These days, most people know that high-quality sleep is important. Feeling well-rested on a regular basis can help you make better decisions, improve memory, boost creativity, and even prolong your life.
So, what’s the secret to getting better sleep? Here’s a hint: It starts hours before you hit the sheets.
A strategic and consistent bedtime routine is your best chance for getting quality sleep on a nightly basis. Make a habit out of the following tactics, and you’ll be well on your way to a lifetime of sleeping well.
Six Hours Before Bed
1. Stop drinking caffeine .
Caffeine can stay in your system for hours after you consume it, meaning that drinking coffee with dinner (or even a late lunch) may actually contribute to nighttime insomnia. In order to ensure that caffeine doesn’t get in the way of a good night’s sleep, try to avoid coffee, energy supplements, and other caffeinated stimulants starting at least six hours before you plan to go to bed.
Four Hours Before Bed
2. Turn down the lights .
As the sun goes down, most of us turn the lights up—but this is counterproductive for anyone looking to get a good night’s sleep. Exposure to electrical lighting between the time that the sun sets and whenever you go to bed can make it harder to fall asleep. Luckily, this rest impediment has an easy fix: Simply dim the lights once dusk kicks in. It may also be helpful to switch to lamplight instead of overhead lighting.
3. Quit drinking alcohol.
While many people turn to a nightcap in order to wind down before bed, you can add this to the list of counterproductive approaches to getting quality sleep. Drinking alcohol within several hours of hitting the sheets can make it harder to fall asleep and decreases sleep quality. Whenever possible, aim to stop imbibing by 6 p.m.
One Hour Before Bed
4. Ditch electronics.
Watching TV, scrolling through social media feeds on your phone, or binging on reddit on a laptop or tablet all expose you to so-called “blue light,” which stimulates daytime hormones and makes it harder to fall asleep. The easy fix? Stay away from screens at least one hour leading up to bedtime. And whatever you do, never bring screens into bed with you (seriously…).
5. Give journaling a try.
Spending a few minutes recording thoughts and feelings from the day can help you let go of the day’s events and unwind in the process. Jotting down stressors and worries that are plaguing you—whether they pertain to business, relationships, or something else entirely—can help you stop ruminating so you don’t spend hours lying awake. Using the journal to record a few things you’re grateful for is an especially great way to reduce anxiety and improve your chances of sleeping well.
6. Start winding down.
Our minds and bodies need time to transition from the stresses of the day into the restfulness required for falling asleep. Facilitate this process by stopping work and other stimulating activities at least an hour before bedtime. It’s also helpful to implement a relaxing bedtime ritual such as taking a bath, drinking some chamomile tea, meditating, or using aromatherapy.
After incorporating each of these strategies into your nighttime routine, remember this last tip: Try to get in bed at the same time every night so that your body starts to anticipate when it’s time to fall asleep. By practicing a bedtime routine designed to optimize sleep, you’ll improve your chances of waking up feeling well rested, energized, and ready to take on the day.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Kenny Kline is the owner of JAKK Solutions, a NYC-based SEO company. He is a digital marketing expert, MBA, and serial entrepreneurial. When not in front of his computer, he can be found beekeeping, knitting, and being as Brooklyn as humanly possible. Connect with @thisbekenny on Twitter.