How to Relax Before Bed

6 calming activities for promoting a better transition to sleep

What you do in the time leading up to when you want to go to sleep is just as important as as physically getting into bed, if not more. Creating and sticking to a consistent bedtime routine can help you transition to sleep more easily and relieve insomnia.

The most effective way to wind-down before bed can be personal, so it might take some trial and error to figure out. This article covers the benefits of meditation, music, gentle exercise, and other suggestions for how to relax before bed.

Man relaxing before bed
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Why You Need a Bedtime Routine

It can be harder to fall asleep when you haven't taken the time to prepare your body and mind to make the transition. If you're constantly in motion in the hours before you go to bed, whether that's physically or mentally, you may find that you still feel wide awake and struggle to relax.

Adopting a regular and relaxing routine can be incredibly helpful for getting your body and mind ready to go to sleep.

Children are a great example of the value of bedtime routines. A young child may have a snack, take a bath, and read a story before turning out the lights to go to sleep.

For kids, bedtime is often regular—around the same time every day of the week. Some kids seem to wake without an alarm clock and jump out of bed refreshed and ready to face the day.

Many adults don't sleep as well as they did when they were kids, but creating a bedtime routine and sticking to it can be a step in that direction.

Activities to Try Before Bedtime

It's important to reserve the last 30 to 60 minutes before your bedtime for transition activities that will ready you for sleep.

If you're busy, it can be hard to put aside work or pleasure to prioritize sleep, but doing so helps prevent sleep deprivation.

Some people benefit from setting an artificial closure to the day. You can think of it as picking a deadline for ending work and starting the transition to sleep.

Setting a stopping point helps protect your total sleep time and can ease insomnia. It can also establish a buffer zone between your daytime activities (and stress) and restful sleep.

The best activities for winding down at night will depend on your personal preferences and needs. What's important is that you choose something that you find calming. Your sleep transition time is not for catching up on work, paying bills, or talking to a partner about a stressful situation.

Here are just a few examples of the kinds of bedtime routine activities that people often find calming.


Many people read before bed. Ideally, they would not read in bed, because this has been shown to contribute to insomnia. However, many people are able to read in bed just fine and don't feel it has a negative effect on their sleep.

Reading books for pleasure is better than work-related materials.

When you start to read the same sentence over and over because it’s not sinking in, it’s probably time to turn out the lights and go to sleep.

Prayer or Meditation

Engaging in rote prayers or meditative mantras can calm the mind. These can be specific to your religious preference or more general. Some people also use guided imagery to relax.

There are plenty of books and online resources that can help you get started. There are also apps that can guide you through meditation practice and many even come with a shut-off timer in case you fall asleep while listening.

Listening to Music

It can be wonderfully relaxing to listen to music before bedtime. The best kind depends on your personal preferences, but many people find classical music soothing.

There are also many nature sound playlists that can provide calming soundscapes to fall asleep to.

Watching TV or a Movie

At the end of the day, it can be nice to relax while lying on the couch or sitting in an easy chair and watching a little television. However, avoid tuning into a show that's exciting or that will run late.

If you watch a favorite movie or show you've seen a dozen times, you'll be less engaged because it's familiar to you. This will actually make it easier to transition to bed when it is time.

Try to avoid light exposure from screens that are close to your eyes, like your phone, before going to bed.

Taking a Bath or a Shower

There is evidence that a warm bath or shower before bed can be a helpful sleep aid.

Since your body temperature also impacts sleep, bathing can help physically prep your body for getting into your cozy bed.


You may want to try doing some low-impact exercises such as stretching or yoga before going to bed. Gentle movements can ease pain and aid sleep.

However, don't do an overly aerobic or intense workout. If you are sweating, you are probably doing too much.


There are many ways to unwind before bed, and taking the time to do so can help you sleep better. Doing some gentle stretching, taking a warm bath, and reading or listening to music are just a few ideas that you may want to try making a part of your nightly routine.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.