The Ultimate Night Routine For Better Sleep & Productivity [A Step-By-Step Guide]


Written by: Shelby Torrese - Oct. 4, 2019

night routine  

It’s no secret that having a routine is good for the mind, body, and soul. Routines make use of our amazing circadian rhythms – our internal, natural, 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Optimal cycling requires rhythm. Think of it as dancing. When a song has a nice and steady rhythm, it’s easier to sync up because there’s a sense of harmony. Whereas jazz, or songs with eccentric rhythms, are more difficult to jive with and may feel more like a stumble than a dance. A worthwhile night routine is no different. When you have a set sequence of things you do every night, and somewhat know what to expect, your body can ‘dance’ more smoothly through life.

Night routine to boost productivity

Benefits Of Having A Night Routine

In order to fully understand the benefits of having a successful evening routine, it will help to understand the major benefits associated with having a healthy, functioning circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms are affected by various things such as light, noise, caffeine, etc. They are found in all plants and animals and are overseen by our body’s biological and master clocks. These clocks are orchestrated in the brain (in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, to be exact) and primarily direct and communicate with the rest of the body. They will notify cells of things like ‘time to wake up, boost energy’ or ‘time for fuel, let’s eat’.

Circadian rhythms influence more than eating and sleeping, though. They are responsible for integral bodily functions such as the releasing of hormones, our digestion, body temperature, and more. [1] Those reasons alone should be motivation enough to set up a night routine.

Some other benefits of a night routine are:

  • Increased efficiency. Efficiency is all about doing more and thinking less. A routine helps us become more efficient because it takes a lot of the decision-making out of things. You don’t have to wonder what you’re going to do after work (then mindlessly scroll through your phone), you already have a general gameplan that you get to follow.
  • Beauty sleep. It’s no myth, sleep truly does help us all be more beautiful. When we rest (and we’re talking good, quality sleep), our bodies release healing, growth hormones that aid in things like repairing sun damage, reducing water retention, fighting inflammation, balancing or reducing stress hormones, and more. [2]
  • Reduced risk of disease. Getting good ol’ shut-eye does a lot more for the body than just provide beauty sleep. A healthy sleep-wake cycle can help to prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even cardiovascular diseases, to name a few. This is because circadian rhythms are responsible for certain functions in our vital organs, metabolism, immunity and more. So if not for beauty, sleep just for the health of it! [3]
benefits of an evening routine

Sleep And Productivity: What’s The Connection?

Productivity is lowest in employees who experience both sleep disturbances as well as those with irregular schedules. [4] So, not only are nighttime routines important, but having a regularly programmed schedule throughout the day is advisable. There have even been studies that present strong links between workplace disasters and sleep. [5] Chernobyl, the Challenger explosion, Exxon’s oil spill, and AA Flight 1420 are all examples, to name a few. Whether you have a high-liability, high-risk job or not, don’t you want to be performing life at your absolute best?! We sure do! And we want you to, too!

It’s also no coincidence that people tend to aim for a good night’s sleep the days leading up to exams, important presentations, and other monumental events. Sleep directly affects cognitive abilities—for better or for worse. Reinforcement and strengthening of new learnings and new material are connected and communicated in the prefrontal cortex to the hippocampus during, you guessed it, sleep. [6]

In other words, sleep is the time our brain uses to file away all the new information we’ve gathered that day. So when we don’t sleep well, our brain is too preoccupied with basic functions, like breathing, to be worried about saving new information. In order to look, feel and perform your best, a nighttime routine is in your best interest. Without further ado, here are some fool-proof evening routine ideas.

RELATED: How Much Sleep Do I Need? (+5 Tips To Improve Sleep Quality)

evening routine

The Ultimate Night Routine [Step-By-Step]

You don’t have to follow this checklist to a T, but it will offer plenty of ideas that you can build off of. We’ve broken down this step-by-step nighttime routine guide into sections, depending on place and time, because a successful evening routine begins long before bedtime strikes.

Before heading home from work

  • Skim your checklist. Even if you don’t get everything done on your to-do list, giving it a good skim and coming to terms with all the things that did get done at the end of the day is helpful. This way you can leave work with a sense of closure, as well as preparation knowing what to expect for tomorrow. This simple, but impactful, act can drastically minimize the number of wheels that spin post-office hours.
  • Tidy up your desk. Before flying out the door, be sure to spruce up your work area. Even if it’s as simple as putting pens in their place and closing your laptop, coming back to a clean desk will make starting your day so much more enjoyable. Just like waking up to a clean house is more encouraging than waking up to piles of dirty clothes (or piles of clean clothes…the worst!).
  • Toss the caffeine and skip the happy hour. Having any sort of caffeine after 4 PM is detrimental to a good night’s rest. Remember to think outside of the box, too. Caffeine is not just coffee. It can be found in teas, sodas, even some granola and power bars. The same thing goes for alcohol. You may be thinking to yourself, “You’re wrong about that one, I sleep pretty well after a couple of glasses of wine.” 🥴Wrong. Sleeping and a good night’s rest are not the same thing. Any stimulant – sugar, caffeine, alcohol – are not supportive of a restful, healthy night’s sleep.
night routine before heading home from work. woman sitting at desk looking at computer

Immediately after work

  • Exercise. It doesn’t have to be a full HIIT workout, but do something that gets the body going. A walk around the block, at-home yoga, even a good stretch sesh will do the job. Most workplaces keep the body stagnant – at a desk or in front of a screen – so it’s important to get the blood moving.
  • Eat well. Even if you’re not hungry or ready for dinner immediately after work, at least start to think about what you’re going to have or prepare anything that may take a while. Digestion and sleep do not go well together, so ideally you want to have at least a two-hour window between your last meal (or snack!) and sleepy time.
  • Do something productive. You don’t need to be a superhuman every day, but completing little tasks will make you feel productive and more satisfied as you come to a close on your day. This can be anything from folding the laundry you’ve been avoiding to finally busting out your record player that’s been collecting dust. Productivity can range from dutiful to joyful. So long as you’re doing something other than slumping on the couch, your brain and body will thank you.
Woman jogging in the evening

One hour before bed

  • Mentally prepare for the morning. To avoid the wheels turning just as you’re trying to fall asleep, get clear on what to expect in the morning. Know what time you’re getting up, what your sequence of events will be, if you’re stopping for coffee, all that good stuff. That way in the morning, you have a clear plan of attack.
  • Physically prepare for the morning. This one is an evening routine must! Prevent scrambling in the morning by preparing anything ‘physical’ you can the night before. This can be getting your lunch ready and packed, making breakfast (like these delicious overnight oats) and even eliminate the ~daunting~ task of deciding what to wear. Morning you will thank nighttime you.
  • Lose the screens. Back to circadian rhythms. Having bright lights, especially blue light like our phones emit, is detrimental to our body’s natural circadian rhythms. To put it simply, our body’s can’t differentiate sunlight from artificial light. So, when our brain detects light, whether it be from lamps, the sun or a computer screen, it begins to think we need to wake up and will signal for energy. If you have your TV on at 11 PM your brain begins to wonder, “Hmm… is it 11 AM? Time to get busy!” All in all, lose the screens, and dim the lights if possible!
evening routine ideas

Right before bedtime

  • Hygiene practices. We hope these practices have already been made a habit, but they’re worth mentioning again to ensure they have a place in your routine. Floss, brush your teeth, wash your face and complete any other self-care rituals you have at this time. You’ll feel so fresh and so clean, clean, and ready for bed, of course. If you’re feeling like improving your self-care routine, you can treat yourself to a pampering at-home face mask!
  • Drink a caffeine-free herbal tea. Drinking certain types of herbal teas before bed can help relax your body and mind and promote deeper, better quality sleep. SkinnyFit ZzzTox tea is an all-natural blend of some of the best teas for sleep and relaxation but includes powerful superfood ingredients that contain detoxification properties that aren’t found in other nighttime teas. Sipping one just one hot cup of tea each night can help you feel more relaxed and put your mind at rest. 
  • Read. If you’re scratching your head on what to do if you can’t scroll your phone, roam on your computer or watch TV before bed, here’s an old-fashioned suggestion – read a book! Elementary school teachers weren’t pulling our legs, reading really is good for you. Research has shown that reading can decrease stress by over 65%, and nightly reading can help to prevent degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. If nothing else, reading can help you fall asleep! [7, 8]
  • Practice gratitude. Our final, and favorite, nighttime ritual is taking a few moments to be grateful. Gratitude is the easiest (cost-free!) way to lead a life of abundance. When you more adamantly appreciate the things you do have in life, rather than what is seemingly missing, you will naturally feel more fulfilled. Whether it be to yourself or written down in a journal, notating three things you are grateful for each night will help you end each day on a positive note.

RELATED: 7 Of The Best Strategies To Create A Kickass Self-Care Routine

evening routine ideas before bed. woman drinking tea before bed

The Bottom Line On Night Routines

Having a night routine doesn’t mean that your days of spontaneity are gone. You can still go to happy hour, get lost in binge-watching your favorite show (again) and all the other things we didn’t list here. The only difference is, you now have a roadmap. You know what the effects of alcohol and after-hours TV are, and you know how to navigate your way through the post-work abyss.

Life is a constant balancing act, and it’s up to you to determine how it works for you and your life. If you can follow a routine at least 80% of the time, you’ll see significant improvements in your all-around well-being, energy levels and probably your happiness, too! Take a couple of moments and write out an evening routine that would work for you. Test it out for a week and see how it goes!

READ NEXT: How To Create A Healthy Morning Routine For A Successful Day!

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