In this crazy crazy world that we live in, many of us take our sleep for granted. While there is a ton of discussion about eating well and being physically active, less attention is given to the importance of sleep for living a holistically healthy lifestyle. I have always been about my sleep. The whole idea of sleep deprivation never even crossed my mind until I went to college and witnessed countless students slaving away over their laptops into the wee hours of the morning. Even in this environment, I refused to compromise my sleep and accepted my identity as the “square” who left the library by 10. While I generally have no qualms about leaving the party early in order to get my 7-8 hours, I have recently begun to think more about the quality of the sleep that I’m getting in addition to the quantity. Seven to eight hours each night is absolutely awesome but if you’re tossing and turning for 2-3 of those hours, it is likely that you’ll wake up still feeling unrested. Last year, I began taking steps to enhance the quality of my sleep by modifying my bedtime routine. Here are some of the things that I’ve found to be helpful.
Powering Down Electronics 30 Minutes Before Bed
This one is the one that most of us probably struggle with the most. I can generally turn my phone ringer off and be okay not staring at it before bed but convincing myself that there is something other than watching Netflix that I could be doing before bed is hard even on a good day. What I’ve found to be most effective for staying away from all of my screens before bed has been implementing a solid routine of 20-30 minutes that calms me down before bed and takes my mind off of all of the wonderfully enticing things that I could be doing on the internet. The following items are some suggestions for things that you could do to occupy yourself for 30 minutes without technology.
Set the Mood
Taking the time to set a bedtime mood goes a long way. It’s amazing how manipulating your environment in small ways can help prepare you for a better night’s rest. Put together a soothing playlist or turn on pandora to the “yoga” station and just mellow out. I also recommend lighting an incense or scented candle and making yourself a nice mug of herbal tea.
Tidy Your Space
I find it quite soothing to tidy my room a bit before bed. It’s amazing how much just 10 minutes of cleaning can do. I love waking up to a clean space so it’s not uncommon for me to put on my Smooth Grooves Playlist and fold and put away the bundles of clean laundry that inevitably end up closing in on my space.
Prepare for the Next Day
One really productive use of your technology-free time before bed is preparing for the coming day. This is usually when I put together my lunch, choose my outfit, pack my workout clothes, etc. Not only does it keep you from looking at screens, it also makes your mornings much smoother.
I’ve found that working through some gentle flows really helps me relax both my body and my mind before getting to bed. It’s a great opportunity to reflect back on your day and work out the stresses that may have manifested in your body. It’s also a moment to begin contemplating your intentions for the next day. Stick to flows that aren’t super intense as the goal is to calm yourself rather than get your energy flowing. A few down dogs later, you’ll be ready for the ultimate savasana. Well…hopefully not “ultimate.” But a nice long (hopefully 8 hours!) savasana nonetheless.
Read a book…an actual book (or an old-school electronic reader with no backlight)
As a grad student I’m always whining about how I never have time to read for pleasure anymore. I have a few physical books lying around for beach-vacation purposes and a fair amount of books that I’ve purchased on Kindle that I haven’t started (or starting and only got 6% of the way through). Taking 30 minutes to read a bit of pleasure reading before bed has been a great way to let my mind wind down and to do something that it’s hard to make time for during other parts of the day. If you’re into food (and why shouldn’t you be), this could also be a great time to flip through cookbooks for ideas and meal planning. Beware not to do this if you’re prone to bedtime snacking. haha
Most of us have some kind of bedtime routine that includes face-washing, teeth-brushing etc., which we come to see as a chore. Lately, I’ve been really indulging in this, allowing myself to take pleasure in being able to take care of myself in these ways. Instead of a utilitarian face-wash, I been giving my face a nice 3-5 minutes massage. My roommate is convinced that this is the secret to aging gracefully. I also take a nice warm shower, during which I do some deep breathing and gentle self-massage. It’s amazing how relaxing the simple things can be.
Establish a Routine and Take Pleasure in It
No matter what your routine looks like, make sure you’re actively calming yourself before getting to bed. There is nothing worse than getting into bed only to find that you have tons of thoughts running through your head or tons of energy pulsing through your muscles. Take the time to breathe, to soothe yourself however you see fit, and get ready to take it all the benefits of a great night’s sleep.
Pop Sugar – Sleep Tips
In Sonnet’s Kitchen – How to Get a Better Sleep
In Sonnet’s Kitchen – How to Create a Bedtime Routine