How to Create an Adult Bedtime Routine

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Sleep. We love it, we crave it, and we often don’t get enough of it. Competing priorities, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and increased screen time lead to under-sleeping.

We may even view sleep deprivation as noble when we sacrifice rest for our goals.

But being chronically tired isn’t a badge of honor, and can have serious consequences for our health.

Sleep should be as much of a priority as exercise and a healthy diet, and it starts with a well-planned bedtime routine.

Why is Sleep Important?

There are many theories about why we sleep, including:

  • Energy conservation
  • Cell repair, including muscle repair, protein creation, tissue growth, and hormone regulation
  • Brain functions, like the elimination of waste, storing memories, facilitating learning and creativity, and helping with problem-solving

Sleep also supports:

  • Healthy emotional regulation
  • A healthy weight
  • Proper insulin function
  • Heart health
  • Immune system function

The Downside of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Short-term, not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling groggy and mentally impaired. We may be less alert, struggle to remember things, and be irritable.

Our ability to drive safely may also be affected, leading to an increased risk of accidents.

Long-term, a chronic lack of sleep may lead to:

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Premature aging 
  • Poor immune response
  • Low sex drive

What Leads to Poor Sleep?

Many factors can lead to poor sleep, some more controllable than others.

  • Too much screen time before bed
  • Pulling all-nighters to catch up on work
  • Shift work
  • Medical conditions (depression, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, chronic pain, etc.)
  • Caring for others during the night
  • Unsuitable sleep environment

How to Create an Adult Bedtime Routine

*As a disclaimer, it’s important to note that people living with medical conditions that interrupt sleep should address the issue with a medical professional. A bedtime routine may only help so much if the underlying cause isn’t addressed.

1.  Set a Bedtime (and Stick to It)

The first step in building a healthy routine is setting a bedtime. While we may believe bedtimes are for children, they’re very beneficial for adults, too.

Having a bedtime helps solidify our routine. If we know we want to be in bed by 11:00 pm, this lets us schedule other elements of our routine accordingly.

It also ensures we get a similar amount of sleep each night.

2.  Disconnect

Entertainment and digital connectivity are at our fingertips 24/7. We can binge-watch our favorite shows on-demand, do online work projects from home, and connect to thousands of people effortlessly.

It’s common to watch “just one more episode” (and another, and another) into the late hours of the night. And, we often take our phones/laptops to bed with us and get lost in work or social media.

But these habits can negatively impact our sleep quality.

These devices emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin, a chemical that regulates the sleep cycle. This throws off our internal rhythm, and delays sleep/the time it takes to fall asleep.

Also, consuming media before bed may be stimulating. This causes us to be alert, not relaxed.

These things cause us to spend less time in REM sleep. In this stage, we experience increased dreaming, and process memories, daily lessons, and emotions.

Experts suggest we put our devices away anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours before bed.

3.  Prepare for Tomorrow

Life never sleeps, even when we’re trying to. We may keep ourselves awake worrying about our responsibilities for the next day.

Paying bills, completing work deliverables, shopping for food, and taking the kids to after-school activities can consume our thoughts.

In some ways, we can prepare for the next day, so we don’t have to stress. We can pack our lunch, set our coffee maker on an automatic timer, tidy the house, etc. This will reduce our morning stress and the related nighttime worry. 

For things we’re unable to do before bed, writing a to-do list can be helpful. This lets us organize our thoughts on paper, lessening the chance that we’ll dwell on them. It also helps us feel some sense of control over tomorrow.

4.  Practice Good Hygiene

This one is a given, but can still be pretty difficult to stick to. Maintaining good physical hygiene can feel tedious. This is especially true if we’re already tired or burnout from the day.

But a quick hygiene routine can take just 5-10 minutes and is necessary for good health.

The basics include brushing and flossing, which will save us many sleepless nights filled with tooth pain in the future.

We should also wash and moisturize our face. This helps remove dirt and protect our skin.

While not necessary, doing a full, detailed skincare routine is a nightly treat for some people. This can include serums, face masks, oils, massage, etc.

5.  Decompress

Once we’ve handled all the prep work for the next day, it’s useful to decompress.

This means doing activities that bring us calm and relaxation, 

This process will be different for everyone. Examples include:

  • Meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Yoga
  • Stretching
  • Reading
  • Deep breathing
  • Chatting with a loved one
  • Drinking tea
  • Praying
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Self-massage

6.  Create a Good Sleep Environment

The Centers for Disease Control suggest the following for a good sleep environment:


Aside from the blue light mentioned above, any form of light isn’t great for getting good quality sleep. Light is a strong cue for our sleep cycle. It keeps us alert and triggers sleep and waking.

When the sun streams through our window, it prompts us to wake up. This is true even if it’s very early or we haven’t gotten the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep.

Blackout curtains or a sleep mask work well to block light, so we can complete a full sleep cycle.


Our body naturally lowers its temperature at night. This is our body’s way of conserving energy and signaling sleep. If we sleep in a cool room, it helps support this function.

Also, as we sleep our body begins to warm up again, peaking when we wake up. If we sleep in a warm room, we may feel overheated as our body warms us. This can disrupt our sleep.

The optimal bedroom temperature is 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Limit Noise

Nighttime noise reduces both the deep and REM stages of sleep. This makes sleep feel less restful.

Noise may also cause the production of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone), and raise heart rate and blood pressure.

Noise disturbances can come from many things, like busy city sounds, noisy neighbors, phone notifications, appliances, and people in our household.

To limit noise, we can:

  • Soundproof our room, such as by adding soft surfaces (carpets, thick curtains, etc.) or installing soundproof windows, insulation, etc.
  • Turn off phone notifications
  • Move or fix noisy appliances
  • Make an agreement with our housemates to reduce nighttime noise
  • Wear earplugs

In addition to these suggestions, creating a cozy environment that we’re excited to spend time in is helpful. We can:

  • Add soft, warm lighting (candles, a nightlight, etc.)
  • Choose comfy bedding
  • Use relaxing scents, like a lavender diffuser
  • Declutter


Sleep plays a critical role in our overall health. Work responsibilities, excessive use of digital devices, noise disruptions, and medical conditions can all negatively affect sleep quality.

It’s important that we dedicate a part of every night to a bedtime routine.

This helps us build good habits around sleep by creating an environment and headspace that supports it.

It’s time to catch some (uninterrupted) zzz’s!


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