6 Ways to Relax Before Bedtime and Improve Sleep

Ease insomnia and transition to sleep with calming activities

Sleep is a book that requires a prologue. A consistent bedtime routine can improve the transition to sleep and relieve insomnia. What are the best ways to relax before bedtime? Explore some options that may ease the transition to sleep.

Man relaxing before bed
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The Importance of a Bedtime Routine

It can be incredibly difficult to fall asleep if you haven’t prepared your body and mind for this transition. If you “go go go” in the hours before bedtime and then jump into bed, should it be any surprise that your mind is still going when you’d rather fall asleep? Instead, adopting a regular and relaxing routine can be incredibly helpful.

Children are an excellent example of the importance of these bedtime routines. A young child may have a snack, take a bath, and read stories before turning out the lights. Bedtime is often very regular, occurring at nearly the same time every day of the week. Children wake without an alarm clock and jump out of bed refreshed. Few times in life do we sleep as well as we did in childhood. Perhaps there is a lesson for all of us in observing these routines.

Recommended Activities Before Bedtime

It is very important to preserve the last 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime to transition activities and aid sleep. In our busy lives, it can be hard to put aside our work or pleasure to preserve sleep. It is incredibly important, however. We feel and function better and improve our overall health by avoiding sleep deprivation.

Some people benefit from setting an artificial closure to the day. In a sense, you set a deadline to end work and begin transitioning to sleep. This can protect your total sleep time and ease insomnia. It can help establish a buffer zone between the day’s labors and optimize the night’s rest.

What activities are best to relax before bedtime? This is highly dependent on personal preferences and strengths. Choose something that you find calming. It is not the time to pay bills, fight with your spouse, or engage in other stressful activities. Instead, do something you find relaxing, and here are some ideas.


Many people read before bed. Ideally, this would not occur in the bed, as it may contribute to insomnia. However, many people get away with it without consequence. Magazines are a nice option with short articles that can be put aside when sleepiness arrives. Pleasure reading of books is ideal rather than any 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. Some people use guided imagery to relax. There are resources available in books and online that provide further recommendations.

Listening to Music

It can be wonderfully relaxing to listen to music before bedtime. The genre choice should depend on your personal preference, but classical music is soothing and calming to many people. There are also many nature sounds CDs and apps that can be utilized.

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. Don’t select a program that is too exciting or lasts too late into the night. If you watch a favorite movie, you will likely be less enthralled due to its familiar nature, making it easier to transition to bed when it is time. It may be best to avoid light exposure from screens that are close to your eyes.

Taking a Bath or a Shower

There is evidence that a warm bath or shower before bed can aid sleep. As for children, it can be part of a healthy bedtime routine. Body temperature can have important impacts on sleep, and bathing can influence this in the evening.


Finally, consider low-impact exercises such as stretching or yoga before going to bed. It should not be overly aerobic. If you are sweating, you are probably doing too much. Gentle movements can ease pain and aid sleep.

A Word From Verywell

There are innumerable other ways to relax before bedtime. Spend some time brainstorming a list of your own ideas. Once you have identified appropriate activities, do them every night in the last 30 to 60 minutes of the day and you will find that you sleep better.

8 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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Additional Reading

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.