I’ve written before about how a morning ritual is the perfect warm up routine to take on your day like a champion.
I’ve also written about the importance of taking sleep seriously and how to get better at it.
But sleeping well and getting the most out of your morning routine starts before you even drift off.
It starts with your habitual way of getting ready for sleep – it starts with…
Your Evening Routine
The time right before you go to sleep can have some great benefits for you at the cost of only about 30 minutes.
Your evening routine is the perfect time to get all of your stuff in order today so that you can get a jump start on tomorrow.
The outline of your evening routine should be highly individual but there are three things most people can do to make it as effective as possible:
1. Clean up your house
Make sure your house is beautifully clean before you hit the sack. Clutter makes us unfocused and stressed out. Set yourself up for a productive and enjoyable tomorrow by:
- Washing your dishes.
- Cleaning the counters.
- Putting your stuff in its appropriate places.
2. Prepare your stuff
Minimize the chances of the planning fallacy ruining your morning. Prepare everything the night before so you don’t have to deal with too many unforeseen distractions as you go through your morning routine:
- Make sure everything important is in place (for example, your keys and wallet.)
- Get your clothes ready.
- Pack lunch (for yourself and the kids).
- Set your alarm clock.
3. Review your day and plan for tomorrow
Time to get out your journal to reflect and plan. Keeping track of your progress, setbacks and future plans is a great way to stay on top of things and your journal will in time become a priceless present to your future self:
- Write down your wins (big or small).
- Reflect on what didn’t go as planned and how you can adjust in the future.
- Decide your three most important tasks for tomorrow.
Obviously everyone’s needs are different and these are just some ideas on how to make your evening routine effective. Keep what makes sense to you and modify or drop the rest so that it fits your personal needs.
In the beginning it’s a good idea to attach an implementation intention to work as a trigger for starting your evening routine by filling in these blanks:
AFTER I ____, I WILL start my evening routine.
You might also want to keep a checklist of things while you’re adapting to your new routine. For example:
- Dishes washed.
- Counters cleaned.
- Keys and wallet on kitchen counter.
- Lunches packed.
- Three small wins written down.
This makes it easy to quickly cross off everything you want to get done without forgetting anything.
Preparing for sleep
Once you’ve set yourself up for a great start in the morning, it’s time to prepare your body for sleep. Here are five science-backed tips to help you drift off into high-quality sleep effortlessly:
Avoid caffeine late in the day:
Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you awake if you take it in late in the day. The caffeine lingers in your body for about three to five hours, meaning that the cup your drank at 4PM could still have a stimulating effect on you at 9PM.
A good rule of thumb is no caffeine after lunch.
Turn off your screens:
When the sun goes down, your body will naturally start releasing the ”sleep hormone” melatonin to help you get sleepy. Bright light can disrupt this natural process and leave you wide awake. Light at night is bad for your health, and exposure to particularly blue light emitted by electronics and energy-efficient lightbulbs may be especially so (1).
For optimum sleep, avoid all TV, computer and cellphone screens two hours before bed. f.lux is a clever (free) program that eliminates the blue light emanating from your computer screen as you get closer to bed time.
Keep it cool:
Your core body temperature lowers slightly as you drift deeper into sleep. This might explain why cooler room temperatures both help you fall asleep faster and contribute to better sleep; you’re getting that core temperature down more quickly.
Research has shown that the optimal room temperature for a good night’s sleep is as low as about 64°F (18°C) so make sure your room is nice and cold when you get into bed.
Make it pitch-black:
Even though your eyes are closed, light still finds it’s way to your retinas and disrupts your sleep. Install blackout drapes to shut out the outside lights and get rid of devices that light up your room (such as digital alarm clocks). If you can’t make the room pitch black, a comfortable sleep mask can be a good alternative.
If you can’t fall asleep, get up:
If you get into bed and can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and go to another space in the house. Lying in bed awake can create an unhealthy link between your sleeping environment and wakefulness.
You want to associate your bed to sleepy thoughts and feelings only so when you can’t fall asleep the experts suggest going to another room and do something ”mildly entertaining” but “sedate,” such as reading, listening to music, meditating or doing relaxation exercises (2).
A great evening routine should:
- Free up necessary time in the morning.
- Improve the quality of your sleep.
Design it in a way that makes sense for you personally and you’ll find yourself less stressed, more energized and with a lot more time on your hands.
Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.
– Robert H. Schuller