Bedtime Routine for Better Sleep
Winter Break just ended for me. I was dreading the Sunday night before going back to work because I needed to get good sleep but I knew that my racing mind would probably prevent me from doing that.
To be clear, my job is not what causes me to lose sleep. Working with kids is my passion. What causes me to lose sleep is me thinking about different things at the most inopportune times. Like, when I randomly wake up at 2:00 AM and start thinking about what I have to do the next day, why I made a purchase of something I didn't need, what I forgot to do the day before, e.t.c.
I had to make sure I did my bedtime routine (listed below) so that I could sleep that Sunday night and be present the next morning.
I didn't always have a bedtime routine.
When I was younger, I slept through anything. Regardless of how noisy a room was, I was able to fall asleep. I was able to take naps during the day and then sleep more at night. The older I got, the more my sleep suffered.
I LOVE sleep and NEED at least 8 hours of sleep to be able to function. There was a period of time where it was so hard for me to stay asleep and fall asleep. On top of all of that, I am a light sleeper so the slightest noise would startle me or wake me up. I did not get diagnosed with it but I definitely felt like I was experiencing insomnia. I would wake up thinking about work, things I needed to do, things that did not matter or random memories.
It was unbearable.
There were definitely moments where I cried because of how tired I was. I felt frazzled. I HAD to sleep and needed to figure it out. Some of my friends were experiencing similar issues with their sleep. It was helpful to know that I was not alone in this sleep struggle.
My therapist suggested that I go to Pharmaca to see what natural sleep supplements I would be able to take. Some of the herbal supplements I tried worked but I didn't want my body to get dependent on them so I stopped. When I was at Pharmaca, one of their employees suggested that I count my breaths when I am having trouble falling asleep. If I mess up the count, I start again. This was helpful because it allowed me to focus on my breath and nothing else.
Bedtime Yogi Tea, has been my best friend when it comes to my sleep troubles. This tea has valerian, skullcap and lavender, so it helped me with falling asleep. The only downfall of the tea (or any tea) is that I would have to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. Some nights I was able to fall right back asleep, other nights it took me a while before I was able to fall asleep. During these nights, I tried my breathing trick that is mentioned above.
During this difficult time, I was introduced to Insight Timer, which is a free mindfulness app. Before going to bed, I used the app hoping that it would ease anxious feelings that were coming up throughout the night. At first, I was skeptical because I didn't think it would actually help me. I tried some guided meditation for sleep and it worked! The meditation allowed me to relax and let go of whatever thoughts came across my mind during that time. It was so helpful that it inspired me to practice meditation in the mornings to ground myself before starting my day. There were a few meditations that I had to try out before finding one the worked for me. This is similar to counting breaths; however, the meditations guide me to let go of anything that I may be holding.
Mindfulness plays a role in me being able to fall asleep but this is not the only thing that helps.
One hour before going to sleep, I stop watching TV. Watching tv before going to bed is too much stimulation for my racing mind. This is a way that I am able to calm the mind and myself.
In the bedroom, I turn on the essential oil diffuser and add lavender oil to it. This fills the room with a relaxing smell in preparation for sleep. The lavender oil allows my body to relax and get ready for bed.
I strategically use different lights and lamps in the bedroom. Bright lights throw off my relaxation mode so I use string lights when it is time to go to bed. The lights are placed around the perimeter of the room and I turn them on as I get ready to sleep because of the warm glow.
My Himalayan Salt Lamp has a beautiful glow and I LOVE it. It is said that it has many benefits, including helping with anxiety so I leave it on a very dim setting when I am sleeping.
Now to my favorite part of my night.
If I have a stressful day or week, I will take a bath and use lavender epsom salt, night time baby wash (I have sensitive skin), and some essential oils. Baths relax me and I recently read that they are super helpful for sleep.
According to "Eat Pretty Every Day" by Jolene Hart,
" Just ten minutes in the bath prepares you for a deep and restful night of beauty sleep. Your skin has a strong power to absorb, so any precious essential oils, salts, or herbs that you use in your bath will work their therapeutic magic both inside and outside of your body...When you leave the water, the subsequent drop in body temperature send you into a sleep-ready state of calm."
The nights that I do take baths I sleep well so I can attest to this. Sometimes, I will read in the tub, meditate or do nothing at all, if that is what is needed. Because I do not want to use the bright lights in the bathroom, I light candles. The candles provide just enough light in the room and signals to my brain that it is time to go to sleep.
Most nights, I take a warm shower, get in my pajamas, read a book or even color in bed. A warm shower is definitely not a bath but it does help the body relax.
The last addition to my bedtime routine is Sleepy Lotion by Lush. The lotion has lavender in it, which allows me to go to bed smelling great and carrying the relaxing scent throughout the night.
When I am done with all of the above, I turn off my lights and go to sleep.
*This routine takes some time for me to complete so I start about an hour before my actual bedtime.*
This may not work for everyone since we are all different. If you have trouble sleeping it is important to figure out what works best for you.
Think about the following:
- What relaxes you?
- What is happening right before you go to bed?
- What do you think about right before bed OR when you wake up in the middle of the night?
- What can you cut out of your evening that is causing you stress?
Some general suggestions for those who have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or need help relaxing before bed:
- Change the lighting in your space. Dimming the lights can help with giving your body a signal that it is time to go to sleep.
- Drink some chamomile, lavender, lemon balm or an herbal tea to help you relax.
- Do not do work at home. Make your home a sacred space for you. (I had to stop doing this a long time ago since this would cause so much anxiety for me).
- Use an adult coloring book before going to bed so that you can unwind.
- Do some light reading. My favorites are "How to Relax" by Thich Nhat Han and "1,001 Ways to Live in the Moment" by Barbara Ann Kipfer.
- Try Journaling, if you have too much on your mind.
- Try not to watch television, use your computer or be on your phone at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
- If you have an oil diffuser, add some lavender oil or some calming blends before going to bed.
- Use a mindfulness app to find some sleep meditations that work best for you.
- Do some light stretching to relax your body.
- Take a warm shower or bath before going to bed. I suggest using a lavender soap/ body wash, if possible.
I hope this was helpful and you find your self sleeping well soon!