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5 Essential Evening Routines for Better Sleep

Medically reviewed by 
5 Essential Evening Routines for Better Sleep

In today's fast-paced world, achieving rest and rejuvenating sleep can be challenging. Yet, ​​getting adequate restorative sleep is critical for your brain and body to function optimally. 

Fortunately, there are some powerful practices that you can incorporate to help improve the quality of your sleep. This article will introduce you to science-backed evening routines and strategies you can incorporate into your nightly routine.


5 Essential Evening Routines for Getting Better Sleep

Incorporating consistent evening routines can lead to better sleep. Here are the top suggestions:

1. Consider a Digital Detox

  • According to the Sleep Foundation, about 70% of adults and 75% of children engage with their electronic devices in the bedroom. Device use, including scrolling through social media, has a variety of impacts that can adversely affect sleep.
  • Reduce screen time and your exposure to blue light at least an hour before bed to enhance sleep quality. 
  • To help prepare your body for sleep, opt for a technology-free bedroom
  • Instead of screens, choose non-screen-based activities before sleep. In the hours leading up to sleep, engage in quiet, relaxing activities like journaling or reading, both of which can help calm the mind.

2. Incorporate Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

  • Stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, activate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, to mount a “fight or flight” response. When cortisol and adrenaline are persistently elevated due to chronic stress, it can lead to issues falling asleep and can lead to poor-quality sleep.
  • Incorporating mindful practices like meditation, deep breathing, or gentle yoga into your evening routine can help reduce stress, prepare your body for sleep, and help train your body to more easily return to a state of relaxation

3. Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment

  • Keep your bedroom cool, around 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit (15-19 degrees Celsius), to facilitate your body's natural temperature regulation process. Mattress cooling pads offer an option to provide a surface temperature conducive to sleep.
  • Sleep in a dark room. Light is a key regulator of your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), which tells your brain when to sleep. Minimize exposure to light by using light-blocking curtains or blinds and a sleep mask when necessary to signal your body that it is time to sleep. 
  • Decrease exposure to environmental noise during sleep, as this can contribute to disturbed sleep and poorer sleep quality. Earplugs or a white noise machine can help to mask sounds like traffic, a snoring partner, or noisy neighbors. 

4. Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule

  • To optimize your sleep-wake cycles, it is important to maintain a regular sleep schedule. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. 
  • Sleep consistency promotes healthy sleep-wake patterns by regulating your body’s circadian rhythm or body clock.

5. Consider Diet and Exercise Modifications

  • A diet focused on whole foods provides key nutrients that can help the quality of sleep. For example, research suggests that following a Mediterranean diet, with decreased red meat, can improve sleep quality.
  • Focusing on more complex carbohydrates like vegetables rather than high-glycemic index foods and simple carbohydrates like processed sugars can improve sleep quality. 
  • Adequate protein intake is also important for sleep. Serotonin, essential for regulating your sleep-wake cycle, is derived from the amino acid tryptophan, which can be found in salmon, eggs, turkey, and chicken
  • Reduce stimulants like caffeine (found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate), which can decrease melatonin levels and impair sleep onset and quality. 
  • Reduce alcohol (even though it can help to fall asleep easier) because it can severely disrupt sleep quality, leading to increased nighttime awakenings.
  • Optimizing the timing and frequency of food intake is also helpful. Avoid eating within two hours of sleep to improve digestion and sleep quality
  • Movement and exercise can enhance optimal sleep. Incorporating regular moderate physical activity like walking, swimming, and jogging during the day, at least three hours before bedtime, can lead to deep rest.

Pharmaceutical and Natural Approaches to Enhance Sleep Quality

In addition to your evening routines, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, prescription sleep aids, and natural remedies, upon the recommendation and guidance of your healthcare provider, may be helpful:  


  • Drugs like diphenhydramine or doxylamine are commonly used to treat allergies but also have some sedative effects. While they may be appropriate for occasional use, they come with the risk of side effects such as daytime sleepiness, grogginess, and falls and should not be taken long-term. 


Herbal Extracts 

  • Valerian root, lemon balm, or chamomile are sometimes used to help with sleep issues due to their mild sedative properties. Valerian root (300-600 mg per night) is generally safe for short-term use but should not be used in combination with other sedatives, including alcohol. However, combining valerian with lemon balm can help promote sleep and treat insomnia. 


  • This mineral can increase melatonin, reduce cortisol, and improve insomnia, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. Magnesium is available in several forms, including oral supplements and topical forms such as Epsom salt baths or magnesium oil spray. It can also be obtained in the diet from consuming foods such as nuts, leafy greens, whole grains, and soy products.

When to Seek Professional Help

If the following sleep disorders are present, it’s important to seek professional medical advice as dedicated treatment is usually necessary: 


  • Trouble falling or staying asleep and frequent waking during sleep can occur with insomnia, causing fatigue, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, and impaired functioning. 
  • This common condition affects up to 59% of adults in the US and can increase your risk of many chronic diseases, including hypertension, dementia, depression, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
  • Actigraphy can be a helpful assessment tool as it is a non-invasive method that uses a small watch-like device that's worn on the wrist to monitor sleep-wake patterns by measuring movement and light exposure.

Sleep Apnea

  • Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by brief pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. 
  • This condition significantly impacts sleep quality and overall health, leading to fragmented sleep, daytime fatigue, and other health complications if left untreated. 
  • Sleep studies (polysomnography) are typically warranted and involve monitoring various physiological parameters during sleep, including brain waves, oxygen levels, breathing patterns, and heart rate, and can be done in a sleep laboratory or at home.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition that causes unpleasant urges to move the legs during sleep. 
  • A combination of genetic predisposition and deficiencies in nutrients like iron and magnesium may contribute to this condition.
  • Blood testing is useful for uncovering nutritional and metabolic imbalances that can contribute to RLS and includes tests of thyroid function, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, and magnesium


Key Takeaways

  • Sleep is necessary for health and quality of life. Finding a holistic evening routine that works for you can help you improve sleep quality and functioning. 
  • Prioritize your sleep health by creating a personalized, evidence-backed sleep routine as part of your overall self-care. 
  • When necessary, seeking professional guidance can help to identify sleep issues and establish new routines and practices to promote better sleep hygiene and quality of sleep.
The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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