Getting a good night’s sleep may seem simple, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Insomnia comes creeping even to the most unsuspecting bedrooms and brains. Restlessness plagues many of us, even though during the day we already feel exhausted. Rest can be elusive, lingering just out of reach, teasing us. The good news is, you can make simple changes to your nightly routine to combat these feelings that make it harder to sleep. Just like any other healthy habit, sleep is essential and doesn’t always come naturally, especially in a day and age where we are always going, going, going and things move fast and at a high frequency.
Here are eight easy rituals and routines that will prime your body and mind for an actually restful evening:
Exercise or stretch: a few minutes of connecting with your body each night is a game changer. I like to do a simple, short yoga video before bed, but other exercise can work as well; it all depends on who you are and what you need. Exercising and stretching forces you out of your mind and into your body, which makes you more present and less attached to all the stuff that doesn’t actually matter. It also gives your circulation a boost, flushing out stagnation and stress and makes your body feel fresh for optimal rest.
Stop snacking: even though late night snacking is fun, it’s not great for sleep. If your body has to digest a bunch of stuff when it should be resting, your rest doesn’t reach the quality it could otherwise. Keep the temple clear so that the space can be sacred and quiet. On the flipside, don’t go to bed too hungry, as this can also make it hard to drift off. Find your sweet spot and do what you can to stay there. Think about your body being a boat you’re taking to dreamland—you don’t want it to be loaded down with unnecessary junk, but you also want it to be properly fueled and equipped.
Clean your room: this seems like it has nothing to do with sleep, but sleeping in a messy, chaotic room creates psychic noise. Cleaning up your space brings a feeling of peace as you head to bed and when you wake up, making your rest more peaceful in turn.
Drink water: as with all things in life, sleep is always better when you are properly hydrated. Make sure to drink water throughout the day, and especially focus on rehydration in the 1-3 hours before bedtime.
Don’t drink booze: even though alcohol is a depressant and makes you sleepy, it makes the quality of your sleep worse by disrupting your sleep patterns. It also makes you snore more, which sucks for you and for anyone else in your bed! Resist the temptation to use alcohol as a sleep aid.
Get off your screen: you’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again—your screen is no friend of sleep. It can feel soothing to us to stare at our phones because we get to tune out as we scroll through thoughtless feeds, but it actually stimulates the subliminal brain in ways that make it harder to sleep. There’s also the chance that you’ll see something that stresses you out—a work email, a photo of your ex … don’t do it. Pick up a book instead and use it to guide yourself into a more organic state of relaxation.
Go to bed earlier: It may seem counterintuitive, but going to bed earlier (even if you feel like you “aren’t tired yet”) actually gives your body better sleep. The hours between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. are where the best sleep happens for everyone. In ayurveda, they call the hours between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. “Pitta time,” where your body and mind digest the day’s events. This window of time is crucial for sleep, and if people stay up past this window, their sleep will either be unsatisfactory or never even happen at all. If you hit the sack by 10:00, your sleep will start to transform. Try it. (Bonus! Google “what’s my Dosha” to learn more about ayurvedic habits that will help you sleep and wake well).
Herbal support: if you are needing that extra boost to relax and fall asleep, incorporate herbs into your nightly ritual. Hot soothing teas can help, as well as tinctures, or herb-infused oils for your body. Even better, combine all three. Kava tincture can be soothing, and many people still turn to a warm cup of milk with honey which is soothing and nostalgic. Chamomile tea is a timeless trick, and many other herbal teas can be soothing to the body and help us relax. Skullcap tincture helps relax the nerves for those of you who may be dealing with anxiety or tension. (Check with the wellness department at your local natural food store for more suggestions). Cannabis can be infused into teas and tincture (and body oil) and used as a timeless sleep aid. I know many people in the baby boomer generation who have been relieved to discover cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceutical sleep aids as they age. If you choose herbal body oils, give yourself a foot rub with the oils and let them do their work. If you have a partner, commit to swapping foot rubs to help each other settle into sleepland with ease and grace.
A good night’s sleep is truly priceless. Sleep is what restores our cells and being and it’s when we recharge for the next day, setting ourselves up for success as professionals, parents, and partners. When sleep is lacking, other areas of our lives begin to fall apart. Supporting good sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Make it a priority in your life, and watch everything change.