10 Bedtime Rituals for Better Sleep

DrLullaby’s founder, Lisa Medalie, PsyD, DBSM contributes to this Men’s Journal article, explaining what trouble falling asleep and staying asleep can do to you. Also, tips to avoid those issues like turning down the thermostat, not being on digital devices late, what to eat or not eat before bed, avoiding alcohol, and turning your alarm clock to the wall.

“Trouble falling and staying asleep can set you up for chronic fatigue, mood and memory issues, a slower metabolism, even reduced immune-system functioning,” says Lisa Medalie, PsyD, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist at the University of Chicago.

Turn Down the Thermostat

The ideal snooze temperature is about 65 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation. That’s because the cooler you are, the sleepier you become. No wonder your body is designed to experience a natural temperature dip at nighttime, says Medalie. If the room is too hot or you’re wrapped in too many blankets, your body temperature will rise, and that can make you restless.

Power Down Your Digital Devices

Save your Netflix binge or email catch up time for earlier in the evening. “The light from the screen of your computer, tablet, or phone is called ‘blue spectrum light,’ and it’s particularly dangerous because it tells the brain to stop secreting melatonin,” says Medalie. “Even a few minutes of exposure to it signals your brain to stay awake.”

Keep Out of the Kitchen

Finish dinner no later than three hours before bedtime, so you give your stomach time to digest, and you won’t be kept awake by heartburn, gas, or a sugar- or caffeine-fueled energy surge. One exception: if your appetite kicks in again. “Going to bed hungry can keep you awake, so grab a small snack that’s part protein, part complex carbs with no added sugar, caffeine, or anything spicy, which can block sleep,” says Medalie. Good choices: a couple of pieces of jerky, a banana or apple, or a handful or two of nuts.

Make Last Call a Lot Earlier

Alcohol plays a nasty trick on your body. Drinking within three hours of bedtime helps you nod off — booze is a depressant, after all. But once the alcohol is metabolized hours later, you’re more likely to wake up or start tossing and turning, says Medalie. That’s because while any amount of alcohol can increase short-wave sleep — the kind you get in the first half of the night that repairs body tissues and boost your immune system — it can disrupt REM sleep, the later sleep stage that encourages learning and memory formation, reports a 2013 review of studies from the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Face Your Alarm Clock to the Wall

Nothing sets you up for insomnia quite like watching the minutes tick away on your alarm clock as you lie in bed, growing increasingly more anxious as you wait for sleep to hit. But if you can’t see the time, you’ll have a smoother transition to dreamland. The other thing is, even the light from your clock’s LED display is enough to put the brakes on melatonin production, says Medalie. As long as you can hear the alarm in the morning, you don’t need to actually see the numbers.