The Importance of a Bedtime Routine
It's 12:30 and I've done four guided meditations, put lavender on my pressure points and pillow case, visited calm.com which was an ironically not calming experience, took Benadryl and read five short stories. Sleep still evades me. My heart is racing and I can't turn my mind off no matter how hard I try. From my window I can see that some of New York is still awake, the lights from apartment windows still on like malfunctioning bulbs on the Christmas tree- it's true it's the city that never sleeps.
Over 50% of millennials have reported lack of sleep due to "overwhelming worries". Our replacement of childhood stuffed animals with our phones that we hold close at night disrupts melatonin production and wakes us up in the middle of the night. Just 29% of us say we get enough sleep each night. 29%!
This effects our cognitive functioning, sex drive, immunity, balance, and pretty much every organ. In a world that requires us to process information at exponential speeds, work faster, and juggle more, it's no wonder that sleep is so evasive.
I've never been much good at sleep. My little sister has an amazing super power of sleeping on any moving vehicle and I remember being immensely jealous of her on family vacations as she fell straight asleep at take off all the way to our destination while no amount of coaxing tiredness from its hiding placed helped me to drift off.
When I was younger and my parents used to put me to bed I'd have them read to me then bargain with them to stay longer. My dad would always say he'd stay two more minutes but I knew that'd mean he'd fall asleep- which meant I had the security of him there to fall asleep myself. It was so much simpler.
As I've gotten older, my sleep routine has become more elaborate than just bedtime stories- like preparing for battle where I have to be the most calm soldier ever. Below, are the tips that have helped me the most (and believe me, I've tried them all).
Let me know in the comments if you have any great sleep tips so I can add them in!
Top Sleep Tips For a Restful Night
1. Get Off Technology
At least 30 minutes before bed, if not an hour, get off your phone. Turn off the TV. Do not scroll on your iPad. Our brains needs the space to fall asleep and when we're demanding they process so much information they can't transition into a space that prepares the body to fall asleep. This technology also decreases melatonin which is essential for a restful night.
2. Create a Routine
Routine signals to the body what it needs to do when and becomes muscle memory so the mind no longer has to make it so effortful. Creating a bedtime routine can be beneficial in signaling to the body it's time for sleep. I typically transition around 10PM. I make a big deal of getting changed into my pajamas, taking my medicine, brushing my teeth, washing my face, dry brushing, turning on my diffuser, and getting into bed to read. My body at 10PM now craves this and it's made heading to bed a lot easier.
3. Use Your Senses
Your senses are incredibly powerful tools to facilitate sleep. Specifically, smell and touch can transition your body from daily stress to bed. I love to use my Vitruvi diffuser to create what I call a "playlist" of scents I associate with sleep. I usually do a mix of sweet orange oil, lavender, and peppermint which immediately calms me. I also pick out the comfiest pajamas that feel great on my skin (I know you're thinking glamorous but I'm talking sweats and a long sleeve shirt--no need to be fancy!).
4. Read (not on an iPad)
Remember when we used to do this? I barely can. Transitioning back to real, in your hands, books has been a major change for me. But reading on your iPad is still using technology so I had to stop that bad habit. I like reading short stories since I can finish them in about twenty minutes and that's usually enough time to get me out of my own head. But read whatever you like--the key is nothing that hits too close to home as you want to be focused on something else, not yourself. Nick loves reading Neil Degrasse Tyson so whatever floats your boat.
You know all of those thoughts that you put off throughout the day but that flood your mind as soon as it's time to sleep? I always run through to do lists, replay work situations, and review every deep seeded fear I've ever had right before bed. It's really healthy. It can feel impossible to quiet your mind. I used to think the bloggers who talked about journaling were overplaying how helpful it is but once I started therapy, I began keeping a journal next to my bed and writing down every thought that came through my head. Some nights I right a little and some a lot, but either way it truly has helped me to fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.
Put your legs up on the wall, do twists, hang out in downward dog for a bit. Stretching is a lovely way to thank your body for all it has done in a day and go to bed with relaxed muscles which can relax your mind too.
7. Set The Right Temperature
Okay, so I like to sleep with the room freezing covered in a bunch of blankets. Anyone else? Just me? But, science does state that optimal sleeping temperature is between 62 and 68 degrees so try to keep your sleeping environment cool and comfortable to account for any temperature rises in the middle of the night.
8. Try Tea
I can't really do this one because I have the smallest bladder but I know it's helpful for a lot of my friends. An hour or so before bed, drink some non-caffeinated tea (decaf does not count). Chamomile is a favorite of mine as is Vata tea.
9. Avoid the Clock
Do. Not. Check. The. Clock. This is the worst thing you could possibly do. We're creatures of time and none of us feel like we have enough of it so checking the clock will just stress you out. Cover it up with paper or something where you can't see the numbers. With that said, be conscious of time. If you've been lying in bed for twenty minutes or more, get up and try and do something else. This can help you get out of the "why am I not asleep yet" cycle.
Buddhify is my favorite meditation app and they actually have meditations for both going to sleep and being unable to sleep which I've found extremely helpful. I actually play the same one each night so I essentially condition my mind that when it hears that meditation it's time for bed. You can meditate yourself, use another app, or simply try deep breathing. Switching to your parasympathetic nervous system will help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.