Improve how you rise and rest with these sleep-supporting habits.
Repeat after me: I have permission to rest. Say it again. Really let that sink in. You deserve good sleep. We all do. But how can we get the quality of sleep we truly need? Start by bookending your day with some of these slumber-friendly rituals. Do it gradually. Give yourself a caffeine curfew. Get plenty of sunlight. And, whatever you do, keep your phone out of the bedroom. It’s all about progress, not perfection.
First things first: morning rituals
- Wake around the same time every morning
“We often focus on what time we go to bed, which is a good practice,” explains MUD\WTR’s sleep advisor, neuroscientist Jeffrey Durmer, MD, Ph.D. “The truth is that even if you have difficulty falling asleep, if you get out of bed at the same time each morning, you will quickly get yourself back on track.”
- Support your local sunrise
Going outside soon after waking — ideally soon after daybreak — is an effective way to promote wakefulness and set one’s circadian rhythm. Leave the sunglasses behind in order to get the full benefits. Anywhere from two to 10 minutes of direct early morning light should do the trick.
- Get moving
Raising your temperature first thing in the morning will induce wakefulness through a healthy spike in cortisol. Although cortisol gets a bad rap, it’s necessary for our survival. Acute short-lasting spikes through exercise are healthy. Even a few minutes will work — grab that jump rope or put on your favorite banger and dance like no one’s watching.
- Chill out
Ice baths (or cranking your shower down to cold) are also effective ways to induce wakefulness. Cold plunging has a rebound effect on your body temperature, and after you exit that shivery state of euphoria, your body temperature will begin to climb. Cold plunges also trigger a release of norepinephrine, a powerful neurotransmitter that increases brain function.
- Set the tone
Add 10 minutes of meditation or some journaling to your morning routine to start the day off in a good headspace.
- Set a caffeine curfew
For the average adult, caffeine has a half-life of five to six hours. This means that if you have a cup of coffee at noon, half of its caffeine content may still be circulating in your system in the evening, and a quarter of it may be present at midnight.
The wind down: evening rituals
- Soak up that sunset
Get into the habit of letting the direct light of the sunset into your bare (read: free from shades) eyes at the end of each day. This triggers the release of melatonin, a hormone that lets your body know you’ve had your day in the sun, and now it’s time to start closing up shop.
- Avoid late-night munchies
Aim to finish eating three hours before bedtime. If you must eat late, keep it to a light snack rather than a heavy meal.
- Rethink your nightcap
Alcohol robs you of REM sleep, the deep slumber your brain requires for optimal restoration.
- Dim the lights
The more artificial light we take in after sunset, the more melatonin production is delayed, making it harder to fall asleep.
- Say night-night to screens
Turn off your devices at least one hour before going to bed to minimize light exposure and prevent late-night doomscrolling. Whatever you do, don’t bring screens into bed with you. “Watching TV, surfing the internet, or catching up on social media posts is an obvious no-no, but many people continue to do these things in bed, which sets them up for failure,” explains Durmer.
- Reflect and relax
Try some yoga or list three things you’re grateful for.
- Have a short bedtime routine
“This prepares your body and mind for the act of sleep,” says Durmer. “Sleep is a behavior that we can help or hinder. Routine and preparation are major helpers in accentuating your sleep.”
- Be cool
Our body temperature needs to drop by around two degrees Fahrenheit to fall asleep. Try keeping your bedroom temperature between 65 and 68 degrees.
- Don’t force it
“Folks have a tendency to stay in their beds when they’re not sleeping out of a hope that they will fall asleep,” says Durmer. “Hoping to fall asleep is not falling asleep. Get out of your bed and get yourself sleepy by doing things that evoke yawns, stretching, and eye rubbing. Once you feel that overwhelming sense of sleepiness, then get back into bed and let the slumber train take you away. Remember, you can’t will yourself to sleep.”