Don’t let your bedtime routine sabotage the healthy efforts you’ve made all day. Instead, to get the best rest possible, grab your watch and perform this daily countdown, courtesy of the Florida Hospital Center for Sleep Disorders, until the lights go out.
Six to eight hours before bed: Avoid caffeine, a stimulant in coffee, tea, colas and chocolate, to improve sleep quality.
Four to six hours before bed: Late-afternoon exercise is the perfect way to help you fall asleep at night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, which reports that our body temperatures rise during exercise and take as much as six hours to begin to drop. As your body temperature drops, it makes you feel sleepier.
Two to three hours before bed: Finish eating dinner. A heavy meal too close to bedtime can make you less comfortable, and spicy foods can lead to heartburn that will keep you awake or cause discomfort during the night.
After dinner, spend five or 10 minutes reflecting on your day. Ask yourself: "Is my day done? If it isn’t, what do I need to do to make it over?" It might not be anything you can do now, but you can make a list and plan for tomorrow. It’s not going to help you if you let your worries run free in your mind all night while you’re trying to sleep.
One hour before bed: If you often have trouble falling asleep, indulge in a hot bath an hour or more before bedtime. Afterward, your body temperature will drop quickly, helping you fall asleep faster, according to a study conducted at Stanford University. Plus, the time spent soaking will give your mind a chance to wind down.
Follow it up by performing your healthy bedtime rituals—washing your face and brushing and flossing your teeth.
If you have or think you may have a serious sleep condition, please speak with your physician about a sleep consultation.