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5 ways to give your nightly wind-down routine a healthy boost


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Everyone has at least one superpower—if not several. McKel Hill’s happens to be a good one. The Nashville-based RDN, coach, and recipe genius behind the food blog Nutrition Stripped winnows complicated subjects down to easy-to-understand basics. What’s more, she proves that prioritizing wellness can be easy…and fun! Here, the Well+Good Council member shares her advice on preparing yourself for seriously dreamy zzz’s.

As a dietitian and nutrition coach, and as someone who is very serious about my sleep, I talk about nighttime routines just as much as setting up the morning for success. Sleeping well is a vital part of living well, so here are some tips on making the most out of your evening routine—from planning to food choices—to help you hit the hay.

Scroll down to for 5 things that can give your wind-down ritual a healthy boost.

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1. Plan your routine

This may sound more difficult than it really is, but take a pen and paper and map out your evening in an ideal world. Obviously, we have external circumstances, social engagements, or other activities that may cause us to veer from our ideal routine, but having a roadmap will help serve as a compass to stay on track.

I find it helpful to build goals around existing habits that are integrated into your lifestyle, like brushing your teeth. You should be doing this already each night, so tack on another goal before or after that ingrained habit. For example, you could make this part of your evening routine: “After I brush my teeth, I’ll spend five minutes journaling about things I’m grateful for while drinking some hot tea, then put my journal away before hitting the bed to sleep.”

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2. What brings you joy? Do more of that to unwind!

I find joy in simple things like making a pot of hot tea and reading a chapter in a book (mostly self-development or professional development) while cuddling our pup. That helps me unwind from the day and puts life in perspective. Write down the things, people, activities, and situations that bring you joy. Then ask yourself how you can incorporate this into your evening routine. Maybe for you, it’s cooking a nice dinner, having a meaningful conversation with an old friend, visiting family, or going to the park solo.

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3. Eat a nutrient-dense nighttime meal

The nighttime routine really starts with dinner and nourishing your body with good food—and by good, I mean healthy and delicious. Most of my dinners are warm, cooked foods like a vegetable stir-fry with high-quality protein (tempeh, fish, eggs, lentils, etc.), curry with rice or potatoes, Nourish Bowls with roasted or steamed vegetables, or stews and soups. This is just personal preference, but the goal is to make food that not only nourishes you, but also makes you feel good!

My body gravitates toward warming foods from a spice perspective (i.e., ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, peppers, etc.) and from a temperature perspective (cooked foods can also be easier for some people to digest). Make meals that call to you. Remember, food isn’t just about nourishing on a cellular level, but also on a full well-being level (emotional, mental, pleasurable).

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advice on sleeping well
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4. Get your minerals

Magnesium can help improve sleep quality and improve our bodies’ reaction to stress. Magnesium is one of many minerals we as a society are chronically low in, whether it’s due to stress, environmental exposures, or digestive issues. (Your magnesium could also be low if you’re an athlete who sweats a lot.) I enjoy using this powdered magnesium drink whenever I feel I didn’t get a restful sleep the night before. If you try magnesium, always check with your doctor first and use sparingly—magnesium is also used to move digestion along, so too much of it means you’ll be uncomfortable the next day!

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aromatherapy for sleeping
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5. Try aromatherapy

We all know the power of scent—how it can be calming just as much as it can be invigorating. I love using lavender essential oils in a diffuser that we have stationed by the bed. Try lavender, eucalyptus, chamomile, rose, or whatever scent makes you feel relaxed. 

McKel Hill, RDN, is a registered dietician nutritionist and the founder of Nutrition Stripped, which treats healthy food as more than just fuel—and gives expert advice on using its nutrients and flavors to make you feel amazing.

What should McKel write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to [email protected]