Establishing a Nighttime Routine to Improve Sleep Hygiene

One of the most important aspects of living a healthy, less stressful life is getting a good night’s sleep. However, in today’s culture sleep has become an elusive commodity. It’s time to take back good sleep by establishing a nighttime routine and practicing good sleep hygiene!

nighttime routine

What is Sleep Hygiene?

Sleep hygiene basically refers to the habits that help people have a good night’s sleep. Too often people have poor nighttime practices that result in poor sleep. The main aspects of sleep hygiene are behaviors, environments and consistency. Behaviors that result in good sleep hygiene, and that should be part of everyone’s nighttime routine include: relaxation methods, unplugging from devices and not indulging in foods or drinks that disrupt your sleep. Everyone relaxes and unplugs differently, so your nighttime routine may include a warm bath or shower, yoga or meditation. While unplugged from devices, your nighttime routine could include making time for reading every night before bed instead of scrolling Instagram. Certain foods, caffeine and even alcohol have been proven to disrupt sleep, so good sleep hygiene includes not snacking on certain foods late at night.

A Good Sleeping Environment

The environment that you sleep in is also a very important part of having good sleep hygiene. Your bedroom should be cool, dark and relaxing in order to promote good sleep. A new mattress, bedding or blackout curtains may be a good investment if you find that street lights keep you up at night or you can’t seem to get comfortable. Another key piece to creating a relaxing environment is to remove stressors from your bedroom. This includes TVs and computers. If you can help it, don’t work from your bedroom. It should be a sanctuary for relaxing, not hustling.

Be Consistent

The most important piece to any nighttime routine is consistency. It’s important to establish a set bedtime and wake time and to stick to them. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, so decide what time you want to wake up, and go to bed 7 hours before that time. Don’t forget to add another 30 minutes of wind down time before then! As hard as it may sound, honor those sleep and wake times on the weekends too. Of course there will be times when you are sick, burnt out or just need to stay out late with friends. That is all well and good, but don’t let it lead to bad habits that ruin your sleep hygiene.

nighttime routine

My Nighttime Routine

I started taking my sleep hygiene seriously shortly after Mara was born. I invested so much time and energy into researching her sleep that I started to do the same for myself. The daily demands of motherhood had me craving a nighttime routine for myself. I also wanted to start waking up earlier so that I could prepare myself for each day. I established a pretty solid nighttime routine that I’ve been following for years. I slip into bad habits every now and then, but my sleep is so much better if I follow my routine.

No Wine or Food After 9 pm

While a glass of wine before bed may make you feel sleepy and help you fall asleep faster, it effects the quality of your sleep. Over the past few years I’ve noticed that my sleep is absolute garbage if I have a glass of wine too late. I will sleep for an hour or two and then have awful insomnia. I also avoid food past 9 pm, but that is due to my acid reflux. If I eat and then lie down, I’m just asking for heartburn. Now I enjoy my snacks and wine after the kids go to bed, but cut myself off at 9. Then I have plenty of time to drink water and digest before bed.

Lower Lighting

Bright lights can actually hinder the production of melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. Turning down the lights, or using softer lighting like lamps, 30 minutes to an hour before bed can help with melatonin production. Plus, it creates a more relaxing, hygge atmosphere which also helps improve sleep quality. It’s a great place to start when improving your sleep hygiene. Opt to turn on a few lamps, instead of harsh overhead lighting. Or if you’re able, install a few dimmers in spaces you frequently use at night. For my nighttime routine I turn off bright overhead lights around 9:30 PM. We installed a dimmer on a few lights in the house, so I set those lower. I also only use lamps in the bedroom. I don’t even turn on the overhead light in our bathroom when it’s close to bedtime just to keep the environment consistent.

Start the Dishwasher and Prep Coffee

Being more prepared for the morning also helps improve sleep quality, especially for people that have a hard time turning off their brains at night. A good sleep hygiene practice for your nighttime routine could be laying out clothes the night before, doing a “brain dump” on paper to clear your mind, or tidying the house a bit before relaxing. I usually clean the kitchen after dinner, so the only thing left before bed is to start the dishwasher. I also set my programmable coffee maker every night, so that I can wake up to fresh coffee. When Jesse hears the dishwasher start he knows that I’m settling down for bed. He actually calls it “the sound of bedtime” now. Haha.

Wash Face, Brush Teeth, Etc.

A large part of good sleep hygiene is personal hygiene. Set aside time each night for nightly skincare and brushing and flossing. I have a nightly skincare routine that I follow every night. I wash my face, tone and moisturize every night. I also add a bit of dry shampoo to my hair before putting it up in a high pony each night.

In Bed By 10 PM

An established bedtime is a fundamental part of sleep hygiene. When it comes to sleep, consistency is key! Depending on what time you wake up each morning, you should establish your bedtime at least 7 hours before that. And I mean in bed, lights off, ready for sleep. I wake up at 6:30 every morning, so I go to sleep at 11 pm. I have found that I function best at 7.5 hours of sleep, so my personal sleep schedule is built around meeting that goal. I honestly notice a difference in my mood and energy levels if I sleep more or less than 7.5 hours. It’s my sleep sweet spot.

Read in Night Mode on My Kindle Only

Technically, it’s not recommended to use any devices at all in bed. However, I’m a digital book person so I read on my Kindle every night. I turn on the night mode, or “blue shade,” that cuts down on the blue light from the screen and turn the screen brightness all the way down. I also set my display so that the screen is black and words are white. I’ve found these settings to be better for my eyes and I don’t have trouble going to sleep. I don’t use my phone in bed though. On the nights that I forget and lay in bed scrolling Instagram I find that I sleep terribly. I also don’t check my phone in bed in the mornings. When my alarm goes off, I get up and check my phone downstairs with coffee in hand.

Relaxing Environment

A relaxing environment is so beneficial to a good night’s sleep and sleep hygiene. I know that not everyone has the luxury of making their bedroom just for sleeping though. In our last house, Jesse’s home office was in our bedroom. And it definitely affected his sleep. Now, we’re working on making our bedroom a truly relaxing retreat. I opted to not put a TV in our bedroom here, we hung blackout curtains and I try to keep the space very tidy. It helps me to come to our room and just go to bed without any distractions.

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  1. It sounds like you practice great nighttime habits! I’ve worked really hard to create a helpful bedtime routine for myself – however, it’s not perfect and unfortunately, it’s constantly changing, since B’s work schedule is always different (which throws me off regularly). One of these days, I hope to have a consistent sleepytime routine long-term!

  2. Ooh great tips! I really need to get better at wind-down time. I used to be great at going to sleep early but lately, I’ve been so busy with work and such, I’m going to bed later and later while getting up earlier – I’m sleeping at around 11:30 or later if I’m lucky and waking up consistently at 5:30 am. I think just having a routine to prep for the morning would help a lot!

  3. I’m always sure to use night mode on my phone after 9pm. My husband also swears by not using a bright overhead light right before bed. We only use lamps. You shared some great tips!

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