Family & Education

5 Ways to Wind Down at Night

BY Barbara Danza TIMEJanuary 13, 2020 PRINT

As we dive into a brand new decade and reflect upon the decade past, one stark societal change that we’ve all collectively experienced is the constant presence of the smartphone.

While having communication, entertainment, and information at our fingertips surely has its advantages, by now it’s become all too clear that the disadvantages also are quite significant.

One way to reduce the negative effects of owning a smartphone is to curb its use at bedtime. Looking at your phone right before bed keeps the brain stimulated, mentally and emotionally, stopping your mind from calming to a restful state. What’s more, the blue light that your phone emits has been shown to have negative effects on eyesight and your sleep cycle.

Sleep is important. (Instagram is not.) It’s best to plug in your phone outside of your bedroom and partake in other real-world activities for your bedtime routine.

Here are a few ideas.

evening tea
Some cozy evening lighting help create a calming atmosphere. (Shutterstock)

Start During the Day

There are some things you can do during the daytime to ensure a better bedtime. Make sure you move your body during the day. If your lifestyle is sedentary, you’re not exerting enough energy during the day and you may not find yourself feeling sleepy at the time you should be going to bed.

Make sure you’re moving—hit the gym, go for a walk, ride your bike—whatever physical activity you enjoy works.

Additionally, wake up at around the same time each day. Train your body to know when it’s bedtime each night by waking at the same time each day. A solid eight hours of sleep or more is what you should be aiming for. So, do the math to come up with your ideal bedtime and make it happen.

You should also be careful to cut off your caffeine intake early in the day. If you’ve got a hankering for coffee at 4 p.m., you’re better off choosing decaf. Watch out for caffeine in teas, sodas, and chocolate as well.

Take a Hot Bath or Shower

When bedtime approaches, indulge in a hot bath. Oh, the luxury of bathing and then stepping directly into your pajamas. Warm water can relax your muscles, and the disconnection from technology, which thankfully doesn’t mix with water, relaxes the mind. If you feel amped up and need to calm down, try a hot shower or bath.

Read Books

Use your local library or shop online to gather enjoyable books that you read for entertainment or inspiration. Add a caffeine-free tea, a lovely candle, and a good reading light, and dive into a book or two each night.

Cue the Lights

As bedtime approaches, ready your mind for the transition to sleep by gradually dimming the lights as soon as you can disconnect from your phone. Then, slowly turn off lights you’re no longer using and take advantage of any dimmer switches you have in your home.


Often what keeps us from winding down peacefully are the thoughts swirling in our minds—the to-do list items, the worries, the calendar items, the deadlines, the fears, and anxieties. An effective way to relieve yourself of this thought tornado is to write it all down.

Keep a journal and a collection of pens at your bedside. Each night, take time to write down what’s on your mind. Capture the things you don’t want to forget, ideas about ongoing projects, your feelings about things that happened during the day—anything and everything. Somehow, getting it down on paper allows your mind to release the need to keep swirling.

It’s as if the ideas have been safely put away and your mind is free to remain clear—at least for the night.

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Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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