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My Evening Routine for Perfect Sleep Scores

  • November 29, 2021

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know my morning routine is both well-defined and sacred. I’ve written about it in my XO, MU newsletter and recorded a whole podcast about it; sharing the actions and tasks I move through every morning before I start my workday. But while we place so much emphasis on morning routines, we talk far less about nighttime routines, even though for me, they are just as concrete, just as important, and nearly as bomb-proof as my mornings.

As a Gretchen Rubin Upholder, I’m a fan of routine, scheduling, and rigidity… but that doesn’t always lend itself to “going with the flow,” adapting to an always-changing work schedule or the demands of a child. I figured out years ago that if I book-ended my days with solid morning and night routines, it gave me the stability I was craving while allowing me to be spontaneous in the middle, easily accommodating schedule changes or unanticipated demands. While the morning routine sets the tone for my whole day, my evening routine actually does the same thing—for the NEXT day. It reminds me that I am a healthy person with healthy habits, preps me for a fantastic night’s sleep, and helps me wake up refreshed, energetic, and ready to tackle my morning.

Here are my three pillars to a good night’s sleep.

Consistency.

This one might not be on your radar, but sleep experts say it’s KEY. I keep my bedtime and wake time steady every day, even on the weekends. My Oura Ring shows an average of 30 minutes of variation—meaning I fall asleep AND wake up within no more than a 30-minute window every day. Experts suggest going to sleep every day within a one-hour window (so, bedtime between 9:15 and 10:15 PM), and keeping that same one-hour window when it comes to waking up.

Sleep specialists also say that falling asleep before midnight is crucial for melatonin production, regulating your circadian rhythm, and physical and mental health. (So eight hours of sleep starting at 10 PM is better for you than 8 hours of sleep starting at 1 AM. I don’t make the rules, night owls.)

Routine.

Bookending your night with a bedtime routine primes your body for sleep. The same actions done in the same order every night will soon trigger a body and brain reflex that says, “Oh, we’re winding down now.” The first step in my evening routine is to stop eating by 7:30 PM. I’ve figured out that eating too close to bed can interfere with falling asleep, so I close my kitchen around the same time as my son is heading to bed. I’ll keep sipping my water or tea, but I don’t drink a ton too close to bed either, because I hate getting up in the middle of the night to pee

Before I head into my bedroom, I tidy the kitchen. This provides a bit of light activity and ensures my morning is less stressful, as I hate waking up to a messy counter or sink. I take a few minutes to clean off surfaces, recycle containers or boxes, and wash the last few dishes. I’ve been doing this for years, and it makes a big difference in my mornings.

My evening tooth-care routine is kind of extensive, but this is such a good way to remind myself that I am a healthy person with healthy habits. (Who else flosses every night but VERY HEALTHY PEOPLE?) First I floss, then I use a water flosser (you don’t even know what you’re missing in terms of gum health), then I brush with a sonic toothbrush, then I swish with a hydrogen peroxide-based mouth rinse. Teeth cleaned!

Then I’ll twist up my hair for no-heat overnight curls (tutorial coming, I promise), take out my contacts, and grab my night guard (sexy). I may or may not wash my face; I don’t have a “skincare routine” here. I’m lazy, and my skin does just fine when I do basically nothing. Don’t @ me.

Next, I pull my blackout curtains closed. We have a huge sliding glass door in my bedroom, so I bought four panels from Amazon to make sure they all overlapped easily to keep out any light. (Total cost, around $100.) I also have zero lights from electronics in my room—if I’m charging something overnight, I throw a towel over it. My bedroom is as dark as a crypt, which is ideal for sleeping.

Right before I get into bed, I turn on my white noise machine. I’ve been falling asleep to white noise for more than 20 years, back before cell phones (when I’d use an actual fan). Now, I have an machine that mimics all kinds of white noise, and I start it up well before I’m ready to fall asleep. It’s Pavlovian at this point—the minute I hear the white noise, my body shifts into sleep mode. I also set my phone to Do Not Disturb, so texts or alerts that roll in won’t make a noise.

Then, I get into bed with a dim light to read for 15-20 minutes. I’ve been reading before bed since I was in grade school, and it’s my most beloved and longest habit. It’s the most reliable way to turn off my brain, and it keeps me from picking up my phone “one last time.” (My phone does charge in the bedroom, but I don’t touching it after I’ve turned on DND.)

Temperature.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that keeping your room cool (around 65 degrees, give or take a few) is highly effective for a good night’s sleep. The problem is, in the summer, my A/C bills were outrageous, and in winter, I’d freeze my child out of his room in the basement. It wasn’t until I started using my OOLER cooling pad more than two years ago that my pretty good sleep scores became 100’s across the board, week after week. This is my sleep secret weapon.

The OOLER is a water-chilled pad that goes underneath your fitted sheet. It’s thin, soft, and comfy—you don’t even know it’s there. It’s on a schedule designed by you, so you can set it to start off warm and cozy, lowly cool you down overnight, then slowly warm you back up around your waking time. With this system, Brandon can also control his side of the bed separately, which is great because he is a human inferno. Now, his side gets freezing, mine is set to 63 degrees all night long, and everyone sleeps happy.

Every single one of you who have tried it agrees that the ChiliSleep system is a game-changer. I no longer have trouble falling asleep because I’m cold (or hot), I no longer wake up overheated and cranky in the middle of the night, and I wake up naturally at 6:00 AM neither warm nor cold. Oh, and my air conditioning bill drops by more than half in the summer.

At 8:45 PM, my OOLER automatically turns on and starts cooling down my bed. I slide in around 9:00 PM when it’s cool, but not cold. At midnight, the schedule dips me down a few more degrees, ensuring I stay asleep all night. And around 4 AM (the time when your body temp is the coldest), it warms me back up a few degrees, so I don’t wake up cold.

Between the OOLER’s water-cooled system underneath me and a 15-lb weighted blanket on top of me, I’ve never slept so well in my life.

So there you have it—my entire nighttime routine. It’s half things that feel like self-care (the kitchen clean, dental routine, and reading before bed) and half science-based strategies for getting a great night’s sleep (consistent bedtime, dark room, cool temps). I hope it inspires you to dig into your evening routine, find the pieces that feel like they’re not serving you (ahem, TikTok in bed), and see if you can’t find a balance that helps you wind down, sleep well, and wake up ready to tackle your day.

Sweet dreams,
XO MU

PS: If you want to see what others are saying about the Chilisleep CUBE and OOLER systems, see #melissaexplainschilisleep on Instagram. This big discount only comes around once or twice a year, so don’t sleep on this!