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10 Ways to Optimize Your Bedtime Routine for Great Sleep

End the day with these restful rituals

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Welcome to Next Gen Natural, a column where we share a Gen Z perspective on natural health and wellness. I’m Michelle—alive’s Digital Assistant and creator of the Healthy Num Num food blog. I love healthy living and want to inspire you to integrate wellness into all parts of your life, regardless of your age.

Are you among the 33 percent of adults who don’t get enough sleep? Whether you struggle with a form of insomnia or simply toss and turn occasionally, lack of quality sleep can feel draining. A well-planned nighttime routine can address many common causes of poor sleep, including excess screen time (goodbye, scrolling through TikTok in bed), stress or anxiety, and late-night eating. Plus, it doesn’t need to be complicated and can create predictability to help your body and mind wind down. Try adding these evidence-based improved-sleep habits into your nighttime routine to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day.

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01

Eat melatonin-rich foods

Melatonin is a hormone your body produces that helps with sleep and a key player in regulating your circadian rhythm . It’s naturally found in many foods as well as in supplement form. In the evening, incorporate melatonin-rich foods, such as eggs, fish, and milk, into your dinner or dessert. Nuts, especially pistachios and almonds, are great plant-based sources of melatonin. For a sweet treat before bed, try pistachio-stuffed chocolate-covered raspberries.

02

Drink a cup of herbal tea

One of my favorite nighttime habits is sipping on a cup of calming herbal tea, such as chamomile, fennel, or peppermint. This comforting ritual helps my stomach feel soothed and body feel relaxed before going to sleep. Research backs up these benefits, with studies showing that teas like chamomile and valerian can support sound slumber and even help you fall asleep faster.

03

Dim the lights in your home

Create a calming sanctuary by lowering or turning off harsh lighting in all rooms of your home (not just your bedroom!). This helps your body’s circadian clock respond to the dark as a signal to fall asleep . I forgo bright overhead lighting in the evening in favor of soft lamps or illuminating essential oil diffusers.

Good morning, sunshine!

Seeing bright light in the morning will help you fall asleep easier the following night . Try going for a quick early-morning stroll or sipping your coffee outdoors.

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04

Immerse yourself in aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essentials oils to promote many aspects of well-being, including good-quality sleep . Reap the benefits of aromatherapy at bedtime by using an essential oil diffuser, spritzing a pillow spray, or just taking a few deep whiffs of an essential oil. I like to diffuse lavender oil for a few hours before bedtime, as research has shown that its scent helps treat mild insomnia and improve sleep quality. Saffron extract is another standout snoozy oil that has been linked with better sleep.

05

Prioritize your skincare routine

Over time, a nightly skincare routine can not only act as a cue that it’s time for sleep, but also improve your self-confidence and lower stress. For me, applying skincare products is a relaxing and therapeutic ritual. Sometimes I have a few steps in my skincare routine, such as using a gua sha or multiple serums, and other times one simple moisturizer is all I need. No matter what your skincare routine looks like, treat it as non-negotiable self-care.

06

Soothe with magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that helps your muscles relax and calms your nerves , which can lead to a more restful sleep. Try supplementing with magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate—the best types for sleep—in either pill or powder form. Magnesium can also be found in certain foods, such as nuts, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.

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07

Take time to stretch

Before lying down in bed, I perform gentle stretches—side stretch, cat-cow, and child’s pose—to release tension in my body. Along with improving blood flow and relieving muscle tension , stretching and other meditative movements, such as yoga, have been linked with improved sleep quality. Fun fact: any form of movement before bed will likely improve your slumber, contrary to the common myth that evening exercise disturbs sleep.

08

Prepare your sleeping area

Before rolling back my duvet covers and jumping into bed, I make sure my sleeping area is clean and organized. This not only has a de-cluttering effect on my mind, but also sets me up for a good sleep. For example, I remove my phone from reaching distance to discourage nighttime screentime. This also encourages me to replace any empty teacups on my nightstand with my journal.

09

Write in a journal

Feeling anxious or stressed? Writing in a journal is a private and expressive way to document your thoughts, and even just five minutes of writing can yield benefits. I always feel calmer after I’ve written what’s on my mind down on paper. Gratitude journaling is an excellent evening option, as it has been shown to improve quality and duration of sleep . Before bed, try jotting down three things you are grateful for from that day.

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10

Read for enjoyment

I read a book before bed every night to let my mind and body relax from that day’s events. And research backs up the sleep-benefitting effects of reading. One study even showed that 30 minutes of reading provides just as much stress relief as doing 30 minutes of yoga. Getting swept into a captivating story also helps your mind focus on something other than your work and personal life, allowing you to drift into dreamland without distractions.

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