You may or may not realize it but what you do in bed before sleep greatly impacts not just the quality of your sleep but the type of (mental health) day you will have the next morning.
If you want to improve your life, a good rule thumb is this: a good day starts with a good morning; and a good morning starts the evening before.
And a good evening routine implies that you don’t spend the last 2-4 hours of your day scrolling mindlessly on social media or streaming like a zombie until 2 am. Especially if you want to keep your anxiety in check.
But it’s so hard to find things to do in bed at night that don’t involve a laptop or a phone. Not only have we grown completely addicted to these electronic devices, but also, I don’t know about you but I usually never feel like doing much (especially when I’m tired) except zone out in front of a silly video.
But after over a decade of relying on the company and comfort of my laptop and cell phone at bedtime, I’m finally shedding this bad habit. And with the months/years, I’ve gradually built a list of small and easy yet relaxing things that I like to do in bed before sleep.
a) keep me entertained when I’m bored in bed;
b) They are all activities that help me relax mentally, physically, and emotionally while in bed;
c) They have a significant impact on the quality of sleep I get;
d) And they greatly improve the level of control I have on my morning (emotionally but not just that). I wake up with a clearer head and in a much more positive mindset than if I had spent the night watching (very entertaining but nonetheless) crappy shows on streaming.
But I don’t feel like doing these things even if I know they are good for me!
Don’t panic. I don’t feel like doing them either. I would much rather zone out on my cell for 3 hours than read a book. It seems so hard!
But first of all, I know that it’s not the best thing for ‘future Me’ (hello Instant Gratification Monkey! I know you well now).
Second, I stop thinking about what I feel like doing now. I just take the next smallest logical step towards the thing that is good for me or that serves this ‘future Me’.
Don’t look at the mountain or the end result; look at the immediate next step.
For example, instead of saying: “I need to read a book”, I say to myself: “ok, I need to grab a book”. Then I say: “ok, now I need to open it”. Then I read the first sentence, etc.
If, after a page or two I still don’t like the book, then I can move on to something else.
With this out of the way, here are
12 things to do in bed tonight for mental self-care:
1. Stretch in bed
This may sound odd to some, but I stretch in bed.
Stretching daily is essential to my physical and mental wellbeing. There is no doubt.
BUT, just like most things that are good for me, it’s hard to make myself do it.
If I have to get out of bed, pull out a mat, get dressed, and face my freezing apartment when I’m already tired and sleepy… I won’t do it.
So, one way I’ve found to make myself stretch daily is to do it while in bed. I either do it before going to sleep or right after waking up.
I do a few simple exercises like shoulder and arm rotations, neck rotations, and a few yoga poses.
Make sure you start with small movements and gradually increase the magnitude of your movements. Also, don’t do this if you have a lumpy, uneven mattress.
Rmember, I’m only sharing what works for me. Please be careful, listen to your body, be mindful of your own environment, and don’t hurt yourself!
2. Drink herbal tea
There are few things more soothing and relaxing than drinking a warm cup of fragrant, herbal tea in a beautiful mug while relaxing in a clean and cozy bed.
If you’re looking for healthier, more relaxing things to do in bed for a good night’s sleep, it’s time to incorporate this new habit into your bedtime routine.
Treat yourself. Don’t just buy a box of cheap tea at the grocery store. Make it a ritual.
Drinking tea is a pleasurable moment, why not treat it as such? Even better, why not associate this pleasurable moment with being in bed?
Pick a tea that is not only visually appealing but that also appeals to your taste buds and sense of smell.
I personally love what this Montreal-based company does. I had never really paid much attention to tea. That is until 1) I stopped drinking coffee, 2) came across their chamomile tea mix at a coffee shop, and 3) stepped into their brick-and-mortar store one cold November afternoon.
I mean, look at those colors!
And they taste and smell fantastic too!
So, no. I never really feel like getting in bed and doing the “good things” I should do. But as soon as I get into my clean sheet and smell my cup of tea, for a moment there everything feels better in the world.
3. Moisturize your hands (and feet)
One of the best things to do in bed at night is to pamper yourself like the queen (or king) you are.
This means doing the little self-care things that you probably neglect during the day.
I keep hand lotion and oil next to my bed at all times.
And so, before or after my tea, I will scoop some super hydrating lotion or oil and gently massage my hands and feet.
I pay careful attention to my wrists, the tip of my fingers, my heel, and my cuticles…
This is very relaxing. I also wake up with softer hands and they tend to retain moisture for longer during the next day.
4. Give yourself a foot massage
I run, walk a lot. Also, being in Canada, my feet spend an awful lot of time squished into thick socks and big boots.
Understandably, my feet have become a neglected area of self-care for me. So now, bedtime has become my new favorite moment to give my feet the TLC they so desperately need.
I take a few extra minutes to gently rub them in all the sensitive areas as I’m applying the lotion or oil.
Even just a 45-second foot massage leaves me a bit more relaxed and alleviates some of the tension I feel in my neck and shoulders.
5. Or try a scalp massage
I prefer to do this in the bathroom but every now and then I will give myself a quick scalp massage while sitting in bed.
I just use my fingertips and gently rub my scalp for a few seconds, making sure I massage the full area.
Try it. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and just feel your scalp coming to life while your body is relaxing at the same time.
When you’re done, you are left with that tingling sensation on your scalp that will leave you relaxed and one step closer to a good night’s sleep.
You don’t have to use oils to do this but oils can make the experience better.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been consistently using cold-pressed organic sesame seed oil and I love it but feel free to use whatever oil works best for you: coconut oil, argan oil, avocado oil, almond oil, etc.
I use the same oil for everything: face, lips, body, or hair, and it just makes my life easier. I just keep a small bottle of sesame seed oil next to my bed and I’m ready to go!
6. Try a reflexology finger-massage
A friend of mine gave this to me as a gift and it’s become one of my go-to “activities” to do in bed when trying to stay away from my phone and find calm.
A reflexology ring is used to massage your fingers by gently rolling it up and down each finger, from top to bottom. This is based on the belief that gentle manipulation of certain areas of your hands, feet, and ears can produce a positive effect in other areas of the body (Source: Saje).
I don’t know if it helps my other organs or not, but what I do know is that just a couple of minutes massaging my fingers with this ring while lying or sitting in bed helps me relax and unwind.
7. Listen to an audiobook or a podcast
If you want to distract yourself in bed and can’t sleep, I suggest grabbing an audiobook.
A physical book works too but I find that it tires my eyes.
Audiobooks are great! I can set a timer, say, for 45 minutes and simply enjoy a nice story with my eyes closed. When the time is up, the book automatically stops playing.
This allows me to relax and enjoy my book without worrying about falling asleep with the lights on (which makes me sleep poorly), or with my glasses on.
Again, I never feel like reading (unless I’ve built the habit), and I would much rather do something less “hard”, but that’s just my mind bullshitting me. The key is to just take the first step, to just start.
Another great thing to do in bed at night is to journal.
Grab a dedicated notebook or even just a notepad or sheet of paper and write down your thoughts, what happened during the day, how you’ve felt, what you ate, what you are thinking at this moment…
Writing is a great way to release all the tension you carry from the day and close a chapter.
Journaling in bed before sleep allows you to express all that energy you are still carrying within you and enter a calmer space once you’re done.
Related post: How to start journaling and why you should
Again, your head is probably telling you that you don’t feel like it, but that’s just your head talking.
Just take the next smallest step (i.e., find a notebook and a pen); and the next (arrange your pillows and sit comfortably in your bed); and the next (open your notebook and write 1 sentence), and the next, etc.
9. Express gratitude for 3 things
When you are sitting in bed at night wondering what to do with yourself, well, it’s a great time to express your gratitude for 3 things.
It can be anything really. You could be grateful for:
- The fact that you have a friend who called you today
- Or the fact that pandas exist. No, but seriously, that thing is a living teddy bear. OMG.
- Or that you were able to find fresh produce very easily just by stepping into a grocery store earlier today.
- Think you have nothing to be grateful for? Read this
- 26 Realistic daily rituals for a more grateful day
10. Decide what will be the first thing you will do tomorrow when you wake up
Another great thing you should be doing while in bed at night is to set at least one intention for the next morning.
As you reflect on your day and your goals and whether or not the day that just ended got you further or closer to these goals, decide right then and there on one thing you will do the next morning and commit to it.
I’m not a big fan of to-lists. I never get it all done and I just beat myself up about it.
However, if I decide (the night before) on just one, single, most important thing for me and I commit to doing it first thing in the morning, it makes me a lot more likely to actually do that thing and reach my target.
If instead, you were to start your morning by asking yourself a bunch of questions and reviewing a bunch of pros and cons, it would just kick off your anxiety as soon as you wake up, making you more likely to check out and enter auto-pilot/survival mode for the rest of the day.
11. Take a 30-second mindfulness break
Seriously, just 30 seconds to simply be present as you are sitting (or lying) in bed waiting for sleep. Nothing more, nothing less.
Just take a deep breath and bring your attention to something, anything, and leave it there for a few seconds.
Notice whatever it is that you are noticing: the sensation of your skin rubbing against your sheets, the noises that surround you, the tree outside your window, the fading sound of your neighbor’s music… or just your breath.
12. Bonus: try these ASMR videos
Now, I know I said that this was a list of things to do in bed that did not involve your phone but hear me out.
I have found ASMR videos such as this one to be as powerful as sleeping pills for me. There’s just something about them that relaxes me. Well, some of these videos do.
The problem is: I don’t watch the video; I just LISTEN to it. But so far, I’ve only found them on YouTube. So, what I’ll do, if I really cannot sleep and it’s getting late, I will pick a video and play it on my phone, leaving it on the pillow next to me, face down so I don’t get disturbed by the light of the screen.
Still, this is not ideal so I try not to do it often.
But in extreme cases, if I have bad insomnia and am anxious to just give up my good resolutions and zone out/go back to mindlessly consuming content to avoid my frustration, then I try ASMR videos and try to go to sleep.
There you have it! This self-care in bed routine helps keep my anxiety in check, improves my mood, and makes me more peaceful and way less scattered the next day, therefore, making me more likely to stick to healthier behaviors throughout the day.
I don’t do all of them every night but they constitute a good basis of healthier things I like to do in bed at night.