I love to sleep. I do. When I snuggle myself into my well-curated bed, I often think, “Sleep is the best gift given to humanity.” So yeah, I’m a fan.
I am also one of those blessed people who fall asleep as soon as the head hits the pillow. Don’t be jealous. I wasn’t always this way. Becoming an Olympian sleeper doesn’t happen overnight (excuse the play-on-words). I used to approach my bed with fear. What if I don’t fall asleep? What if I do but wake up an hour later to stare at the ceiling? These thoughts haunted me and contributed to my lack of sleep.
The good news is, I went from nervous sleeper to champion snoozer, and so can you. Here are a few bedtime rituals that will help you unwind, relax, and prep your mind and body for some serious Zzzzzzz.
I’ll get the unpopular advice out of the way first. Listen, I get it. I’m binging everything as well while scrolling through Instagram on my phone and checking tomorrow’s weather on the computer. Everybody does it. Unfortunately, this behavior messes with our sleep. There are a plethora of reasons to step away from the screen before bed. How many times have you found yourself on YouTube into the wee hours of the night? Plus, taking in so much blue light tells the brain, “We’re cool. Let’s keep going.” Time to turn off all of the distractions. Try 30 minutes at first, but work up to an hour.
Sure, every day feels the same during quarantine, but there are still things that need to be done: paying bills, that call with a client, a grocery store run, etc. Before you lay your head to sleep, make a to-do list, no matter how arbitrary the task. To make myself feel better, I add work out, meditate, and write. Sure, they’re a part of my morning ritual, but having it on paper and crossing it off the next day is so satisfying.
Vigorous exercise before bed can hinder an early “lights out,” but stretching before bed is a great way to end the day. Taking the time to stretch let’s your body know that it’s time to wind down. Find some space to spread out and do what feels natural or find recommendations online.
Mindfulness is sweeping the nation, and if you haven’t given it a shot, now is the time. When I discuss meditation with some friends, they complain that they can’t meditate because their minds won’t let them. Spoiler Alert – We can all meditate. I was given some advice that stuck with me, so it may help you as well. It is not necessary to clear one’s mind of all thoughts during meditation. Instead, recognize the ideas as they come, and then let them go. It’s a humbling exercise. If you’re new to mediation, I highly recommend an app to help guide you. Go check out Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm. Not only do these apps have hundreds of guided meditations, but they also offer talks, bedtime stories, and classes.
Gratitude Shifts Your Attitude
We’ve heard it before, and I’m here to repeat it – gratitude works. It’s science. When we’re grateful, we’re happy. When we’re happy, we worry less. When we worry less, we sleep better. It’s the circle of life, my friends. Try this exercise now, as it is instantaneous. Grab a writing utensil and a piece of paper. Write down five things that bring you gratitude. It can be as simple as, “I’m grateful I ate Mexican food tonight,” or more personal and profound. Read over your words. Let them sink in. Doesn’t that feel good?
Take a Hot Bath/Shower
If you feel exceptionally anxious or excited, a nighttime bath or shower does the trick. Water soothes the soul and helps us disconnect from the day. I know when I’m in doubt, I take it to the water. I never regret it.
We get ready for work, for summer, for dinner… We’re always getting ready for something, so why not bed as well? Don’t feel that you have to adopt all of the rituals listed above. Try one or two and see how you like it. Habits are hard to break, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t fall asleep right away. Be consistent, and eventually, your mind and body will get the message that it’s time to shut it down.