Create a Wind-Down Ritual
We all know folks who can drink a large latte late at night, text and email in bed with the TV blaring, and then drift dreamily off to slumber.
Lucky as those people may be, most of us require a wind-down ritual before sleep—a regular, nightly routine that calms and decompresses us, telling our brain and body we’re ready for bed.
Dr. Michael Smith, a sleep expert and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Johns Hopkins University, suggests creating your own wind-down ritual.
Smith says make it personal, something you enjoy doing before sleep, whether it’s reading on the couch, taking a warm shower or meditating for ten minutes. Having a wind-down routine, however brief, will help train your body into a pattern, making it easier to fall asleep.
Some evening routines can have the opposite effect.
“Things like washing your face, taking your makeup off and laying out your clothes for the next day can actually wake you up because they require movement and cognition,” says Texas chiropractor Dr. Jackie Romanies.
Here are a few creative ideas you might use to design your own bedtime ritual:
1. Get crafty
Do something relaxing, not stimulating, like a craft or hobby – try knitting, needlepoint, drawing or strumming a guitar, says Dr. Catherine Darley at the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle.
2. Make a list
An hour or two before bed, write down any thought-provoking events or conversations from the day or write your to-do list. “Write these down with the intention of clearing them from your mind, so you can sleep well until the next morning when you will pick them up again,” says Darley.
3. Stay positive
Read a motivational or spiritual book before bedtime. “Positive books soothe the mind and provide confidence. Feeling content is more suited to falling asleep than feeling anxious,” says Dr. Jared Heathman at Your Family Psychiatrist in Houston.
4. Refocus the light
If you must work on the computer in the evening, tone down the light from the screen with a program like f.lux, which makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the warm color of your room at night and decreases your exposure to blue light, which can keep you awake.
5. Smell sweet
Keep a lavender-scented sachet or eye pillow by your bed. Studies such as one in Chronobiology International have found lavender an effective sleep aid for deep, restorative sleep. Before bed, lay the sachet on your face or eyes and breathe deeply. The fragrant scent soothes you and prepares the mind for sleep.
6. Pillow check
Keep several types of pillows by your bed. At bedtime, take a minute to check in with your body and how you’re feeling. If muscles are sore, choose a firm pillow that offers neck support. If you need pampering, go with fluffy down. The luxurious comfort can make you feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud.
No matter what wind-down routine works for you, stick with it every night to reap the ritual benefits.
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