We often hear about perfecting a morning/rising routine to set the tone for a productive and purposeful day, but how often do we hear about the importance of a nighttime routine? Well, it’s just as important, if not more so! How we prepare to wind down for the night often determines the quality of our sleep, how quickly we can fall asleep, and the state in which we rise the following morning.
Our society has encouraged the hustle mentality for too long – championing those of us who run on less sleep to maximize productivity. It’s a harmful way of thinking and it’s not accurate! To be at our highest level of productivity, we need quality rest. Rest and rejuvenation is productive in itself.
Let’s talk about the steps you can take and routines you can implement to end your days in a peaceful and relaxing way.
Ideas for Winding Down at Night
- Make an effort to remember everything that happened throughout the day. This is a great exercise for sharpening memory and it helps us to organize our thoughts. As you do this, you’ll be surprised at how much happened and how much you might have missed without revisiting the memory! One caveat, if something upsetting happened during the day make sure not to dwell upon it before bed as that will definitely keep you in the wakeful state.
- Write down three things that went well and one thing you can improve upon. This works in tandem with a gratitude practice to boost optimism. Celebrate your wins while also planning for improvement! If you do this within 30 minutes of falling asleep, the optimism is more likely to be solidified in the subconscious mind as it is likely you are already slipping into the Hypnoidal State where the thoughts and concepts can bypass the normal critical filtering mechanism.
- Make your to-do list for tomorrow. So much of what keeps us awake at night is anxiety about what’s to come. When we make a plan ahead of time and can see our tasks written down, that’s half the battle! Try to stick to six points or less to avoid overwhelming yourself before bed. You may also want to prepare your lunch for work the next day, choose your outfit for the next day and/or gather any work out wear or other things you might need in the morning.
- Have a cup of tea. Chamomile tea is great for relaxation! In fact, chamomile is commonly regarded as a mild tranquilizer or sleep inducer. Its calming effects may be attributed to an antioxidant called apigenin, which is found in abundance in chamomile tea. Apigenin binds to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep.
- Take a bath – with Epsom salt ideally! Choose a scent that will relax you, like lavender, and feel your stress melt away. Taking a bath is not only good for our mental health, it’s also a great way to detox the body physically.
- “Your skin releases endorphins in response to the soothing warm water the same way that endorphins are released when you feel the sun on your skin,” says Dr. Bobby Buka, a dermatologist based in New York. He explains that submerging ourselves in hot water can be both therapeutic and reinvigorating because blood flow increases to the skin.
- Turn off your phone an hour before you go to sleep. Studies show that technology and screen time seriously affect our sleeping patterns and lead to unhealthy responses in the body. When we stare at a bright screen in the dark, our melatonin production is delayed which results in us having an off-kilter sleep schedule. Try to switch over to reading at night or winding down in a way that doesn’t include your phone or any technology with that bright light.
- Meditate. This is perhaps the most beneficial thing you can do for yourself. There are so many wonderful guided meditations out there for sleep – we are loving Michael Sealy on YouTube! Meditation helps us to slow down our breathing, clear the mind, and deeply relax.
- Enjoy some gentle stretching before bed. Light a candle, play some relaxing music and take some time to move the body in a way that feels good. Work out the kinks, apply some scented lotion and massage the muscles if that feels good, or gently work on increasing your flexibility while winding down.
Finally, make an effort to stick to the same sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and rise at the same time every morning, or at least within 30 minutes of the usual time. This will train your brain to switch to sleep mode at the right time and allow for deeper rest while you are sleeping. You could liken this concept to the relationship between our appetite and the times we eat during the day. For example, if we eat regular meals at approximately the same time every day, our body will be hungry at those times. However, if we skip meals or snack in between meals, our body systems will become confused and be hungry at irregular times that may not be as convenient for us.
It is important to note that a good sleep is a habit. Rituals, repetition and familiar associations promote habits which is why creating a system to transition to sleep can be helpful, especially for those of us who may have sleep disruption or insomnia issues. However, being too rigid about your schedule or rituals, feeling you can never stray from them or trying too hard to get just the right ritual or routine in place, can sometimes be counterproductive. Explore what helps you wind down and relax. Do what you enjoy, or like, otherwise you fall into the trap of “trying to fall asleep”. As we know, sleep is the one thing that you can’t “try” to do. In other areas of our lives, the harder we try and the more we invest in something, the more improvement and success we see. Not so with sleep, unfortunately!
If you are someone who deals with sleep issues on a more intense level, check out my online course, ‘Six Weeks to Better Sleep’.