While you were working, your day was likely dictated by a series of routines.
You woke up at a certain time, brushed your teeth, showered, ate breakfast, and headed off to work.
Once you were at work, you have a series of tasks that you complete throughout the day. And when the workday was over, you probably had a set of routines that you followed, like eating dinner and unwinding with your favorite TV show.
For retirees, however, the structure of the day is often much different. Without set workplace obligations, many retirees find themselves with an unstructured day.
We do most of our “sinning” in the evenings. We’re more likely to eat unhealthy foods, drink alcohol, and stay up late watching TV.
This is especially true if you’re retired, and you know there’s no need to wake up early tomorrow.
But just because you’re retired, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold yourself accountable to a reliable daily structure.
Even though there’s nothing wrong with relaxing in the evenings, it’s crucial to find a healthy balance between rest and meaningful activity. Just like morning routines, evening routines are an essential part of your day.
To keep you from letting your health slide, we dive into the four healthy evening routine ideas, plus we’ve got a 5-hour evening routine checklist for you.
But first, let’s quickly cover some benefits of an evening routine for retirees and older adults.
4 Benefits of an Evening Routine
#1 Promotes better sleep
A healthy evening routine improves your sleep. Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for physical and mental health.
Unfortunately, as you get older, your sleep patterns often change, and you may find yourself tossing and turning at night instead of getting the restful slumber you need.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults over the age of 65 need 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
And an evening routine can help you achieve this by reducing distractions and encouraging a regular bedtime.
#2 Boosts mental clarity
When you dedicate time to winding down at the end of the day, you give your mind space to process what has happened and prepare for the next day.
Processing life helps you feel more refreshed and energized in the morning so your days start on the right foot, instead of from a backlog of events from previous days.
Plus, when you’re well-rested, you’re better able to focus and concentrate throughout the day, as sleep deprivation greatly impacts your cognitive performance.
#3 Helps maintain healthy habits
There’s nothing worse than trying to stick to a healthy habit and failing miserably. It’s even harder when you’re trying to establish a new healthy evening routine.
But there’s good news: research indicates that it’s easier to stick to healthy habits when they’re part of a routine.
Habits are formed in four steps: cue, craving, response, and reward. Try to consciously change your response to a cue. The more you do something, the more likely you are to keep doing it.
What’s more, the evening is typically a time when you’re more relaxed and don’t have the energy to exert self-control, so it doesn’t hurt to have healthy evening habits to fall back on.
#4 Reduces stress & anxiety
Evening routines are also great for managing stress. Many people find comfort in routines and rituals. There’s something reassuring about knowing what to expect, especially when you’re dealing with unknowns or difficult changes in your life.
In fact, research suggests that both humans and animals benefit from having regular routines or rituals.
An evening routine can be a great way to anchor yourself in the present moment and provide a sense of normalcy and stability when everything else might feel uncertain.
So, are you ready to start incorporating some healthy evening routines into your life?
Great, here are four top ideas to get you started.
4 Healthy Evening Routine Ideas for Older Adults
#1 Eat a Light Dinner
After a long day, it can be tempting to just plop down on the couch with whatever junk food is within reach. But if you want to avoid indigestion, heartburn, and other unpleasant side effects of eating a heavy meal before bed, you’re better off sticking to something light.
If you eat a heavy meal, your body will still be working hard to digest it when you lie down to go to bed. This can lead to restless nights and less-than-optimal rest. On the other hand, if you eat a light dinner, your body will have an easier time winding down and preparing for sleep.
On top of that, try not to eat too late in the day. Research suggests late dinners may cause weight gain. Just take a look at how the glucose levels spiked significantly more after the late dinner.
By focusing on lean protein and veggies, avoiding fluid before bed, and not eating too close to lights out, you can create a delicious and satisfying meal that won’t leave you feeling weighed down. So give it a try tonight and see how much better you sleep.
#2 Organize Your Space
There’s nothing quite like waking up to a tidy and organized home. No mess, no stress — just peace and tranquility.
But let’s be honest, getting to that point can sometimes be a bit of a challenge.
Before you go to bed, take a few minutes to walk around your house and pick up any items that are out of place. Doing a quick sweep like this every night will help keep your space tidy.
While you’re putting away loose items, take a few minutes to wipe down surfaces and put your dishes away in the dishwasher.
By investing minimal effort and making a micro-step like this part of your evening routine, you can help keep your home (and mind) stress-free, neat, and tidy throughout the day.
#3 Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Our third tip is all about consistency — especially with your sleep schedule.
Most of us let our bedtimes slide too often. We stay up a little later to watch our favorite show. Maybe scroll through social media for an extra half hour. We think, “It’s no big deal. I’ll just sleep in tomorrow.”
But research shows that maintaining a consistent bedtime is essential for your overall health and well-being — especially as you age.
In fact, going to bed just half an hour later than usual can significantly increase your resting heart rate the following day.
In other words, inconsistency may increase your risk of cardiovascular health.
To make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye, one of the best things you can do is maintain a regular sleep schedule.
Yes, even on the weekends. Sleeping in may seem like a tempting way to catch up on lost rest, but doing so can actually make it harder to fall asleep at your usual bedtime the following night.
Which is why it’s essential to stick to a set bedtime and wake-up time as much as possible.
Of course, life happens, and there will be times when you can’t stick to your usual routine. But if you allow your on-time sleep schedule and evening routine to settle in, you’ll find that you feel more rested and energized during the day and more likely to stick to your healthy sleep habits in the long run.
#4 Enjoy Mindful Activities
Right before bed, start to wind down with mindful activities. After a while, it’ll become a cue to your body and mind that it’s time for bed.
Not sure what kinds of mindful activities will work best for you? Start by trying these 10 simple mindfulness exercises and take note of which activities make you feel most relaxed.
For instance, if you’re someone who loves being active, choose a mindful activity that gets you moving, like stretching or doing some light yoga for older adults.
If you prefer to stay passive, listening to music or reading might be more your speed. If you opt for reading, pick up a book instead of an e-reader since it might impact your sleep quality poorly.
Whatever you choose, be sure to stay in the present moment. With time, mindfulness will help you feel more relaxed and calm as you prepare for a restful night’s sleep. And that’s precisely what a healthy evening routine should do.
Evening Routine Checklist for Older Adults
What you do in the hours before bed can have a significant impact on how well you sleep and how rested you feel in the morning. Here’s a per-hour checklist you can follow to ensure you maintain a healthy evening routine.
5 Hours Before Bed: Stop Caffeine Intake
If you’re like most people, you probably enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in the morning to help you wake up and get going. However, caffeine can have a disruptive effect on your sleep if you drink it too close to bedtime.
That means if you’re having a cup of coffee at 4 pm, it could still be affecting your sleep at 9 pm. So, if you want to improve your sleep, it’s best to cut out caffeine entirely in the afternoon and evening. There are other ways to increase energy throughout the day without caffeine.
4 Hours Before Bed: No Heavy Meals
Your body needs time to digest food, so try to finish your dinner at least four hours before bedtime. As we already mentioned, a light evening meal is best, so you don’t go to bed feeling too full or too hungry.
If you get hungry before bed, try eating a few complex carbs like fiber-rich fruits or whole grains. It’ll help you fall asleep without causing digestive problems that may keep you up.
3 Hours Before Bed: Get Organized
Get a head start on tomorrow by getting organized. Set aside a quiet time to create your to-do list, review your calendar for the next day, and make any preparations you need in advance. This will give you peace of mind as you get ready for bed.
Plus, it’ll help you avoid decision fatigue the following day. By getting organized in the evening, you won’t have to expend brain energy on low-priority and unimportant tasks like choosing your outfit or deciding what to eat for breakfast.
2 Hours Before Bed: Start Winding Down
With less than 2 hours before bed, it’s time to start winding down with relaxing activities.
Find ways to indulge in some self-care before hitting the hay. For example, you might take a bath or shower with soothing products like lavender-scented shampoo and body wash. Or try meditating, using guided audio, or a chair yoga routine to calm your mind and body before sleep.
Indulge in some self-care and try to focus on activities that nourish your spiritual, psychological, and emotional self.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that promotes relaxation and helps you let go of stress and anxiety. This will help ensure that you get the restorative sleep your body needs to function at its best.
1 Hour Before Bed: No Screen Time
Studies show that the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness.
To aid your body in producing adequate levels of melatonin and to help you fall asleep more easily, try turning off all screens at least one hour before bed.
You might also consider using a program like F.lux, which filters out blue light in the evening hours and reduces glare on your computer screen. By making these adjustments to your evening routine, you can help ensure a restful and rejuvenating sleep each night.
Form Healthy Habits
By incorporating a few healthy habits into your evening routine, you can turn it from a time of mindless indulgence into a period of rejuvenation and relaxation.
The key to forming healthy evening routines is to start with small habits using the power of micro-stepping and then build them up gradually until they become second nature.
To recap our four enjoyable evening routine ideas:
- #1 Eat a light dinner — aim for healthy, filling foods that help promote restful sleep
- #2 Organize your space — a clean and decluttered home is one of the key factors in a healthy, restful evening routine
- #3 Maintain a regular sleep schedule — setting a consistent bedtime, and sticking to it as much as possible, is the best way to ensure that you are getting the rest you need
- #4 Enjoy mindful activities — spending some time doing something relaxing and focused, like reading a book or practicing yoga, can help you unwind from the day and transition into the evening
And you can use the 5-hour evening routine checklist as a guide to design your own healthy routine:
- 5 hours before bedtime — stop drinking caffeine
- 4 hours before bedtime — stop eating
- 3 hours before bedtime — prepare for tomorrow
- 2 hours before bedtime — start winding down
- 1 hour before bedtime — turn off all screens