How Healthy People Spend the Last 10 Minutes of the Day
Talk about a good night: Follow these healthy habits before bed and you'll reduce your stress, improve your sleep, boost your productivity, and increase your happiness.
What should you be doing before bed?
First, you should have the same bedtime and wake time every day of the week. “Research shows that our body begins to anticipate feeling sleepy if we can stick to a regular routine,” says Natalie Dautovich, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alabama and a National Sleep Foundation Environmental Scholar. “The vast majority of people need some kind of wind-down routine” to remove tension and prepare for asleep, says M. Safwan Badr, MD, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. Here are some smart moves to include. (Make sure you also do these things all day for a better nights sleep.)
You may have heard this before, but it was the first piece of advice shared by every sleep expert Reader’s Digest interviewed for this story. “In order to fall asleep and have good sleep quality, we need to be physically and cognitively relaxed,” says Dautovich. Darkness signals our internal clock to produce hormones that help us feel tired, and “televisions, computers, tablets, smartphones can disrupt this necessary signal to fall asleep,” she says. Jennifer Adams, interior designer and author of Bedrooms That Inspire, counsels clients to move their phones out of their bedrooms and into, say, a hallway or the bathroom. “If it’s near you on your night table, you’ll be tempted to check it,” she says. Is your cell your alarm? Set the ringer all the way up, but leave your phone on silent.
Choose mindless TV
“For certain people who have trouble ‘turning their brain off,’ watching TV, which is very passive, could allow them to relax and fall asleep,” psychologist Michael Breus, PhD, told Reader’s Digest. Pick a relaxing show—not a thriller or something disruptive. “A show that’s too mentally stimulating could have the opposite effect and keep you up,” says Adams. (These are the morning habits of highly organized people.)
Wash your face
In a recent survey, one-third women said they slept in their makeup at least twice a week. If you don't clean before bed, you risk clogged pores and oil glands, Dennis Gross, MD, founder of 900 5th Dermatology in New York City and creator of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, told WomensHealthMag.com. Not washing nightly can also cause inflammation that can affect collagen breakdown, he said, which can make your skin look older. At the very least, stash makeup wipes by your bed if you’re too tired to make it to the sink.
A 2012 Cochrane review of 12 randomized trials found that who people who floss in addition to brushing their teeth have less gum bleeding and gingivitis than people who only brush. The best time of day to floss isn’t well studied, but some experts suggest that night might be ideal. Doing it before bed removes the plaque blanketing your teeth and “gives you an eight-hour, food-free rest so your mouth can fight against the ravages it faces all day,” Denis F. Kinane, professor of pathology and periodontics at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Dental Medicine, told The Wall Street Journal. (Try incorporating these daily habits of naturally productive people into your routine.)
Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of You Can't Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work told BusinessInsider.com he knows numerous business leaders who block off the time just before bed for reading. “This isn’t necessarily reserved just for business reading or inspirational reading,” he said. “Many successful people find value in being browsers of information from a variety of sources, believing it helps fuel greater creativity and passion in their lives.” Blue light from your device may hinder your ability to nod off, so make it a book or magazine.
Make a list
The enemy of sleep is overthinking, according to Dautovich. “Sometimes the bed becomes a cue for mulling over concerns or problems, or even just reviewing and planning for the next day,” she says, which can make it harder to fall asleep. If you’re prone to worrying and anxiety, keep a journal by your bed to get those thoughts out of your head. (These are the worst things you can do right before bed.)
Before going to sleep, remember what you’re thankful for. Research shows it’s a powerful way to increase your happiness, and you might experience a cascade of other healthy side effects too. One study found that people who wrote what they were thankful for each week felt more optimistic about their lives, exercised more, and even had fewer visits to physicians than people who jotted down annoying or even neutral happenings.
Pack for a workout
If you want to make exercise more of a habit, it's got to be easy to fit into your schedule. Laying out your gear the night before eliminates one more excuse not to work out the next day, whether you're going to the gym or taking a walk around the neighborhood.
Compliment your loved ones
You can dramatically strengthen your bond by giving your partner a very specific compliment before you go to sleep. Instead of saying, “I love you,” try, “You were so patient helping Jack with his math homework tonight.” Harriet Lerner, PhD, explains further on her PsychologyToday.com blog: “When couples first get together they automatically know how to make each other feel loved, valued, and special.” Over time, we tend to focus more on annoyances—dishes in the sink, not replacing the toilet paper, et cetera. By recognizing our partners' specific strengths, we not only boost their self-esteem, we also increase our own appreciation for them and for our relationship. (Successful people always do these 7 things right before bed.)