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3 Ways to Prepare for a Restful Night’s Sleep

Before you even climb into bed, your evening routine can set you up for a restful night’s sleep.

Relaxing before bedtime
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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“Day is done, gone the sun
from the lake, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well; safely rest. God is nigh.”

There’s a moment in every day when—no matter how full or busy that day has been—I feel a palpable shift into evening. Reflecting on what that feels like, as I write this, the above verse from the Girl Scouts’ version of “Taps” played on my mental soundtrack. Like taking a break to watch the sun set, the song is a beloved and lyrical way to acknowledge that change.

Evening is a liminal time—not quite bedtime or deep night, but also no longer day. How can we ease into that transition, cueing our bodies and minds in the direction of the nightly rest ahead?

1)  Change Into Something Comfortable
My father wore a suit to work when I was growing up, and every evening he would come home and change into comfortable clothes for the few hours before bed. It always reminded me of Mister Rogers, who famously removed and hung up his jacket and outside shoes at the beginning of each episode of his show, donning comfortable sneakers and that well-known red cardigan. Whether you change into your pajamas after dinner or just pull on a well-worn hoodie or slippers, a change of clothes is a cue to step into a softer, more relaxed part of the day.

2)  Set End-Times for Eating, Drinking and Watching
Some of us wind down while watching TV as we linger over a bowl of ice cream or popcorn and a mug of herbal tea. Others might prefer to wrap up the day’s “screen-time” before dinner. Like with so many things in life, “Know thyself” is the best watchword. Notice how your ability to fall asleep relates to when you most recently ate, drank and watched. Whatever plan works best for you, stick with it so your body knows when to expect an evening turn toward calm, rest and relaxation.

3)  Make a Ritual Out of Basic Hygiene 
One of my favorite pandemic purchases was a new electric toothbrush that times out two minutes of brushing time each morning and night. Two minutes, it turns out, feels like a long time. So I’ve started to make a moment of it, ritualizing those 120 seconds by breathing deeply as I brush, doing a quick “body scan” to relax each muscle group in my body and even close my eyes to let the buzz of the brush be a meditative white noise. Enjoying an inhale of your favorite face wash, having an evening bath routine or even humming a favorite song to yourself while washing your hands can help transition from the day into the calmness of evening.

How do you remind yourself to relax at the end of the day?

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