Maintaining a steady routine of self-care is important for your mental and physical health, especially during these tough times. It all starts with getting plenty of sleep. If we don’t get our recommended 7-9 hours of rest each night, it might lead to problems such as increased stress, impaired cognitive thinking, poor attitudes, and the inability to focus.
Creating a bedtime routine and sticking to it can go a long way in helping you get a good night’s sleep, namely because it will signal your body that it’s time to rest. Having a comfortable sleep environment and taking time to relax as you get ready for bed can set the stage for restorative sleep, and can result in you feeling alert, well-rested, and ready to take on the upcoming day.
Of course, no one bedtime routine is the same as people have different needs and preferences. While some self-care tips apply to folks of any age, such as creating a comfortable sleep environment, each age group also has tips that address their specific sleep needs.
- Children: Children need the most amount of sleep, between 9 and 16 hours depending on age.
- Teenagers: Without adequate sleep, teens are at increased risk of mental health problems.
- College students: As they transition from kids to adults, college students need a good night’s rest to maintain strong mental health.
- Adults: Getting a good night’s sleep helps promote long-lasting good physical and mental health.
- Parents: Self-care that includes relaxation tips and stress relievers goes a long way in helping parents get restorative sleep.
34 Self Care Tips
This guide will review important information for each of these age groups, and provide tips on how they can achieve healthy and restorative sleep.
- Talk about their emotions. To help promote healthy sleep, it’s important for children to express their thoughts and emotions. The Washburn Center for Children in Minneapolis recommends talking with your children about their feelings on a daily basis so they see it as a normal part of their day. Having these types of conversations is especially important these days when the uncertainty of COVID-19 might be taking a toll on your little ones. Ask things like, “what has been a highlight of your day and why?” or “you seem down today, what has you feeling sad?” Really listen to what they have to say, and respond thoughtfully in a way that encourages them to keep talking.
- Try children meditation apps. Apps can be a handy tool to help calm children as they prepare for bed. For instance, “Stop, Breathe & Think” offers mindful sleep stories and meditation activities to help ease the mind. “Smiling Mind” features meditation techniques to help children sleep better, while “Sleep Meditation for Kids” provides mediation stories to help children relax.
- Go outside. It’s no secret kids have a lot of energy, so it’s important to allow them time to expend that energy before bedtime. Let them go outside and play in the afternoon, but limit exercise within four hours of bedtime, per Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Otherwise, they could become over-stimulated when their bodies should be winding down.
- Limit screen time. While electronic devices have become a normal part of most kids’ lives (especially with online schooling), they should not be a part of any child’s bedtime routine. In fact, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, screens in the bedroom are accompanied by insufficient sleep that affects 30% of toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children. Therefore, eliminating screen time at least one hour before bedtime can help set the tone for a more restful night’s sleep. In the current times, it’s also important to set a boundary between screen time that occurs for the purpose of school and for the purpose of fun.
- Set expectations. Another way to help prepare kids for a good night’s sleep is by setting expectations for bedtime. Remind them of the evening schedule, such as finishing homework after dinner followed by a bath and story time before bed. Even if COVID-19 has disrupted your family’s normal routine by making you alternate between online learning and in-person schooling, establishing a regular schedule is important to give your kids stability and comfort.
- Prepare for tomorrow. Encourage children to prepare for the next day by picking out their clothes for school and packing their lunch (if they’re still attending in-person classes). This will help them take ownership in their daily routine. While this school year is quite different from a normal school year, you can provide some regularity by still asking your kids to complete their regular chores. For example, instead of having them pack their book bag the night before school, you can ask them to feed your pets each night instead.
- Encourage a routine. Like younger kids, teens need a routine to help them feel settled. For instance, they have to finish their homework before playing video games, or no more electronics past a certain time. By providing them with this kind of structure, they will feel more accomplished and proud of themselves each day, even if they aren’t leaving the house to go to school.
- Limit caffeine. Many teenagers start drinking more caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and energy drinks, which can be overstimulating for them. As such, their daily caffeine intake should be limited to one cup of coffee, one or two cups of tea, and no more than three cans of soda, per the American Academy of Pediatrics. They should not have any caffeine within an hour of bedtime.
- Relax somewhere other than your bed. While it’s tempting to text friends or watch TV in your bed, this should be avoided. Otherwise, your teen might have trouble drawing a line between relaxation time and sleep time, which can disrupt their sleep schedule. Climbing into bed should be a signal that sleep is on the way, so encourage your teenager to keep their bed as a “sleep only” spot. We know that this might be difficult since many teens are spending more time in the bedrooms these days, but having this sort of separation can do wonders for their mental health.
- Take a hot shower or bath. Many teens jump in the shower first thing in the morning, but research from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin found that taking a warm bath or shower one to two hours before bedtime can significantly improve sleep. Water should be between 104 and 109 degrees Fahrenheit for the best results.
- Get regular exercise. Just as kids need exercise to expend energy and maintain good health, so do teenagers. Getting in the habit of exercising at a younger age can help ensure teens maintain this healthy routine, which will lead to better sleep.
- Talk to them. The teen years can be extremely stressful as kids transition through young adulthood, experiencing a new range of emotions and situations. Encourage them to voice their feelings and their stressors so they won’t stay up all night thinking about them. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry recommends teaching them assertiveness training skills so they can state their feelings in polite, firm and not overly aggressive or passive ways. They might not openly express it, but COVID-19 could be causing them to be upset if they feel like they’re missing out on time with their friends or at school. Gently ask them how they feel about these changes and figure out ways to help them get their social time (safely).
- Maintain open communication. College can be a huge transitional period for young adults, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. If you’re a college student that has had to move back home because of COVID-19, you’re probably feeling additional stress and sadness about missing out on college experiences. Even at your parents’ house, you should aim to maintain your independence while still respecting their home. Build on the talks you have had with your parents through the years, and tell them how you are feeling. Remember that discussing your feelings go a long way in helping you sleep well.
- Create a care package for sleep. Put together a sleep kit with your favorite sleep mask, earplugs, aromatherapy scents, white noise machine or soothing music. Dig into this kit anytime you need to reset your body for a good night’s sleep.
- Use “do not disturb” mode. Young people today are more plugged in than ever, and it’s important to unplug at least an hour before bedtime each night. Turn your phone on “do not disturb” so you can tune out your friends’ text messages or late-night notifications from your apps.
- Set up a spa night. Stress plays a key role in disturbing your sleep, so it’s important to de-stress often. Take time to unwind with your friends by indulging in a little pampering, like applying face masks or giving one another pedicures. These are a great way to wind down and reset your body’s stress levels.
- Plan your day. Planning out your next day’s schedule during times of busyness or stress can help you feel in control of what you need to do. Amherst College suggests planning out your day by writing down what you have to do with deadlines so you have a handle on what needs to be accomplished when.
- Try journaling. Writing down your feelings goes a long way in helping you process and sort through what you are experiencing. For instance, writing out a frustrating situation or something you’re stressed about and then destroying that piece of paper can help you let go of the negativity you feel about it.
- Set aside time for a bedtime routine. It’s easy to feel too busy for a bedtime routine, and, instead, just fall into bed when you’re exhausted. However, bedtime routines are essential for good sleep, so, if necessary, build it into your schedule. Don’t be afraid to set a reminder of when to start your bedtime routine, so your body will know it’s time to start winding down.
- Substitute your nighttime wine for tea. Although wine could help you feel sleepy, it may actually disrupt a good night’s sleep. Trade it out for a caffeine-free tea that promotes sleep. A few good choices include:
|Type of Tea||Specific Benefits|
|Chamomile||Chamomile contains certain antioxidants that can help you feel sleepier. Studies have shown that chamomile improves the quality of your sleep as well.|
|Lavender||Lavender has been found to help you relax and fall asleep more easily. Research shows that it can help you sleep more deeply and feel more awake in the morning.|
|Lemon balm||Lemon balm is often used to reduce stress levels and promote drowsiness. Studies have found that it might also help people with insomnia.|
|Yogi Bedtime Tea||Yogi Bedtime Tea contains several ingredients that help promote healthy sleep, including chamomile and passionflower extract.|
- Practice good skin care. While removing your makeup and applying moisturizer is a great way to maintain healthy skin, it also can help your body relax as part of your bedtime routine. It’s one more signal to your body that rest is on the way.
- Meditate. Meditating before bedtime helps you achieve a sense of inner calm that can lead to more restful sleep. It also can help reduce cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. To help you implement meditation in your bedtime routine, you can try a meditation app such as:
- Read a book. It’s often said you can get lost in a good book. By doing so, you escape the stress of everyday life. In fact, according to the University of Minnesota, reading can relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. Per a 2009 University of Sussex study, reading also can reduce stress by up to 68% and works faster than drinking hot tea or listening to music.
- Set goals. Listing your goals for the next day, whether personal or work, sets the stage for a productive day. Write out at least three goals, but make sure they are realistic so you aren’t stressed about getting them done. It’s also worth mentioning that COVID-19 has dramatically changed how many of us live and work, so try not to feel frustrated if it takes you longer to achieve your goals than you would like. Move at your own pace, and don’t take on too much if it doesn’t feel right.
- Get out of the house. This is arguably one of the most important tips on this list. When you’ve been home for long periods of time, the stress can accumulate and start to feel overwhelming — especially if you’re working from home. Therefore, it’s important to get out of the house and enjoy a change of scenery before you start your bedtime routine. Take a walk around the block, spend a few minutes in the backyard swing, or play with the dog. You’d be surprised by how much a little bit of time away can help your mindset.
Raising kids can take a toll on parents if they don’t make time for themselves. Include one or more of these self-care tips in your bedtime routine to promote better sleep.
- Try aromatherapy. The essential oils used in aromatherapy have been shown to help reduce anxiety and promote calm. Using sleep masks and pillows infused with scents such as lavender, chamomile or jasmine can help you relax, per the Mayo Clinic.
- Write down wins and struggles. Expressing your achievements and difficulties in writing helps you sort through and process your thoughts and emotions, which can reduce stress. With the uncertainty of our times, it’s more important than ever to be vulnerable with yourself and accept your feelings — even if they’re unpleasant.
- Shower in low lighting. Taking a warm shower before bed can promote relaxation throughout your body. Turning the lights down can further aid this relaxation.
- Indulge in adult coloring books or puzzles. According to the Cleveland Clinic, spending time coloring relaxes the brain, diverts attention from your worries and increases pleasure, all of which reduce stress. Focusing on an adult puzzle can also help clear the mind.
- Get intimate (singles and couples). A healthy sex life promotes good health from lower blood pressure to decreased anxiety to, yes, better sleep. Even individuals can benefit from self-intimacy.
- Enjoy a massage (self massage or couples). Massages have been shown to reduce fatigue and improve sleep because it relaxes the muscles and calms the brain. It also improves blood flow, reduces stress and boosts serotonin, which promotes sleep.
- Listen to audio therapy. Although loud noises like listening to the TV are not conducive to a good night’s sleep, listening to soothing music or a white noise machine can relax your mind and promote sleepiness. Incorporate this technique into your bedtime routine by turning on the music or white noise 30 to 45 minutes before you want to fall asleep.
- Look at old photo albums of good memories. To reduce anxiety and refocus your mind, take a stroll down memory lane by looking at photos of favorite vacations, special occasions and fun moments throughout the years. The emotions of these memories will boost your body’s dopamine production, which makes you feel good and more relaxed. Especially during these challenging times, reminiscing on your favorite trips and memories could help you feel more positive about the future and give you something to look forward to when things return to normal.
- Journal with your spouse. Just as writing down your own thoughts and feelings can help you process your emotions, journaling with your spouse can help you work through problems together, reaffirm your love for one another, and lead to deeper intimacy. These processes can reduce stress and improve your sleep. Over the past year, day-to-day life has changed drastically, so try to be as honest as you can about how COVID-19 has impacted you and how you’re feeling.
Incorporating self-care into your bedtime routine will go a long way in improving your sleep as well as your overall health. In our busy world, that can be difficult, so it’s imperative that you make time for a consistent bedtime routine every day.