put things away if you’ve used them during the day.[4] Be mindful of clutter in your bedroom. Waking up in an orderly space will work wonders for your mood.

      7. Prepare for tomorrow

      Get out tomorrow’s outfit and gym clothes as you tidy. Clear unnecessary items out of your bag and set out everything you need to take with you. Taking these steps means you’re less likely to derail your day by forgetting something, and you’ll prevent decision fatigue from setting in early tomorrow.

      When you don’t have a million things to do upon waking, it’s easier to fall asleep. Waking up won’t seem like a chore if you set yourself up for success.

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      8. Take time for yourself

      Perhaps you watch an episode of your favorite show or play video games. Set a time limit for these activities. It’s too easy to binge-watch TV or stay up late playing games if you aren’t mindful of the time.

      One Hour Before Bed… (Where Your Bedtime Routine Starts)

        9. Step away from the screens

        Cut off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed. The blue light from electronics interferes with the production of melatonin, a hormone necessary for restful sleep.[5]

        10. Read a book

        A better alternative to looking at your phone is to read a book. Six minutes of reading can ease the tension of stress in the human body and calm your nerves.[6]

        Not sure what to read before going to bed? The Oyster Review has picked 21 best books for bedtime reading, check them out here.

        11. Reflect on your day

        Consider what worked and didn’t work today. This helps you appreciate your accomplishments, and shape a better tomorrow.[7]

        Start by acknowledging one or two things you wish had gone better. End your reflection by thinking of a few wins you had. Even if you had a bad day, make an effort to end by thinking about something good that happened.

        Write lingering thoughts or reflections in your journal. This keeps you from going to bed with a head full of worries. Find out how you can start journaling here.

        12. Plot out tomorrow’s schedule

        Write top priorities for tomorrow in a planner or notebook.[8] When you get to work, you’ll already know what to do.

        13. Give some gratitude

        Write down at least one thing you’re thankful for each day. Making gratitude a part of your routine can help you lead a healthy and happy life. Here’re 60 things to be thankful for if you want more ideas.

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        You can try to mark down your mood everyday and you may find yourself having plenty to be happy about. Mood apps like Mr. Mood is nice to help you keep track of your emotions.

        Ending the day on a positive note sets you up for a restful slumber.

        Right Before Going to Sleep…

          14. Take care of hygiene rituals

          Besides brushing your teeth and washing your face, take a warm bath, or hot shower, before bed.

          The optimal body temperature for sleep should be between 60 and 67 degrees.[9] As soon as you step out of the bath or shower, your body temperature drops rapidly to re-regulate with the temperature of the room. That quick change physiologically can cause sleepiness.

          15. Practice bedtime yoga

          Bedtime yoga activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers relaxation. Here’re 3 simple bedtime yoga poses you can try tonight:

          16. Go to sleep at the same time every night

          As an adult, you’re recommended to sleep for 6 to 10 hours every day.[10] If you have to wake up at 7am the next day, it’s better to go to sleep around 11pm.

          Find a time that is suitable for you and stick to that sleeping time. You can set an alarm one hour before going to bed to remind you to start your bedtime ritual.

          How to Stick to a Night Routine (The Easy Way)

          When I just started my night routine, I started off with a positive mindset, and thought that it would be easy to stick to my new night routine.

          I was wrong.

          On the first few nights, I experienced multiple issues while attempting to stick to my routine. These included avoiding caffeine after 4pm because I liked drinking coke, stepping away from the screens as I was still reading some articles online, and going to bed on time.

          But I was determined to get on track with my night routine because I wanted to sleep better and wake up more energetic and productive the next day. By the fourth day, I was making genuine progress. I stopped consuming coke and started to drink more water instead. I reflected on my day and kept track of my progress on what I had followed and missed in the routine. I started to go to bed on time and could sleep a lot better.

          By the end of the week, I had successfully overcome many problems I had when I started out, and was able to continue to stick to my night routine.

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          Sticking to a night routine was really a ‘mind game’. In other words, our minds are so full of daily stuff that we find it hard to wind down at the end of a day – especially at a specific time. But with effort, this could be overcome, and a new, healthy routine put in place.

          It can be hard to stick to a new routine but here are three things that you can do to make the adoption process easier:

            1. Have a Clear Plan

            Think about what you want to include in your night routine, and then write it down.

            Make it as clear and simple as possible, so you’ll have the best chance of following it. And the best part? Once you’ve followed your night routine long enough, you’ll no longer need to refer to your plan – as it will have become a habit.

            2. Create Reminders and Alarms

            When you first start to implement your night routine, it would be foolish to rely 100% on your mind and willpower. Instead, use digital alarms to remind you of things like when to go to bed.

            You can also be creative with this. If you like to have a herbal tea before retiring to bed, then set up another alarm to prompt you to make the tea 30 minutes before bedtime. And as with point No. 1 above, after a month or so, you probably won’t need the alarms, as your night routine will have become a positive habit.

            3. Start Small, Make it so Easy that You Can’t Say No

            If you set too big a goal, you’ll be lining yourself up for failure. It’s far better to choose smaller, easier to complete goals that will give you a sense of achievement.

            Look at your current night routine (or lack of one), and then start building a picture in your mind – or on paper – of how you would like your night routine to be. Then start planning on how to introduce these changes into your life.

            It maybe easier for you to implement your desired changes over a few days or weeks. For example, the first change to your night routine could be started straight away – by having a glass of water just before you go to bed. Other changes you could phase into your routine.

            However, try to make sure your night routine is fully in place within 30 days.

            Final Thoughts

            It could be easy to fall back to doing the bad habits, so I recommend you to try my Control Alternate Delete Method to take back control of your life. This is the secret method I used to break 3 bad habits in less than 2 months!

            Before reading this article, night routines may have seemed alien to you. However, I’m confident that you can now see the tangible benefits of them.

            Once you begin implementing your own night routine, you’ll see the benefits start to materialize in your own life.

            Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

            Reference

            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on July 17, 2019

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

            What happens in our heads when we set goals?

            Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

            Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

            According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

            Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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            Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

            Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

            The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

            Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

            So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

            Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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            One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

            Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

            Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

            The Neurology of Ownership

            Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

            In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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            But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

            This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

            Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

            The Upshot for Goal-Setters

            So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

            On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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            It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

            On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

            But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

            More About Goals Setting

            Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

            Reference

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