Establishing a Healthy Bedtime Routine


We’ve discussed the many reasons a bedtime routine is essential to improve sleep quality for people of all ages, not just our kiddos. The first article in this series, “Even Mommy Needs a Good Bedtime Routine,” discusses all of the health benefits of a good night’s sleep and why it is essential to establish a good bedtime routine.

So how do we establish a better bedtime routine? 

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Believe it or not, set a bedtime…and a wake time …and stick to it.

Yes, you heard that right, mamas. Give yourself an actual time to go to bed and do it. Now, I get that this can be hard to do because unexpected things always come up in a day, but do your dead-level best every night. After all, how can you know when to start your bedtime routine if you don’t know what time you actually want to be in bed? If it’s good enough for our children, it’s good enough for us too! Think of it like an agreement with yourself that is a high priority. Doing this, over time, will establish a sleep/wake rhythm for your body, and you will find yourself getting sleepy once you’ve set this habit for yourself. Your brain will know when it needs to start shutting down and will signal you it’s ready to end the day.

2. Shut down ALL screen time at least one hour before bed.

This one will require ENORMOUS discipline … I know it does for me … but electronic devices emit blue light that blocks your body’s natural production of melatonin, the hormone needed for sleep. Even a few minutes of exposure can significantly impair melatonin production, impairing restful sleep. So, put your devices on the charger and stop binging Netflix (actually turn the tv off entirely, especially in the bedroom), stop the mindless scroll, close the laptop and leave the work for tomorrow, and do all this at least one hour before your head hits that pillow.  

(side note: if you take melatonin regularly, you are actually impeding your body’s natural production of this essential hormone. That is why you seem to need more and more to get the same effect. Consult your physician and, as with any supplement, take with caution.)  

3. Put your phone in the bathroom on the charger.

The temptation is strong when your phone is by your bed to pick it up and check messages or social media “just once more.” We have already established that blue light is detrimental to melatonin production. And whether you realize it or not, the bings and buzzes of notifications through the night, even when your phone is on silent, disturb your sleep patterns.

“But my alarm is on my phone,” “What if someone needs me,” “It’s my sleep music.” 

Ok, I hear you…so here you go…

    • Buy a cheap alarm clock…or better yet, set your alarm volume on your phone so loud and so annoying that it forces you to get up and go into the bathroom to turn it off, thereby reducing the possibility of snoozing (now there’s a trick for you). 
    • Turn your volume on but your notifications off. That way, on the off chance someone important, like a family member, does call with an emergency, you will hear the ringer and get up to answer it (because, let’s be honest, when was the last time someone realistically called you in the middle of the night?); but turn those pesky notifications off so you won’t be bothered with the incessant binging of the 18 thousand sales emails you get overnight or the mindless midnight texter…we all have one of those friends, LOL.  
    • Music? One word….Alexa. Or, even better, you can get a small Bluetooth speaker connected to your phone (you know…the one in the bathroom charging) and play your sleep music/soothing sounds. Your notifications are off, so those won’t buzz through. You can even set a timer for the sounds/music to go off so you can sleep in silence, which is another thing essential for a good night’s sleep. Your brain is always listening. The silence allows your brain to decompress from the day while you sleep. This process and essential for overall mental clarity and focus while awake the next day.

4. Stop drinking alcohol at least three hours before bed.

The impact of the “wine mommy” culture on restorative sleep has been devastating. That is another article for another day, but for now, let’s focus on why three hours. The ultimate goal of a bedtime routine is to create a habitual subconscious response to how we prepare to sleep. When you introduce artificial elements into that, like wine (or other “aids” like melatonin or otc sleep supplements), it blocks those naturally occurring processes and hormones and interrupts the deep sleep cycles needed to restore your body and mind. You may fall asleep, but you will not get into a deep REM sleep, and your mind and body will wake dehydrated and tired.

5. Set your tomorrow, tonight.

Go ahead and plan your morning. Create a “brain dump” or to-do list, and prioritize your tasks for tomorrow, identifying the three most important. Getting all those frustrating morning activities that we usually are scrambling around doing while trying to get the whole family ready and out the door on time, often creating some of the most heated conflicts, allows your morning to run smoothly and not feel so out of control. Everyone in the house benefits from minimizing the chaos that often happens as everyone hustles to get ready. Your subconscious is preparing for this, and believe it or not, it can impact your ability to relax and sleep restfully. 

Get all the school/work/activity stuff together the night before. For example: 

    • Pack lunches for everyone 
    • Clear out and re-pack backpacks, gather all school/activity papers and items, and set everything at the door.
    • Pick out clothes and shoes (everyone…yes…you too)
    • Set the coffee pot to come on (or get it ready to go if it does not have a timer)
    • Everyone decides on breakfast for tomorrow (remember savory over sweet to be sure to feel full and energized longer)
    • Decide on tomorrow’s dinner, and ensure you already have all the ingredients on hand. 
    • Put post-it notes on the door for items you don’t want to forget
    • Lay out your exercise clothes and shoes for the morning if you plan to get in a workout

These are just a few helpful suggestions for establishing a healthy routine. Be on the lookout for Part 3 for even more. And don’t forget to go back and read (or re-read) why this is all so important for you and all of us busy mamas: Even Mommy Needs a Good Bedtime Routine

For more information on establishing a healthy bedtime routine for yourself, check this out:

Sleep Foundation: “Sleep Hygiene – What it is, why it matters, and how to revamp your habits to get better nightly sleep.”



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