Don't Count Sheep: Better Bedtime Rituals From mediation to melatonin to putting on a pair of socks, we all have routines to help us reach that blissful state of slumber. These are the ones that work:

- Forget sheep. Instead, use mental imagery — picturing a walk in the woods or a stroll on a beach — to help relax.
- Relaxation and meditation apps can help you unwind.
- Melatonin supplements might ease your way into sleep, but too much melatonin could disrupt it.
- Over-the-counter sleep medications may knock you out, but they won't result in effective sleep.
- If young kids wake you in the wee hours, don't react in a way that increases their stress — but do find strategies that make it no fun to be up.
- Sleep rituals are personal. If you believe in yours, that might be all you need.
NPR logo

Don't Count Sheep: Better Bedtime Rituals

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/705224709/714276409" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Don't Count Sheep: Better Bedtime Rituals

Don't Count Sheep: Better Bedtime Rituals

Don't Count Sheep: Better Bedtime Rituals

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/705224709/714276409" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

From meditation to melatonin to putting on a pair of socks, we all have routines to help us reach that blissful state of slumber. Gary John Norman/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Gary John Norman/Getty Images

From meditation to melatonin to putting on a pair of socks, we all have routines to help us reach that blissful state of slumber.

Gary John Norman/Getty Images

From mediation to melatonin to putting on fuzzy socks, we all have routines to help us reach that blissful state of slumber. These are the ones that work.*

Here's what to remember:

  • Forget sheep. Instead, use mental imagery — picturing a walk in the woods or a stroll on a beach — to help relax.
  • Relaxation and meditation apps can help you unwind.  
  • Melatonin supplements might ease your way into sleep, but too much melatonin could disrupt it. Remember, too, that melatonin is a supplement and not regulated the way drugs are, and not all brands contain the amount listed on the bottle.
  • Over-the-counter sleep medicines may knock you out, but they won't result in effective sleep. Some prescriptions medications interfere with sleep, so check with your doctor on those.
  • If young kids wake you in the wee hours, don't react in a way that increases their stress — but do find strategies that make it no fun to be up.
  • Keep your bedroom cool. Your core body temperature needs to drop by about 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit to initiate good sleep and then maintain deep sleep.

We spoke with neuroscientist Matthew Walker, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Why We Sleep. We also spoke with neurologist and sleep researcher Chris Winter, who practices in Charlottesville, Va.

*Sleep rituals are personal, so if you believe in yours and they work for you, they might be all you need.