How are you sleeping?
Are you setting yourself up for success, or for failure? If you have been following this blog for a while you know that I am all about chasing big dreams and goals. To live that way, I have to make sure I am intentional with all that I do. In more recent posts we have been discussing habits and limiting beliefs and sharing tips and tools to help you become the best version of yourself. Well, today I want to discuss two parts of our day that are often forgotten and can be self-sabotaging. Our morning and bedtime routines. I know it seems like a trivial matter, but these two periods of your day play a huge part in how your day goes, and how well you can show up for your life. In some of our earliest blogs, we talked about routines and setting your workday up for success. Now I want to expand on that and discuss routines that help you get to the workday full of energy and positive vibes.
Let’s start with our bedtime routines. Which may seem backward, I know my husband would roll his eyes at me and say, “why don’t you start with the start of the day?” Well, my response to that is, that how we end one day impacts how we are able to start our next day. Our days are not totally independent of each other, in fact, the choices we make each day affect our choices for tomorrow. So, I am starting with night routines…hmm flashbacks of those awful which came first the chicken of the egg questions at school! Blah Anywho, I digress. Bedtime routines…I know we have all heard to stop caffeine by a certain time of day or to aim for eight hours of sleep a night, but the truth is there is so much more to it. Just like for little kids, bedtime routines are essential for adults to set themselves up for restorative sleep. These routines allow your brain to separate the day from night, let go of the stress of the day, and clear your mind allowing your mind and body to truly relax.
There are countless studies that discuss the need for quality sleep. Not only does it allow you to wake up feeling rested but also impacts your health. Quality sleep is essential for your health and to stave off diseases. Sleep is essential for brain function and to perform daily tasks safely. “A study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine examined the performance of employees from the transport industry and military on certain tests, some over a period of 28 hours sleep deprivation and others after measured doses of alcohol. The researchers found that after 17 to 19 hours without sleep, subjects performed about the same as those with a 0.05% BAC; longer periods without sleep led to performance roughly equal to those with a 0.1% BAC, the maximum dose of alcohol examined in the study.” 
All this to say sleep is important! If we know sleep is important and impacts so many areas of our life, why do we not prioritize it more? If we are falling asleep at work, or fighting constant brain fog, we can hardly expect ourselves to be producing our best work, right? As we have discussed several times our brains are hardwired to crave stability and routine. We associate certain actions, sounds, and even smells with specific times or places. I know when I hear “I wanna stand with you on a mountain, I wanna bathe with you in the sea, I wanna lay like this forever; Until the sky falls down on me” I am instantly transported back to middle school slow dancing with some cuite! We can channel this sort of automatic response to stack the deck and aid in a good night of restful sleep.
Tip 1: Pick a time and stick to it. Go to bed at roughly the same time every day (and wake up around the same time too). By establishing times your body will begin to recognize when it is time to sleep and when it is time to be awake. It’s kind of like when you get in the habit of eating a snack at 10 am each day. Then eat a late breakfast one morning and find yourself craving a snack an hour later because your body still thinks 10 am is snack time even though you really don’t need to eat. Use your internal clock to your advantage. Set a time to begin your night routine and to be lights out ready for sleep, and your body will begin to expect that and instinctively start to gear down around that time.
Tip 2: Avoid sleep killers. A few things to avoid are caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that cause the feeling of alertness which is not ideal when you are trying to wind down. Alcohol works a bit differently. Although many people find some alcohol helps them get to sleep, studies show that alcohol is linked to lower quality of sleep and more sleep disturbances. Check out this article on the topic of alcohol and sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep
Tip 3: Reduce screen time before bed. There have been many studies that show screens emitting blue lights (i.e. Smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs) suppress or delay the production of melatonin, which gives you that feeling of sleepiness. Many experts recommend shutting off all screens at least one hour before you go to bed. This allows your body to wind down and get into a restful state naturally and at the appropriate time according to your circadian rhythm. If you are someone that read before bed and prefers e-readers to physical books the sleep foundation suggests setting the screens to the nighttime mode which reduces the blue light emission and brightness. You also can purchase Blue Light Blocking glasses (I love mine the brand is Felix Gray, not an ad and I get nothing for mentioning them, I just really like the glasses and think they are cute/comfortable, and even wear them in virtual meetings to protect my eyes).
Tip 4: Shut off negativity and stressors. This one ties in really closely to tip three, but I wanted to separate it out because I think it needs its own mention. The news is full of sad and upsetting information. And although it is important to stay informed, right before bed is not a great time to dig into harsh or unsettling topics. This will get your mind whirling and disturb your ability to sleep. Social media is another thing that I recommend abstaining from right before bed. Don’t get me wrong I love scrolling through social media as much as the next person, and who can resist the comments section where you can grab a bowl of popcorn and watch the drama unfold between keyboard warriors! But this is not conducive to sleep. Much like the news, social media is full of negativity and comparisons. When we are heading to bed, we need to be intentional about what we are feeding into our minds, because often that will follow us not only into sleep but into the next morning as well. I fought this for a long time. I loved snuggling in bed and scrolling social media for a while to unwind. It was mindless fun, I thought. My husband was always saying I needed to stop…so of course, I refused lol. Then one night I saw a post by my oldest kids’ school. In it there was a post warning that several classrooms had been exposed to lice…instantly my scalp was itching. The next post was from a mom in my kid’s class saying her kid had been sent home sick and it turned out had strep throat. Cue sore throat and fever check. Needless to say, that was a long and sleepless night for me filled with anxiety and a to-do list of things to sanitize first thing in the morning. And do you know what happened? My kid did not get lice, and my kid did not get strep, but I did lose a night of sleep and accomplished nothing. After that, I made a point to not look at social media for at least two hours before bed so I wasn’t stressing over something I could do nothing about at that hour. Now I am very intentional about what my mind consumes before bed.
Tip 5: Engage in relaxing activities. What are some things that instantly calm you? For me this is taking a nice warm shower right before I crawl into bed. By waiting right until I am ready to wind down not only am I fresh and clean when I crawl into bed (which for a germaphobe like me is uber comforting) but I naturally have stepped away from screens and work. I turn on my yoga playlist filled with calming music that makes me smile. For me this allows me to unwind and get in the mental headspace of calm and relaxation. I also choose to brush my teeth right before my shower because for me that seems to wake me up, maybe because that minty taste and feel is also associated with mornings my body gets all confused (just a side note that I know you were dying to know about me). Moving on. So, like I said I take a shower, then I turn on our bedside lamps and turn off the overhead light. We use softer lightbulbs that are relaxing and not as harsh as our daytime lights. I keep my yoga playlist going and I grab my lotion and essential oils and wind down a bit more. Then I read and lay on a heating pad because I am always cold, so I love climbing into bed and feeling all toasty and warm. When I begin to feel drowsy, I turn off the heating pad and lamp and go to sleep.
Tip 6: Make your bedroom a relaxing space. Set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature that helps you sleep more soundly. Invest in a good-for-you mattress and pillow and find comfy bedding that makes you feel cozy! Dim the lights, this lower light activates your circadian rhythm telling your body it is “night” and it is time to sleep. Another tip is to stimulate your olfactory system. Our sense of smell is closely tied to our memories. Scientists say this is because the limbic system and olfactory bulb are closely linked in the brain’s anatomy, so smells are very quickly transmitted to the limbic system, which houses the amygdala and the hippocampus which are areas of the brain linked to memories and emotions. So, if you choose a calming scent and work it into your nightly routine you will create a link in your brain between that scent and sleep. Part of my night routine includes applying several essential oils to different areas of my body. I noticed that once I started this, I instantly found it easier to calm down at night. I take a few big whiffs of the oil before applying it and use that time to do some relaxing breathing techniques.
These are just a few tips that work for me, but each person is unique in what is calming for them. But I would challenge you to really look at what you are calling relaxing and note if that activity really is, or if it is just a habit that might be sabotaging your sleep. Thinks like a nightcap or social media on your phone before bed might seem like the thing to do. They might be your habits and therefore part of your night routine, but what if they are actually hindering your sleep??? I used to fall asleep to the tv every single night. I had always battled with insomnia, so I thought this was my way of tricking myself. I wasn’t trying to sleep, just watching tv, so no pressure to sleep, and could naturally drop off. I did that for years and years. Fast forward to my husband working a swing shift and having to be at work at 3 am. He went to bed super early and was asleep before I came to bed. I couldn’t exactly turn of the tv and wake him up (without being a total turd of a wife) so I had to learn to sleep without the tv. Sure enough, after a few months of this, I realized that I was sleeping better, even with him getting up in the middle of the night. Suddenly I rarely was awake for hours before bed and sometimes never slept! I thought I was setting myself up for sleep when in actuality I was sabotaging myself. So, just play around with things and find what works best for you!
Here is what my bedtime routine looks like
About an hour before I want the lights off:
o Brush teeth
o Shower (with yoga playlist going)
o Turn on lamps and turn off overhead lights
o Write in my grateful journal (reflect on the good from the day)
o Lotion and essential oil relaxation time with music playing softly
o Crawl under covers with a heating pad, turn off the music, and read
o Lights off and sleep
I do this every single night, doesn’t matter if it is a weekend or a weekday, I do this routine to get myself in the sleep mind frame and I cannot express the difference it has made. From chronic insomnia and just believing I was someone that didn’t sleep well, to someone that falls asleep quickly almost every single night!
What does your night routine look like? Are there any tips you plan to try out? Do you have any tips that I didn’t share?