While the afternoon is probably several hours away from your normal bedtime, how you spend it could basically have a ripple effect on the sleepiness hormone melatonin and wakefulness hormone cortisol that are coursing through your body.
There are a few activities you could do in the afternoon to help make sure you feel sleepy at bedtime and not any earlier than that.
3 things to do in the afternoon to sleep more soundly during the night
1. Do 30 minutes (or more) of exercise.
You might not be too surprised to know that increasing your heart rate with a cardio work out during the afternoon could make you sleepier when it’s time for bedtime. But the sleep-enhancing benefits of exercise extend this further: Not only does performing physical activity make you much likely to fall asleep more easily, but it will also help you get even more of that deep-wave sleep that the body needs for restoration, said Dr. Holliday-Bell.
Because the act of working out can be stimulating in the moment, it is often more helpful to exercise during the afternoon or morning time for better sleep, instead of doing it close to your bedtime. And bonus points if you are able to take that workout outdoors, where you will also be exposure to the helpful natural light.
2. Take a power nap before 2pm.
Almost every instance of napping during the day can disrupt your nighttime sleep cycle—except for this one. Particularly if you are sleep-deprived, a “20-min nap in the early afternoon could be refreshing and help boost alertness for a few hours,” says Shelby Harris. Once it is bedtime, you will not have quite as much sleep that you have to make up for, which can help calm the all-too-common spike in anxious thoughts about whether you will get enough sleep overall.
3. Skip the afternoon coffee.
A pick-me-up espresso may be so tempting. But it is best to keep any caffeine consumption to the morning time and reach for a snack that has energizing ingredients instead if that afternoon slump were to hit. “Caffeine has a half-life of around five hours,” said Dr. Holliday-Bell, “which means that even after five hours, half of what you consumed will still be in your system.” If you do the math, and it is clear that even a 2 p.m. coffee could have a stimulating effect that lasts well into the night—which might get in the way of your ability to go to sleep.