This week is Sleep Awareness Week, so I decided to share my night time routine, as I can't think of anything more important for mental health than sleep. My relationship with sleep is far from perfect. I have trouble falling asleep, but it's even harder for me to stay asleep.
I have been struggling with anxiety for many years now, and I believe that has had a huge impact on my sleep, although I remember my mother has always been a light sleeper, so it is probably in my genes as well. There were nights in my life when I couldn't fall asleep at all because of my worry and fear, and there were nights that were a little bit better, when I could unwind and just trust my body to do its job.
It's important to remember, that our bodies are incredibly smart, but when it comes down to routines, they often give in. We can manipulate our mind's ability to calm down using rituals. I know many of you are skeptical of meditation and step-by-step guides, but I was able to see that they work for me. You can create your own ritual based on what works for you. That's the beauty of it. It doesn't have to be the same for everyone.
If you have any concerns that can be a reason why you have sleep problems, consult with a doctor. This blogpost is not a recommendation for treating serious cases of insomnia.
I start my routine quite early, but I would say start at least one hour before you go to bed.
I usually work on my computer in the morning, so I'd not have to deal with the blue light disrupting my sleep at night. I realized that the more productive I am during the day the more tired I am at night aka the better my sleep is. At the same time if I am trying to be productive for a long time (until late evening), I may have hard time trying to relax and stop thinking about what I was doing. Since I struggle with anxiety it can be hard for me to stop my mind from racing and just be present, which is essential for falling asleep.
I do a big portion of my reading after I am done with work, which is in the evening. I keep saying that reading is not natural for me, so I have to push myself to do it. Basically, it is not the most relaxing activity for me, but I like to take a break from the computer while still being productive and learning something new. I think I read about 1,5-2 hours a day - that is on average, in order to keep up with my goal - 2 books a month. It's not something many people can afford, but I don't watch TV and don't really go out at night, so I have this time for reading.
I also like using an aroma diffuser in the evening, while I am reading or later, while meditating. I find that aromatherapy is important for creating a relaxing atmosphere.
I don't really think it helps with sleep, but I love having a cup of herbal tea while reading or after that. I do little things here and there, which are the part of my evening ritual. I like to think that they signal my body that it's time to at least start unwinding and preparing for rest. The lights are dim during that time, and I make sure I am comfortable and cozy. The purpose of this time for me is reminding myself that I am my main priority and I deserve to be calm and happy. For the longest time in my life I didn't feel like I was worthy of love and care. It took me a long time, and I am still working on it, to find self-love and stop judging myself. It might seem it has nothing to do with sleep but little reminders like that help me feel safer and more relaxed.
My next step, after I am done reading, is taking a bath or a shower. Many people take a shower in the morning to wake up, I use water to calm me down. I love taking a shower, I love warm water. I have always been a bath/shower person. Since I was a little girl it's been a ritual for me - I think that's how my mom raised me. I got to spend "me time" in the bathtub, no matter how silly that sounds. It is still the case. I do not spend a lot of money on products, but I am a "relaxation junkie", I am a fan of everything that says "calm" or "sleep" on it.
Skincare routine is an important process for me. Once I was told that it shouldn't be hard for you, if you take it as an act of self-love. I still remember it. I know that many things that we use might not be super effective for our skin and totally not worth the money, but I believe spending time with ourselves, taking care of our bodies, aromatherapy and even light massage can be very helpful for the overall wellbeing. It's not to only say: I love myself, but it is actually "proving" this love by showing it. I believe it's different for different people and very personal, but no matter what you do, make sure it calms you and relaxes you to see the benefits of those rituals.
Sleep yoga and meditation
Once I am done with my bath ritual I head to my mat and spend about 30 minutes practicing "sleep yoga". I mentioned it in my February recap blogpost and it has been an absolute game changer for me. Light yoga before sleep helps me relax my tensed muscles before I sleep, which in turn eases my back pain at night. Short meditation at the end of the session is important for deep relaxation. It signifies the peak of my nighttime routine and basically gives my body a "green light" to sleep.
Since incorporating this routine into my daily life I've been able to see an amazing progress in my ability to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. There are still times I wake up at night with anxiety, but I am more likely to fall back to sleep.
I hope some of these tips can be helpful with your sleep. Don't forget that the main purpose of everything you do during your night time routine is to show yourself care and love. Be patient with yourself, and it will pay off.