Nighttime routines have become a staple in our conversations around well-being, and for very good reason: Science tells us that the small steps we take before bed hold the power to determine how we sleep during the night, and how we feel when we wake up in the morning. In the Smarter Living section of the New York Times, Thrive’s founder and CEO Arianna Huffington wrote about one of her favorite nighttime Microsteps: picking “a time at night when you turn off your devices — and gently escorting them out of your bedroom.”

(It’s worth noting that a great night’s sleep can start with our morning routine, which is why Shelly Ibach, Thrive’s Sleep Editor-at-Large and President and CEO of Sleep Number, recommends setting a goal to make our bed each morning. “People who make their bed daily get better, more restful sleep and even get up earlier, our research shows,” she says.)

We asked our Thrive community for the one thing they do before their heads hit the pillow at night, and how it helps them get a good night’s sleep. Try out some of these creative tips tonight.

Write down five good things

“I like to reflect on five journal prompts at the end of each day — and doing so has become a part of my nightly routine. The five topics are: a daily highlight, someone who helped me that day, someone whom I helped, something I learned, and gratitude. I record my responses before I go to bed, and it helps me recognize all of the good in my life.”

—Christopher Hronek, software engineer, Fairfax, VA

Spritz lavender into the air

“I spritz the air with a lavender essential oil spray, and I breathe deeply to let the day fall away. It’s a small but essential step that helps me transition to rest.”

—Allison Lane, communications director, Annapolis, MD

Repeat a bedtime mantra

“Once I’m in bed, I try reciting a relaxing mantra, such as, ‘Nowhere to go, nothing to do, time to rest.’ I repeat it in my mind while I focus on my breathing. The simple action helps relax me.”

 —Beverly Landais, coach, Kent, UK

Reframe negative thoughts from the day

“Before bed, I take out my journal and write down anything that did not go as I’d hoped that day. Then, I write an alternative ending, which helps me visualize a different outcome, and calms my mind. The thoughts we take to bed with us can impact how we sleep! I also listen to a guided meditation to connect to my thoughts, which helps me reframe.”

—Cynthia Dalagelis, chief marketing officer, New York, NY

Use your phone’s “Bedtime” feature

“I use a feature on my iPhone called ‘Bedtime.’ I set the time I want to go to bed and the time to get up — which are 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Half an hour before bedtime, it gives me notice that it’s time to start my bedtime routine, and at the same time, it silences all calls and notifications, and dims the screen. It instantly relaxes me, and gets my mind ready for bed.”

—Christine Hourd, coach, Calgary, Alberta, CA

Slip on an eye mask and ear plugs

“I always tuck my younger children into bed at a decent hour so that I have time to unwind before going to sleep. Then I make a cup of tea, and do some gratitude journaling. If my teens are still awake, I put on my eye mask and plug in my ear plugs, which fills the room with silence and helps me fall asleep.”

—Rachel Denning, blogger, Atlanta, GA

Try a breathing exercise

“I do a breathing exercise before I go to sleep. I breathe in and out to a four-six count while lying down with my eyes closed. Before long, I am waking up in the morning!”

—Natalie Bonfig, writer and speaker, St. Paul, MN

Light a scented candle 

“When it’s time for bed, I light a scented candle on my dresser, and clear the space on either side of the bed so it feels more inviting, and not just a refuge from clutter! I start playing a guided meditation on my phone, and as it starts, I blow out the candle and climb into bed, completely ready to close the day.”

—Tanya Basu, client services manager, Manchester, UK

Calm your body with essential oils

“I rub an essential oil onto the bottom of my feet. The blend I use is a calming and grounding blend with palo santo, clary sage, jatamansi, frankincense, and vetiver made by an Ayurvedic friend, but there are so many types that would work, including lavender, which is said to help promote rest. The ritual signals to my brain that it’s time to sleep, and the properties of the oil help me sleep better, too.”

—Tracy Kennedy, coach and consultant, Los Angeles, CA

Keep your TV out of the bedroom

“I used to love watching TV in bed, but after suffering from insomnia for years, I decided to try taking my television out of my room, and keep it in my den. I am now able to sleep better than I have in a decade. This small tweak made a serious difference!”

—Jo Ann, e-commerce consultant, Atlanta, GA

Try “left nostril breathing”

“After putting my phone on do not disturb mode and stretching, I initiate ‘left nostril breathing,’ a technique that relaxes the mind and the body by calming the nervous system. I do this until I fall asleep, while thinking of an empowering mantra. It works like a charm, and I wake up in a better mood.”

—Lissette LaRue, psychotherapist and coach, Gales Ferry, CT

Carve out a downtime window

“I give myself a two-hour window of downtime before sleep. My phone is on do not disturb mode, the lights are out, and I relax so that sleep comes easier.”

—Karen Swim, public relations, Shelby Township, MI

Say a prayer of gratitude

“Every night, I thank God for the day and for my life. I put my head on my pillow with gratitude in my heart for the myriad of tiny, simple miracles and blessings – both the good and the difficult – that have made up this unique day in my life.  The focus on gratitude and recognition of a higher power ends my day on a peaceful note, and helps me fall asleep.”

—Laura Duff, executive search recruiter,  Dallas, TX

Set a bedtime alarm

“I set a nighttime alarm! It reminds me to turn off all screens, and get into bed to read. It helps me to unwind and fall asleep in a peaceful way.”

—Kimberly Barach, consultant, Union, KY

Count backwards from 50

“Once I’m in bed, if my mind is racing, I start counting backward from fifty. Sometimes I have to do that multiple times to turn off my monkey brain. Eventually, my brain calms down and I fall into a restful sleep!”

 —Maia Haag, president of I See Me! Personalized Books, Minneapolis, MN

Listen to the sound of your own voice

“There are few things more powerful than listening to your own voice. I record positive affirmations, and at night, I make it a point to listen to them while sipping lemon ginger tea before bed. There are times when I fall asleep listening to my words and allow them to escort me into a restful sleep.”

—Dr. Gail Hayes, executive leadership coach, Mebane, NC

Write down one empowering word

“Before switching off the lights, I write down one word — either one that helps me reflect on the day behind me, or prepares me for the following day. I make sure that I have a pen and paper next to my bed each night. Afterward, I take a deep breath, shut the lights, and exhale twice. The ritual helps me fall into a deep sleep.”

—Denis de Schrevel, luxury hotel general manager, Brussels, Belgium 

Set a dream intention

“I focus my mind on a topic about which I’d like to dream. By setting an intention to dream about a particular topic, I plant a seed for that thought to grow into a dream and help me understand it better. I’ve experienced lots of learning and wonder from this simple bedtime habit.” 

—Whitney Hopler, communications director, Fairfax, VA

Have tips that worked for you? Tell us about them in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.