photo of person playing cards which is an example of a fun thing to do before bed

18 fun things to do before bed that won’t come back to bite your sleep

By Jason Wooden, PhD | March 26, 2022

Choosing the wrong fun things to do before bed can later sabotage your sleep.  As a general rule, avoid anything too stimulating, activities and foods that interfere with sleep, and bright electronic screens.

The good news is that there are plenty of sleep friendly fun ways to unwind – light reading, music, puzzles, playing with a pet, card games, scrap booking, and many other activities that can aid the transition to sleep.

You really want to avoid these pitfalls when looking for fun things to do before bed

Feeling a bit restless and looking for something fun to do before calling it a night?

Maybe you’ve had a busy day, you’re feeling wired, and just need something to help you wind down before turning out the lights.

Unfortunately, every night 1 in 3 adults struggle with getting adequate sleep.

Stress and anxiety are among the biggest challenges as they make it harder to fall asleep.  So, it’s certainly worth having some fun things to do before bed to help with the transition.

However, choosing the wrong evening activities, even if seemingly fun, can come back to bite you.  You may find it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and affect how much deep sleep you actually get.

What good is 30 minutes of fun if it leaves you even more wired up?

As a general rule, you want to avoid anything too stimulating and activities that interfere with sleep.

 

Here are some common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid:

Pitfall #1: Doing anything you can’t stop

This one is pretty obvious.

Some activities are so fun and engrossing it’s hard to call it quits.  You say to yourself “just 5 minutes more” which turns into 30 minutes or an hour.

Before you know it, you’ve stayed up way past your bedtime and you’re now wide awake…

Pitfall #2: Electronic screens

Night time electronics use has become a mainstay even in bedrooms.  Unfortunately, the bright light from computers, smart phones, tablets, and TV screens can wreck your natural sleep-wake cycle making it harder to feel sleepy.

It signals your brain it’s time to wake up.

Pitfall #3: Snacking on the wrong thing

We’ve all had a case of the light night munchies.  However, if you eat the wrong thing it can come back to bite you with a case of heart burn, an upset tummy, headaches, or wire you up.

On the list of things that will wreck your sleep are spicy foods, caffeinated foods, refined sugary carbs, fatty and high protein foods, and natural diuretics such as water melon.

Pitfall #4: Alcohol

Have you ever had a late-night glass of wine to help you relax and fall asleep?  Alcohol may be a fun complement to the evening and initially make you drowsy, but later in the night it can cause your sleep to be more shallow and rob you of the benefits of deep restorative sleep.

Pitfall #5: Cigarette smoking

Some people find it fun and relaxing to have a cigarette while hanging out in the evening.  Unfortunately, nicotine users are twice as likely to run into sleep trouble.

They’re also four times as likely as nonsmokers to wake up feeling unrested.

Pitfall #6: Loud racing music

Listening to the wrong type of music, even if it’s fun, will get your heart racing and make it harder to transition to sleep.

Pitfall #7: Social media

There’s so much to browse – you can spend hours online reading posts on Facebook, twitter, and other places.  Some of the stuff can really get you riled up.

And you’re looking at bright screens too.

Pitfall #8: You-tube

We all love YouTube because there’s so much interesting stuff right at your fingertips.  There’s always something new awaiting you in the suggested videos column.

And that’s what makes it so incredibly addictive and hard to stop watching at night.  Every night millions of bored people are binge watching YouTube and staying up WAY pass their bedtime.

It should be obvious by now why you want to avoid these pitfalls.  The fun is just not worth if it ruins your night.

The truth is we all need are sleep.   Sleep deprived people don’t think as clearly, have a harder time coping, and don’t perform as well at school or on the job.

Relationships and intimacy can suffer.

And chronic sleep loss puts you at risk for all sorts of health issues.

Let’s take a look at some SLEEP FRIENDLY fun things to do before bed and what else you SHOULD be doing for better nights.

What kind of fun things should I be looking to do before bed?

There are so many ways to pass the time at night.

It’s important to keep in mind that what you do in the evening can make or break your sleep.

Ideally, your bedtime routine should help relax your body and mind in preparation for sleep.  (Having a great pre-bedtime routine is an important part of sleep hygiene.)

Your body has a natural sleep-wake cycle that’s in tune with day and night.  Generally, you should be going to sleep when your body says it time to sleep.

Sleep experts say you should block off the last 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime for activities that will help you transition to sleep.  The goal is to be relaxed, content, and ready for sleep.

So, the fun things you do before bed should aid the transition to sleep – nothing that will get you or your body riled up, nothing you can’t stop doing, and nothing that can later disturb your sleep.

18 Fun and sleep-friendly things to do before bed

Now that you know what you’re really looking for, below you will find a list of some fun ways to the pass the time on those nights when you’re feeling restless, bored, or just need to unwind.

photo of person reading a book as a fun thing to do before bed

1) Light reading

An all-time favorite, reading can take your mind off of things.  Be sure to avoid those page turners that can keep you up too late.

photo of musical notes

2) Music

Another favorite, be sure to avoid the more heart pumping tunes and listen to something relaxing whether it’s classical or something else light.

 cartoon of person playing with dog as a fun thing to do before bed

3) Play with a pet

What can beat chilling out with a pet?  Whether it’s watching your cat chase the red dot from a laser pointer or playing fetch with Rover, there are plenty of fun things you can do with a pet before bed.

 photo of fish tank which many enjoy watching as a fun thing to do before bed

4) Watch your fish

Fish can be fun to watch as they can offer endless entertainment.  Fish tanks are also pretty relaxing which makes them a great way to unwind at the end of the day.

It’s no surprise you see them in the waiting room at the dentist and doctor.

photo of night sky seen through window

5) Watch the stars

If you’re room is setup so you can see the night sky from your bed, go for it!  Otherwise, grab a chair and find the perfect spot.

 photo of man playing his guitar as a fun thing to do before bed

6) Play a music instrument

Whether it’s a guitar or a piano, learning a new music instrument can be a fun way to chill out before bed.

7) Enjoy a sleep friendly snack

How about an evening chat over a warm cup of milk or herbal tea?  For snacks, you can try foods with natural sleep-promoting nutrients such as cherries, mixed nuts, almonds, or sliced turkey.

 photo of puzzle pieces on table

8) Work on a puzzle

Puzzles are a great way to get your mind off of things.

 photo of person playing cards as a fun thing to do before bed

9) Try a hand of solitaire

Like puzzles, a quick game of solitaire or another favorite card game can be a fun way to the pass the time.

 photo of photo album showing family pictures

10) Open up a photo album

Brushing off the dust and browsing through an old photo album can be enjoyable.

 photo of scrapbook which can be a fun thing to do before bed

11) Start a scrapbook

How about doing something with those old photos and other mementos laying around?

 photo of tree

12) Make a family tree

Tracing your family heritage can be a fun and rewarding project to work on during the evening.  (I have a quite a number of relatives who enjoy spending their evenings on Ancestry.com.)

It’s also a fun way to reconnect with relatives as you fill in the blanks…

 photo of person walking

13) Take an evening stroll

If you live in a safe neighborhood, an evening walk with a family member or roommate can be a fun way to unwind.  There’s also the added benefit that physical activity is natural mood booster and promotes sleep.

 photo of ear phones

14) Listen to a cool podcast

Podcasts can be inspiring, informative, and fun.  Like books or music, make sure the topic isn’t something that will get you riled up.

 photo of person knitting as a fun thing to do before bed

15) Do a craft project

If this is your thing, a craft project can be a fun way evening activity whether it’s painting, crocheting, or cross-stitching.

  photo of lady watching the fire place as a fun thing to do before bed

16) Hang out by the fireplace

I’m don’t know what’s so fun and relaxing about watching those flames, but it’s a time tested way to unwind in the evening.

17) Plan your next trip

Studies have found that planning a trip can be just as enjoyable as the trip itself.  Thinking about the possibilities and researching cool things to do can be pretty fun.

18) Create a movie list

Come up with a list of movies you’ve been meaning to see.  It’s fun watching the previews and you’ll won’t have to waste time figuring out what you want to watch when you get a free evening.

Other things you should be doing for better nights

Okay, we’ve talked about the do’s and don’ts for when you’re looking for fun things to do before bed.

And I’ve mentioned how your evening activities should fit into your bedtime routine to help you better transition to sleep.

There are other rules related to sleep hygiene that will help keep your sleep-wake cycle on track:

  • avoid naps
  • exercise during the day
  • get outside for natural daylight during the day
  • avoid large meals, alcohol, or stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime
  • keep your sleep environment dark, cool, quiet, and relaxing

If poor sleep has become an ongoing issue for you, be sure to see a doctor.

There’s a long list of health issues that can cause problems for sleep including chronic pain, heartburn, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and asthma.  You may also be living with an undiagnosed sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

Sources:

1. “1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep”, CDC website

2. Insomnia in Adults: The Impact of Earlier Cigarette Smoking from

3. “Smoking Linked To Sleep Disturbances”, 2008, ScienceDaily

4. “Exercise and Sleep”, 2022, Sleepfoundation.org

5. “Why Planning A Trip Is Good For You Even When You Can’t Travel”, 2021, Medium

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