You’ve just finished eating dinner and the night is still young, which is a good thing because you have plenty to do before bedtime. There’s paperwork to finish, household chores that need your attention, calls to return, and that last piece of pie to eat. You also want to slip in a workout and catch the 10 o’clock news. But while it’s easy to fill up the post-supper hours, consider this: How you choose to spend the evening could have a big impact on your sleep, not to mention your health and daytime productivity. If you want to up the odds of a restful night, you might start by being mindful about your after-dinner routine. These twelve habits will help you segue into relaxation and deep, satisfying slumber:
Keep Exercise Light
Daily exercise is important, but an intense workout after dinner, especially within an hour of going to bed, can can do more harm than good by interrupting sleep or causing digestive issues that could keep you up late. According to the National Sleep Foundation, early morning is the best time for a vigorous cardio session. If you do choose to exercise after dinner, keep it light. Take a leisurely walk or bike ride through the neighborhood, do some yoga, or simply stretch and breathe.
Limit or Skip the Alcohol
While alcohol may relax you and help you drift off, it won’t keep you asleep. Alcohol disrupts REM sleep, worsens sleep apnea, and causes night sweats, all which interfere with a good night’s rest. If you favor an evening cocktail, stick to one or two drinks several hours before hitting the hay. Try a soothing cup of herbal tea, warmed milk, or clear water closer to bedtime. To avoid late-night bathroom trips, abstain from any liquids at least an hour before turning out the light.
There’s nothing wrong with snacking after dinner, even right before bed, but be choosy about what you eat. Opt for a healthy, sleep-inducing item, like a banana, yogurt, a handful of almonds or pumpkin seeds, or crackers with peanut butter. Foods rich in magnesium, tryptophan, and other calming nutrients will help you nod off and make for an enjoyable part of your nighttime routine. Refrain from eating right before bed if you have reflux issues.
Choose Screen-Free Activities
As fun as browsing the internet or video gaming may be, they’re probably not going to lull you into sleep. The artificial blue light emitted by electronic devices can suppress melatonin and make it hard to fall asleep fast.. Any kind of screen time can also charge up the brain and keep you awake at night. For the best rest, choose nighttime activities you enjoy but that provide screen-free relaxation, like reading, drawing, scrapbooking, or knitting.
Organize for Tomorrow
It’s hard to get everything done in a day, but keep in mind there’s always tomorrow. The hours after dinner shouldn’t be the time to complete all your tasks, although it can be an ideal time to get organized for the next day or week ahead. Use the evening to write to-do lists and plan. Putting some structure to the tasks that need your attention brings a sense of peace that will help ease your mind so you can sleep.
Treat Your Ears
Studies have proven the many therapeutic effects of listening to music, including the ability to help people relax and ease into restful sleep. Certain types of music, like classical, light jazz, and pop music with a slow tempo, help lower blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone cortisol, promoting calm for the mind and body. Put together a playlist of favorite sleep-friendly tunes and give your ears a nightly, slumberous treat.
Neaten Your Space
No one wants to wake up to a messy house, but engaging in a thorough cleaning at night can be overly stimulating before bed. Instead, do some basic straightening that’s quick and easy and puts your home in order without a full-blown cleanup. You’ll feel closure at the end of the day and a sense of accomplishment that will help you nod off at night. Then make a point to take care of heavy household chores during the daytime hours.
Prepare the Bedroom
When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, a bedroom that’s primed for rest and relaxation will bring more success than an uncomfortable, sloppy space. Set the temperature at a level that’s ideal for sleep, between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Darken the room, grab a fan or noise machine to block out distracting sounds, and fluff the pillows. Take a little time at night to prepare the bedroom for sleep and you’ll find the payoff to be well worth the effort.
If you like taking baths, you’re in luck. Soaking in the tub can do wonders for relaxation as well as the onset and quality of sleep. Warm water has a soothing effect on the mind and body and raises your internal temperature, but it’s the cooling down period that actually prepares you for sleep, according to experts. A 20-minute soak in the tub an hour before bed is a good rule of thumb. Don’t have a tub or care for baths? A warm shower can be just as effective.
Devote Time to a Loved One
The hours before bed can be a good time to connect with a loved one, as long as you keep the conversation light and avoid subjects that stir emotions. Call a supportive, easy-tempered friend or family member and enjoy some quiet interaction to relax yourself before going to sleep. If you’re not in the mood to talk at night, pets have the power to calm, too. In fact, just ten minutes of bonding with a pet can provide significant stress relief for both you and your furry friend.
Tapping into your spiritual being at night won’t just bring peace; it’ll help you eliminate any negative thoughts you have before going to sleep. Recite a mantra, do some spiritual reading, pray, or meditate. You’ll be surprised at how effective these simple practices can be for slumber. Not sure how to get spiritual? Turn to an app for guidance. There are many apps available that will help you use your mind and spirit to drift off and stay asleep.
Don’t Start a Bad Pattern
You will have nights when an event or engagement keeps you from practicing restful habits before bed. An evening here or there that breaks routine is fine, just don’t let the diversion start a bad pattern. Get right back on track with making relaxing choices in the hours before bedtime. Once your restful after-dinner routine becomes a way of life, you will embrace and look forward to tranquil nights that lead to refreshing, restorative sleep.
Fortunately, you can control what you do after dinner to help ensure sleep. Give the above ideas a try and see how they can provide a peaceful passage to slumber and a more restful, satisfying night.