These are our tried-and-true before-bed routines.
Sleep experts have tons of tricks to getting a better night's rest: go easy on the caffeine and alcohol, take a warm bath before bed, keep the thermostat set low, ban TV and mobile phones from the bedroom, and so on. But for Health's editors, the bedtime behaviors that help us fall sleep fast aren't exactly scientifically proven—and in some cases, they'd make the experts cringe. But they work for us, and research shows we're better off for it: the health benefits of sleep include sharper memory, lower stress, and lower risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Read on for our tried-and-true before-bed routines.
Sip warm milk
"When I'm having trouble falling asleep, I go into the dark kitchen, heat up some milk and sip it in bed. The funny thing is we have published stories reporting that there is no good science to back up this folk remedy, so maybe it's just placebo effect, but it always works for me." —Lisa Lombardi, executive editor
Follow a specific routine
"I rarely have trouble falling asleep. I think it's because I follow a pretty specific routine every evening to get relaxed and ready for bed. In the hours before bedtime, I often watch a little TV, but only comedies—I've found that high-stakes dramas and gory scenes from Game of Thrones stress me out and keep me up later than I'd like. When it's time to head to bed, I wash my face and brush my teeth, and follow that up with my night cream, which is my one big beauty indulgence: Estée Lauder Resilience Lift Night ($86; nordstrom.com). The sweet floral scent helps tell my body it's bedtime. After I get into bed, I read a book until I can no longer keep my eyes open, and then roll onto my left side to fall asleep. Yes, it HAS to be my left side—not sure why!" —Christine Mattheis, deputy editor
Sniff some lavender
“Lavender is my go-to scent when I want to relax and fall asleep fast. I am obsessed with my DW Relaxing Lavender Candle ($28; amazon.com)—so much so that I’ve burned through the 13-ounce jar…twice. I’ll usually have the candle burning while I’m getting my clothes and bag ready for the next day and then I will blow it out right before I get into bed (safety first!). The lingering scent helps me drift right off to sleep.” —Lindsey Murray, assistant editor
Stretch it out
"I used to be a terrible sleeper, but I've really worked on it over the last few years since I've learned how crucial good sleep is to overall health. I stretch for around 15 minutes (also working on my flexibility, another area that needs improvement!), and drink a magnesium supplement that helps relax me (Natural Calm, $25 for 16 oz.; amazon.com). After getting ready for bed, I put coconut oil on my face, then get into bed, set my Beddit sleep tracker ($80; amazon.com), and read a book until I feel my eyes drooping. Then I smooch my husband and drift off." —Beth Lipton, food director
Jot notes in a journal
"I have a 5 Year Diary ($12; amazon.com) that I write in every night before I go to bed. Every page in the book has five paragraph entries, so you can see what you were doing on that specific date five years in a row. There's only enough space to write 3-5 sentences about your day, so it's not as daunting as a traditional journal page might be. I started mine when I first moved to New York City three years ago, and I love looking back and seeing what I've done, who I've been with, and how drastically my life has changed. As you write and gather more entries, it's a great way to gain perspective on your own life while also benefitting from the daily therapeutic benefits of journaling." —MaryAnn Barone, social media editor
Slip into a food coma
"Experts may not approve of my approach to falling asleep, but it works for me. I eat small meals throughout the day, and I really look forward to a robust dinner around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. As soon as my tummy is full, I start getting sleepy. After I brush my teeth, I watch some TV on the couch. I find it really comforting to doze with the TV on if my boyfriend is still awake and actively watching it. If he’s not watching it with me, then I’ll turn the TV off and head to bed. I turn onto my stomach and usually fall asleep within 10 minutes or so." —Janet Lawrence, senior video editor