6 Nightly Rituals for Better Quality Sleep
It’s no news that quality sleep leads to high performance and elevated mood during the day. But not all of us are able to get eight hours of winks in every night. That is why we’ve compiled six nightly rituals you can do to increase the quality of sleep that you do get – whether it’s eight hours or four.
1. Dim the lights.
Our brains need visual cues to signal rest every night. The best way to do this is to dim the lights. Dimming the lights not only reminds us that it is bedtime, but it also triggers melatonin, a hormone produced at night by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Aside from keeping our sleep cycles in sync, melatonin has also been known to lower blood pressure and body temperature and has been explored as a treatment option for insomnia, hypertension and cancer.
2. Take a 15-minute bath.
A good way to facilitate quality sleep is to increase your external temperature, or skin temperature. Why? Because your body – craving homeostasis – tries to balance this out by decreasing its internal body temperature, which induces sleep. Dr. Seiji Nishino, the head of the Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology Lab at Stanford University, recommends that we steep in a 40°C bath for about 15 minutes to induce enough of an internal body temperature increase to have a palpable craving for sleep.
3. Establish a no-screen time.
We know we’ve brought this up before, but it’s that important. Though the theory that the short-wavelength, artificial “blue light” emitted by electronic screens inhibits sleep has been contested, the overall brain stimulation that occurs as a result of consuming on-screen content suppresses the release of melatonin and delays the onset of REM sleep, which in turn decreases the overall quality of your sleep – regardless of the hours you get in.
4. Wear breathable pajamas.
Though some of us may be inclined to bundle up in heavy blankets or wear thick pajamas to bed especially during the cold winter months, the dense fabric in both prevents our bodies from cooling off as needed throughout the night. Alas, the residual heat trapped in our bodies leads to low quality sleep. Instead of wrapping yourself in layers of fleece, invest in a breathable pajama set and adjust the room temperature to a comfortable but slightly cooler temperature. Not sure what pajamas to get? We’ve compiled our favorite pajama brands here.
5. Drink a cup of herbal tea.
One of our favorite night-time rituals is drinking a cup of herbal tea before going to bed. A small cup will do – we don’t want to be making regular trips to the bathroom overnight! Look for ingredients like chamomile, lemon balm, magnolia bark and valerian root for a soothing sleep-inducing blend. Stay away from caffeinated teas like black and green teas.
Pro tip: The amount of time it takes to consume a small cup of tea is perfect for fitting in another ritual, like journaling, meditating or simply sitting still and drifting off into sleep.
6. Keep your night stand clutter-free.
Have you ever slept in an an unfamiliar place – say, a friend's house or a hostel in a foreign country – and woken up feeling groggy and sleep-deprived? When placed in an unfamiliar sleep environment, the brain tends to maintain a certain level of wakefulness to protect us from predators and other unforeseen circumstances. This logic can be carried over to your home as well. Make sure your sleep environment at home is consistently furnished and clutter-free. We sleep much better in a familiar bed in a familiar corner with familiar furnishings.