An evening routine sounds like a chore, like being forced to take the garbage out before you go to bed or something. But the truth is, a properly designed evening routine not only can contribute to your overall productivity, but it is, in fact, a critical component of a healthy body and mind.
Evening Routine, Evening Schmootine
There’s rarely a blog on self-growth and personal development that doesn’t address morning routines. I’m guilty as charged, not because of a desire to hop onto the good-old bandwagon, but because I genuinely believe in them.
So, what about evening routines? Is that even a thing? Well, I don’t think anybody doubts anymore that routines, in general, are great not only in the context of business but for your personal life as well. Time and time again, research had shown that establishing good habits and working consistently on turning them into life-long rituals is excellent for you.
Besides delivering their direct life-improving effects, good habits also fill in a vacuum that helps push bad habits out of the way. It’s only intuitive that the more good habits you establish, the less space there will be for bad habits.
As a sub-set of good habits, there’s a long-lived modern culture trend to single out morning routines as a cornerstone of the ritual building. Everywhere you turn, somebody gives an example of highly successful people with great morning habits and how they have contributed to their success and joy in life.
No doubt. I believe in that, and I’ve written about the power of a good morning routine and good habits in the past. As always, having a narrow view is suitable for your focus, but taking a step back and looking holistically at your life reveals more profound, more complex connections.
The evening-morning pair creates one of those relationships. Many of the things you do in the evening affect the things you do or can do in the morning. One of them is quite evident and apparent to almost every single human who has ever lived—if you go to bed too late, you’ll have trouble waking up in the morning. Period.
But an evening routine is not just going to bed early and doesn’t solely serve the purpose of helping your morning routine. In this article, I explore how a solid evening routine helps your life in general, improves your health and focus, and lowers your levels of stress.
The Clocks in Our Bodies
Regardless of how your overall schedule looks, and irrespective of the times you go to sleep and wake up, your body’s biology is driven at a very high level by three clock cycles. Because there are 24 hours in a day, each of your clocks ticks for about 8 hours.
That is quite intuitive when you think about the general advice of having to sleep for at least eight hours per night. The idea is to match your sleeping time with your body’s sleep clock.
But let’s look at the cycles in more detail.
Your circadian rhythm is a complex mechanism inside your body that attempts to regulate the periods of wakefulness and sleepiness throughout a full day. Because of the kind of planet we live on, our species has adapted to connect day time more with alertness and dark time more with sleepiness. That’s why we tend to get sleepier when it’s darker outside than when it’s sunny and bright.
Those are, of course, the general rules. There are many other mechanisms in our bodies that can derail that system and shift it in weird ways. For example, you might be a person who works during the night and sleeps during the day, thus working against your natural clocks.
Setting Up Your Evening Routine
First of all, let me start by saying that much like there is no one singular, perfect morning routine, there is no standard or best evening routine either. There are best practices and tips to consider, but in the end, your evening routine must work for you, and, therefore, you have to design it with intent.
If there is one right place from where to start designing your routine, it’s by listing a few activities that you should avoid. Then, you should look at some actions that you can consider. Use your judgment and apply these to your particular context.
However, when it comes to the activities to avoid, I’d strongly suggest avoiding all of them. Research has shown time and time again that these particular activities negatively affect your sleep and your morning and the whole following day.
Evening Routines to Avoid Like the Plague
- Turn off light-giving devices. TVs, smart-phones, tablets, computer monitors, and other screen-based devices give off a particular type of light known as blue light. There are ways to diminish it with some protection gadgets, but it won’t be sufficient. Blue light can delay the release of melatonin, which helps with sleep. Also, it increases alertness, and it might even postpone the internal sleep clock to a later time. Note that specific reading devices such as the Kindle or Nook do not give off the blue light, and they are safe to use. When designing these reading devices, the developers strove to replicate the actual paper as much as possible.
- Don’t eat for at least one hour before bedtime. Your digestive system uses a lot of calories and requires a hefty amount of energy to run. By limiting the amount of food before bed, you avoid having your body work hard on your digestion right as you are about to go to sleep.
- Avoid strenuous exercise one hour before bedtime. Although exercise and training are great for you, extremely strenuous activities such as heavy weight lifting, long-distance running, or sprinting, HIIT, or cardio, will raise your heart rate and pump you with adrenaline. Your body will need a few hours to let all that go. That is why it’s not a good idea to do any of these activities right before bedtime.
- Don’t drink too much water. Water is life, I know. But don’t drink too much of it right before bed, as it might cause you to wake up in the middle of the night to urinate.
- No brain-stimulating activities. Although reading, which is a recommended activity, is brain-stimulating, I’m talking about activities that take your level of excitement way high. Whereas reading an action book has a calming effect on your body and gives you a type of tiredness conducive to sleep, watching a movie will have the opposite effect, even if the action is slow-paced.
Best Evening Routines to Consider
Below is a list of evening routines to consider introducing consistently into your evening ritual. These are time-tested and, over time, have proven to be solid and provide measurable, positive effects in the long-run.
- Planning the next day
- Reviewing your goals
- Preparing for the next day
- Writing in your journal
- Breathing exercises
- Get inspiration from motivational quotes
- Setting up the sleep environment
- proper attire & blankets
- emptying your bladder
Now that you have a set of things to avoid and a few things to try out let’s look at seven steps toward setting up and tracking your evening routine.
7 Steps to Set Up and Track a Proper Evening Routine
Just as you design your morning routine to feed your body, mind, and soul harmoniously by tackling your physical, mental, and emotional self, your evening routine should mirror that. They work in tandem, and you should design them accordingly.
Here are seven practical steps to design your evening routine:
1. Determine and stick to a consistent bedtime.
To do so, identify first the amount of time you need for sleep. Experts recommend anywhere between 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night, but your particular duration depends on you. You need to know what it is and keep it consistent. Your wake-up time comes out of your morning routine, so subtract the number of hours of sleep from that time, and you will get your approximate bedtime.
2. Decide on the duration of your evening routine.
Once you know what time you need to go to bed, you must decide how long before that you should fire up your evening routine. I use one hour, but you can make it shorter or longer, as needed. I think starting with half an hour is a good bet and then work your way from there.
3. Stop all exciting activities thirty minutes before your routine starts.
The thirty minutes is not a hard rule, but a suggestion. It depends on the number of evening-related administrative tasks you have. Still, you need to stop your brain’s inputs and allow it to relax and get out of the daily turmoil and into sleep mode. You need to turn off:
- Video games
4. Do all your administrative evening tasks
During the thirty-minute gap, you need to complete any administrative tasks in your evening, such as:
- cleaning your kitchen or desk
- preparing your clothes for tomorrow
- getting your bag ready
- preparing any to-go food you might need
- brushing your teeth
This little admin routine needs to be an integral part of your evening ritual.
5. Create your resting environment
Your brain can subconsciously associate cues with actions. That’s the habit loop that we discussed in other articles related to routines. Sleep is not that different. You need to create an environment that, over time, will start to be associated with sleeping.
Do you know how sometimes you start to listen to something, and suddenly, you feel sleepy? It’s the same thing, only this time you need to design it yourself.
Here are some ideas to try out:
- Have a dedicated sleep attire. It doesn’t have to be a pajama per se, but it should be something that you wear only when you sleep. And, for God’s sake, it better not be the under-clothes you’ve been wearing all day!
- Adjust the temperature to be at the level that works best for you. That might be tricky if you live with somebody who has a different body temperature requirement, but there are ways around it. You can buy mattresses or blankets with different settings or have a fan or heater on your side of the bed (or your partner’s).
- Use a humidifier with essential oils. Many essential oil scents are proven to help with deep sleep. Oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint not only help with your breathing during the night but also act as calming agents.
- Make sure the area is dark enough. If it’s not, use a sleep mask, which helps to keep the light out. I found the best way is to invest in some good window shades.
- Shower, brush your teeth and urinate. Try to do these at the same time relative to your going to bed. By keeping the same routine, you are cueing your body that you are about to go to sleep, and your body will remember.
- Before lying down in bed, do a quick stretch routine. It shouldn’t be more than five minutes. Tackle the parts of your body that feel the tightest or follow a routine you have developed. If you work out primarily in the morning, use the evening to stretch the same muscles you worked on earlier in the day.
- Read. However, avoid reading something too exciting. You probably don’t want to read a high-fantasy story that will get you fired up. You want something that calms your brain down. Things such as biographies or inspirational quotes have worked for me in the past. Also, avoid reading non-fiction, such as self-help or improvement books. Those require you to take notes and be very focused on retaining the message. Instead, look for things that entertain you and don’t expect too much thinking. That’s why light fiction works best. I particularly like to read short stories, for example, because I can finish a story in one session, and there’s no follow-up needed.
6. Daily review
Right before you turn off the light and go to bed, do a quick daily review. You should have your journal with you on your nightstand. Start by writing down what worked well today, what didn’t work so well, as well as your main accomplishments. Document the obstacles and struggles as well as the highlights of the day.
Quickly go over your annual goals as a repetition for your subconscious mind, and then decide on the things you will do tomorrow. By reminding yourself of your primary goals for the year and setting your mind on what you will do the next day to move toward them, you give your brain food for thought overnight.
7. Put yourself to sleep
Turn the light off. Once the lights are out, you may still do five to ten minutes of meditation or breathing exercises. These activities will lower your heart rate and add a layer of relaxation and calmness.
Last but not least, if night-time music works for you, turn on your favorite sleep-inducing song and let it play in the background at low volume. My wife and I love to put on Karunesh via Google Assistant and set it to shut off about thirty minutes later. I personally never get to hear the third song.
Conclusion: Evening Routines Are Good for You
Again, much as morning routines are not a panacea for all your life’s problems, evening routines are not, either. But they do help with establishing a particular ritual that, over time, will start to show results. The results will be slow-building but long-lasting.
The secret here is to make sure that you work on your consistency. Discipline is one of the most vital parts of this kind of routine. It’s very easy to fall off the wagon, but if you persevere and work on your consistency, you’ll be able to jump back on in a heartbeat.
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- What has been the most effective evening ritual that you have implemented so far?
- Have you encountered difficulties while trying to create your evening routines?
- What are the worst evening habits that you’ve tried and, perhaps, managed to eradicate?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!