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Trouble Shutting Off From The Day? Try Setting A Wind-Down Alarm

Hand Turning off an Old Fashioned Alarm Clock
Image by Yaroslav Danylchenko / Stocksy
October 16, 2020

If you're looking to get better sleep, the hour leading up to bedtime is key. Carving out a restful nighttime routine can mean the difference between snoozing as soon as your head hits the pillow and staying awake into the wee hours of the morning with a restless, racing mind.

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The case for a "wind-down alarm."

"This whole idea of us being on 24/7 is just not constructive for our sleep, and in many cases it's not necessary," naturopathic sleep doctor Catherine Darley, N.D., tells mbg.

Darley has seen patients benefit tremendously from designating a wind-down hour every night; one they can use to unplug from the day and gently saunter into sleep mode.

This time is so essential that Darley actually suggests that people set an alarm an hour before their intended bedtime every night.

When the chimes (or peaceful tune of your choosing) go off, consider it your signal to start winding down. Turn off electronics and leave them to charge outside the bedroom, check off your nightly skin care regimen, and do the calming screen-free activity of your choosing. If you have a sleep-promoting supplement you like, this is your time to take that too.*

For those with iPhones, the new iOS update actually gives you the option to set a bedtime alarm that pauses notifications so you won't be tempted to pick up your phone and start scrolling—or worse, doomscrolling. As much as possible, try to keep the timing of your alarm consistent since our bodies always appreciate a steady bedtime.

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How to top off your calming routine.

Once you've physically prepped for bed, it's time to get the mind involved. To do so, Darley recommends taking a few minutes to write down any lingering thoughts from the day. Getting in the habit of doing this consistently can help you put lingering worries to bed, so to speak, and get you in the right headspace for sleep. Once you release anxious thoughts, you can replace them with something more positive: a quick expression of gratitude, a calming meditation, a visualization that makes you feel held.

"Learning how to set your thoughts aside before bed can help you really sleep peacefully," she says, "and then pick up your stuff the next day."

Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.