5 Rituals to Improve Your Wind-Down Routine

Have you ever heard the old saying, “you don’t decide your future, you decide your habits, and they decide your future”? Believe it or not, it rings especially true when looking at how we spend our evenings. 

The truth is, implementing a sustainable evening routine that relaxes your nervous system and prepares you for sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Wondering why? How you choose to end your day is how you set yourself up for the days to follow. If you’re tired and sluggish, you feel unmotivated and uninspired to care for yourself, scalp to soul. Yet, on the contrary, if you’ve set yourself up for success, you take back your power to practise self-care in a way that truly matters.

Whether you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep or simply feel you’re not taking full advantage of your evenings, here are our 5 night-time rituals to help improve your wind-down routine: 

1. Cut off caffeine after lunchtime

It’s no secret that we all enjoy a mid-afternoon pick-me-up to keep that 3 PM energy slump at bay. However, consuming caffeine too late in the afternoon may have more dire consequences than you realise. 

To understand how caffeine can negatively affect your sleep routine, it’s essential to first understand how your body’s natural sleep cycle works. Also known as your circadian rhythm, your body has an internal clock that influences your sleep-wake cycle. While each person’s internal clock may differ slightly (i.e., shift workers), most people will experience the following cycles:

  • AM — Upon waking, you will experience a surge of cortisol. While you most likely know this as the stress hormone, it also plays an important role in making you alert to help you kickstart your day. 
  • Midday — This is where you’ll likely feel your energy levels halt (usually around mid-afternoon…ring a bell?). 
  • PM — As the sun sets into darkness, your hypothalamus relies on the lack of light hitting your eyes to understand when it should encourage feelings of tiredness and drowsiness. To do so, melatonin is released into your body, which puts you in a sleepy state. As you sleep, your body processes the built-up adenosine from the day to restart the cycle the next morning. 

So, what exactly does caffeine have to do with this? As we know, caffeine boosts feelings of alertness and energy, interfering with your body’s ability to enter its natural sleepy state. While it may be great in the morning, if you enjoy a cuppa too late in the day, you will directly interfere with your body’s natural rhythm, when your cortisol levels should be dropping and adenosine rising. Believe it or not, caffeine has a half-life of 4-6 hours, meaning even after six hours, your body still feels the effects of half of the caffeine. The end result? Poor quality sleep. 

Our tip: Avoid caffeine at least six hours before bed to avoid it affecting your sleep quality. Try switching out your late afternoon coffee for another hot beverage or a decaf coffee… you may find the placebo does just the trick! 

2. Build a sustainable night-time skincare ritual

At Dr Tanya Skincare, we firmly believe that the secret to a healthy skin routine is based on the rituals and meanings you associate with it. 

If you’ve read our other articles, you’ll know how proudly (and loudly) we preach that self-care is much more than skincare. What exactly does this have to do with winding down in the evening? It’s about worshipping yourself, skin to soul. Instead of looking at your skincare routine as a chore, create a ritual that allows you to take a moment to practise gratitude, self-care, and reflection to help calm your nervous system. 

For some, this might mean setting yourself a skincare timer and being intentional with every motion and thought during that time. For instance, this could include massaging your skin deeply as you apply your face wash and choosing a particular topic to focus on for the duration of the ritual. For others, this might mean making the most of your time by practising five minutes of gratitude or reflecting on a problem you’d like to solve. Using this time wisely to reflect, process, and digest the day allows you to go to bed with a clear, clutter-free mind. 

Our tip: If you aren’t sure where to start, a simple idea is to categorise each of your skincare steps with an action or thought. For example, when double cleansing your face at night, this could be your moment to reflect on the day and identify any obstacles you wish to overcome. Your serum routine could be where you intentionally apply and massage the product into your skin while problem-solving and seeking solutions. Your moisturising regime could be your time to identify five things you’re grateful for.

[Read full article: How to Build A Skincare Ritual: The AM to PM Guide to Glowing Skin]

3. Switch off your electronics well before bed

You know those few episodes you look forward to before bed or that late-night social media scroll you get caught up in for a little too long at night? While they may seem harmless in theory, they could be drastically impacting your body’s ability to wind down and experience quality sleep. 

Creating healthy boundaries with your devices can take some serious willpower and determination — especially if that’s how you stay connected to people and work. However, constantly stimulating your body interferes with your sleep quality and, ultimately, how you show up in the world. Did you know that consistently poor-quality sleep can impact your health in many ways? From increasing your risk of injury and impacting your body’s recovery time to increasing your risk of heart disease and negatively impacting your mental health and stress levels, it’s simply not a matter that should be taken lightly. 

[Read full article: 5 Ways to Reduce Stress — And Why Your Skin Depends On It]

As aforementioned, our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle can be easily influenced and interrupted by external factors, including electronics. Bright screens (i.e., the light emitted from phone screens, TVs, iPads, and computers) stimulate the very part of your brain responsible for keeping you awake and alert. Due to this stimulation, your body may not release enough of the sleep hormone melatonin as it’s confusing natural light (sunlight) with artificial light (screens). The end result? Unwanted feelings of wakefulness when you’re trying to sleep. 

Electronics at night can impact your sleep quality in several ways, including:

  • Overstimulating your body and mind, making it more difficult to fall asleep due to a lack of melatonin being released. 
  • Distracting you and delaying your bedtime and sleep duration. 
  • Sounds and light throughout the night can disrupt your body’s sleep cycle. 
  • The blue light emitted by most devices slows down your body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone responsible for preparing your body for drowsiness. 

Our tip: Set daily device limits and “screens off” times. Secondly, set up a specific area in your home where your electronics can be stored overnight, ensuring it is not in your bedroom. 

4. Unload and unpack your thoughts

Nothing ruins a peaceful evening routine more than a busy, scattered mind. Whether you’re struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or enjoy a relaxing evening, an unsettled mind is guaranteed to leave you feeling frazzled and exhausted. 

The reality is, we live in a society that exposes us to constant stimulation throughout the day. From our never-ending list of work responsibilities to keeping our home life in order, our brains often work in overdrive more than we probably care to admit. The problem? Just as it’s essential to let your body recover post-workout, it’s also important to let your mind relax and rest, which is done through quality sleep. 

If you struggle to switch off at night — whether due to anxious thoughts or simply a busy mind — identifying, unpacking, and categorising your thoughts before bed might be the solution to help declutter your mind. We recommend adding one of the following practices to your night-time wind-down routine:

  • Write it out — whether it’s your worries or your to-do list, buy a thoughts journal and practise decluttering your mind each night by putting all your thoughts onto paper. Consider this a ritual that allows you to transfer everything from mind to paper. 
  • Practise gratitude — If you’re feeling stressed or worried, practise writing out your thoughts, followed by a positive exercise whereby you identify what you’re grateful for. This allows you to switch from a negative mindset to a positive one before bed. Simply write five of the things you’re grateful for or that have brought you joy in the past week. 
  • Practise breathing exercises — Breathing is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and induce sleepiness. Not only does it help you restore and rebalance, but it also slows down your heart rate, which prepares your body for rest. We recommend the following breathing exercises from the Sleep Foundation. 

Our tip: We recommend practising all the above exercises by carving out time in your evening to create a consistent ritual. Set yourself up for success by purchasing a journal solely for unloading your thoughts and practising gratitude. Set a consistent schedule where you do these exercises at the same time every evening, whether for 10 minutes or one hour. It’s essential to get into the habit of making this a non-negotiable part of your day and being consistent with the process. 

[Read full article: Dr Tanya's Five Secrets to Prioritise Self-Care]

5. Set your bedroom up for sleep

This may sound a little ‘Marie Kondo’ of us, but there is a profound truth behind the state of your environment influencing the state of your body and mind. And unfortunately, when it comes to winding down in the evening and enjoying a restful night’s sleep, a hugely influential part of that is your physical space.

On the one hand, we’re referring to decluttering your space and creating a relaxing and comfortable environment free of chaos to help calm your mind. On the other hand, in a more literal sense, we’re talking about creating an environment that helps keep your circadian rhythm consistent. For instance, here are a few factors environmental factors that drastically affect sleep quality:

  • Light — As aforementioned, the blue light emitted from your devices enhances the production of cortisol, reducing your ability to switch off in the evening. Remove distracting lights from your room to black out the space as much as possible. This also means ensuring you have adequate coverage from outside lights (i.e., curtains, blackout blinds, etc.)
  • Sound — While we can’t control the sounds emitted from external environments, where possible, aim to keep internal sounds as minimal as possible. Alternatively, if you live in a loud, bustling area, perhaps play a relaxing, sleep-inducing playlist at night to help calm your body and mind. 
  • Temperature — The ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 16 to 20 degrees. Believe it or not, sleeping in a slightly cooler room helps to decrease your body’s internal thermometer, which makes you sleepier as your body works to keep you comfortable. Where possible, try to create an environment that mimics this. 

Our tip: Assess your current sleeping space and take notice of any nights, noises, or factors that may disturb your sleep. Alter one variable at a time and note how it improves the duration and quality of your sleep. While achieving the optimal sleeping environment or conditions may not be realistic, focus on the areas you can control and improve.