By Steph Eckelkamp
Morning routines get all the hype—and yes, they can definitely help set the tone for a balanced, productive day. But a great nighttime routine can offer some pretty significant and unique benefits of its own, especially for immune health.
Studies show that people who get more sleep and better quality sleep are consistently less likely to become sick after exposure to a rhinovirus—the type of infection that causes the common cold. People who experience poor sleep have greater circulating levels of stress hormones, which seem to impair functioning of various immune cells, including T-cells, that are needed to fight off foreign invaders.
In other words, creating a simple nighttime routine with rituals, habits, and foods that curb stress, promote relaxation, and help you mentally prepare for the next day (so you can spend less time dwelling on to-dos as you try to drift off to dreamland) may be one of the best ways to naturally support your body’s immune system.
Try out this simple 5-step routine for optimal sleep and immunity:
1. Take an essential oil-infused bath an hour before bed.
On the nights you have time, a relaxing soak is the perfect way to prime your body for optimal sleep. Not only does it help melt away stress, but the drop in body temperature you experience when you get out of a hot bath actually causes you to feel drowsy and fall asleep faster than you normally would.
For an added dose of calm, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your bath. (Just be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil like olive oil first.) Or, if you’re taking a shower, sprinkle a few drops along the outer edge of your shower so the hot water can diffuse the aroma. Research suggests the scent of lavender helps you fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality.
Other calming essential oils include chamomile, cedarwood, ylang ylang, frankincense, and marjoram. No time for a bath or shower? Just diffuse one of these essential oils in your bedroom instead.
2. Set out your supplements + workout gear for the next morning.
A little evening planning can make for productive, streamlined mornings. If working out is a chore, set out your workout clothes at night. That way, when you wake up there’s a visual trigger to get active. Prioritizing regular exercise not only boosts fitness levels, it curbs stress, enhances sleep quality, and supports overall immunity, too.
The same goes for supplements! If you can’t remember to take them consistently (and really, who can?), then set them out on your kitchen counter in a small bowl before you go to bed. Supplements aren’t a magic bullet for immune health, but if you’re already eating a nutrient-dense diet, supplements may provide the extra edge you need to ward off an illness.
Consider supplements containing medicinal mushrooms such as cordyceps, reishi, maitake, shiitake, turkey tail, and royal sun agaricus (all of which you can find in Youtheory® Immune+ Daily Wellness, along with 100% of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc.). These mushrooms contain compounds called beta-glucans, which may stimulate our innate immune system, and they’ve been shown to have antiviral and immune-enhancing properties.
3. Do a “brain dump” journaling exercise.
Do a “brain dump” journaling exercise to purge any anxious thoughts. This is a great idea if you’re overwhelmed with work and other responsibilities. Research has found that pre-bed journaling is associated with reduced bedtime stress and worry, increased sleep duration, and better sleep quality.
Simply take 5-10 minutes to write down a to-do list for the following day or week. Add notes on anything else that’s been nagging at you, plus a simple step you can take to address the issue. This won’t change your reality, but getting your thoughts down on paper can help keep them from bouncing around your head at night and interfering with sleep. It can also help you feel more in control of your situation and allow you to prioritize what needs to be done so you experience less stress the following day.
4. Sip on a warm, calming beverage.
You probably know from experience: Warm beverages can have a calming and comforting effect, provided they’re not caffeinated. Nearly any herbal tea will do the trick (lemon balm, tulsi, ginger, chamomile), especially when paired with Youtheory® Sleep Powder, which features amino acids, calming magnesium and a micro-dose of melatonin (to replicate the amount normally produced by the body each night).
For an extra dose of calm, try passionflower tea. Often underrated, passionflower tea has a pleasant floral, ever-so-slightly grassy flavor. It makes a delicious, soothing nightcap—especially with a teaspoon of honey swirled in. But beyond that, it has legitimate, science-backed relaxation benefits: Passionflower is known to be a mild herbal sedative that’s believed to work by boosting levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that blocks specific signals in the central nervous system. Small studies have shown that passionflower tea promotes more restful sleep, while passionflower extract has been found to ease symptoms of anxiety.
5. Hop in bed and try this simple breathing technique.
After you’ve accomplished steps 1-4 on this list, you’ll probably feel pretty zen. But to settle any remaining nerves, try a simple guided meditation or breathing exercise. Consider downloading a highly rated app like Headspace, Calm, or Insight, which can guide you through meditations and breathing exercises of various duration and themes.
Or, for something ultra-simple, do five minutes of diaphragmatic breathing. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose and notice the hand on your belly rise. Pause for a brief moment, then exhale through your mouth and notice the hand on your belly fall. Repeat this about 20 times, or until you feel nice and calm. Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” system), which promotes relaxation.