My brain never stops all day. I see possibilities everywhere and I get ideas on top of ideas. So, like many of you, I have a hard time unwinding at the end of the day. I should say, I use to have a hard time, until I started
my imperfect before bed routine.
It didn’t start as a routine. I added one piece at a time until I was suddenly (after years) sleeping perfectly every night and realized, “Hey, I have a routine going!” As someone who has had terrible sleep habits for most of my life, I do not take quality sleep for granted AND I make getting my seven to eight hours per night a nonnegotiable.
As Arianna said…
You also need to create a transition to sleep. So many of us are on our devices until the very last moment before we turn off the light. But think of the way we put our babies to sleep—we don’t just plunk them in bed. We give them a bath, put them in their pj’s, sing them a lullaby. We need a ritual for ourselves.
Here’s my ritual. It’s imperfect and it often derails but here it is!
1. Set the mood
When it’s time for me to settle down (after the kids are in bed and usually after my hubby is in bed, too), the first thing I do is go around the house and turn all the overhead lights off. From then until I turn in for the night, I keep the lights low, even in the bathroom. You’re telling your brain, sleep is coming soon.
I also start my diffuser an hour or two before bed with soothing essential oils likes lavender and lemongrass.
BONUS TIP: First thing in the morning, I make sure to have all the curtains open and I even try to get outside to water the flowers or just take a deep breath so I’m exposed to natural light first thing. It’s a circadian rhythm thing.
2. Prep for the next day
Before getting ready for bed, I make one last trip into my home office to check my to-do list for the next day and make sure I know where I’m going and what I’m doing. I print maps, pack my bag, wash my water bottle, etc. I also plan what I’m going to wear and set out my clothes plus anything else I can do to make sure I’m not lying in bed later worried about that next morning.
I also prep my kids’ clothes and lunches. I’m not a morning person so if it can be done the night before, I do it!
Read more in my post about a smooth morning starts the night before. Click here.
Prepping ahead doesn’t just make your morning better–it helps you sleep better, too!
BONUS TIP: I keep a pad of paper and a pen next to my bed in case I remember something before I drift off to sleep. I know I won’t remember in the morning.
3. Put my pajamas on.
I know it’s tempting to sleep in your workout clothes but transitioning into cozy pajamas (or silky pajamas or flannel pajamas) is a big part of the before-bed ritual.
4. Take care of my skin.
I wash my face every night using my Mary Kay cleanser and a soft, warm washcloth. Pressing the warm washcloth into my face is one of my favorite moments of the whole day. I follow up with moisturizer (or a mask if my skin is irritated).
If you want to read about my whole skin care routine, click here.
5. Drink a cup of tea.
Nearly every night, I make myself a cup of Sleepy Time tea. The ritual itself is calming. I’ve tried going to bed without my tea and it really does make a difference in how soundly I sleep. I’m actually drinking a cup of it as I do the final edits on this post.
6. Me time.
Once I have my tea, I have options. I usually read, write in my journal, or watch TV. Sometimes I do Pinterest. Alone at night is the only time I watch TV and my current favorites (on Netflix, we don’t have cable) are “When Calls the Heart” and “Fixer Upper.” Yes, it HAS to be light-hearted.
I almost always end my day with writing in my gratitude journal. I like looking back over old entries, too.
Read more about how I journal by clicking here.
8. Self care.
After checking that the doors are locked, I head to the bathroom to brush my teeth and scrape my tongue. I then apply lip balm and take my homeopathic pills that keep my belly happy. Read more about my favorite beauty items by clicking here. I apply hand and foot lotion if I need it…
…then I climb in bed and usually fall asleep within five minutes, tops.
A few tips:
- Eye pillows or eye masks are magic. I almost never notice when my husband is getting ready for work two hours before I get up. I also don’t notice when the sun is blazing at 6am in the summer, which allows my body to get the sleep it needs. This is my favorite.
- Being active about two hours before bedtime is ideal if you haven’t already had your workout. Later than that and you might be too wound up to fall asleep. An after-dinner walk works well (no, I don’t do this regularly, I just know it works when I do).
- It might seem obvious but don’t go to bed until you’re tired. I use to think I “had to be” in bed at a certain time, then I’d just lie there. Now I read or write until I feel sleepy and then I go right to sleep.
I have a few rules for sleeping.
- No thinking in bed. Actually, my life rule is “Do not think without a pen in your hand.” In other words, if it’s not proactive, it’s useless. I do not allow myself to ruminate, worry or even wonder while in bed. I do that in my chair–with my journal–before bed. No replaying conversations or planning conversations. No contemplating the deep mysteries of the universe. No rehearsing an upcoming class. No wondering whatever happened to so-and-so.
- No checking the clock. Call me crazy but if I wake up during the night, I never look at the clock. I don’t need to know how much time I have left to sleep. I started this habit when my boys were babies and I’ve continued it for ten years.
- No thinking if I get up during the night. I have trained myself to get up, use the bathroom and go back to bed with literally no thought at all. I barely open my eyes and try to pick up dreaming right where I left off. I go right back to sleep 98% of the time. This amazes my husband and my mother.
One last tip.
If it’s the night before an event or I had a particularly unnerving day and find myself lying awake, I try to think about something simple and pleasant that requires enough thought to keep my mind occupied but that doesn’t require me to make any decisions or force me to remember anything. Examples include mentally rearranging my closet, mentally walking through the mall I frequented as a teenager or imagining collecting shells on the beach.