A Ritual for Bedtime


As a culture, we often pride ourselves on the long hours we work. On how busy we are. It is like an unwritten code that at the root of every "success" story is an inherently overworked human being. And yet, in spite of our productivity, sleep remains elusive for more than 60 million Americans. We are exhausted and overworked but struggle to get the rest we need. Recently, podcasts and blogs have tackled both the rest and the sleep conversation. More books are being released with titles like The Sleep Revolution (a book by Arianna Huffington that was birthed amidst Huffington's own exhaustion crisis) or Rest (a book that submits that we work better when we work less. We tend to have more focus. We work more efficiently and effectively. Imagine!) As we consider our nights, I can't help but reflect on how we live our days.

Often times it can feel like we blaze a trail through our waking hours. It is a mad rush from one thing to the next. We may begin our mornings with e-mail or Facebook. Grab a quick breakfast before we head to work. We are in high gear throughout our day at work only to rush home to head off to a sports practice or to make dinner and tend to kids. We may watch a television show but for many of us--our selections only add adrenaline to our brains as we witness characters moving amidst high octane plots on the screen. Even as night falls and the end of day sets in, our brains may remain in a heightened state.  So we head to bed, unable to fully settle as our brains.

As it turns out, our brains actually need space during our waking hours to process our experiences or our brain is forced to process in a more awake state at night.  As essential as sleep is, being tired rarely slows us down. More often than not, it is our health (physical, mental, or emotional) that beckons us back to a more balanced life and sleep pattern. We have to be hit hard. Did you know that a lack of sleep is tied to...

  • weight gain?

  • depression?

  • increased irritability and anger in our relationships?

  • heart problems?

  • high blood pressure?

  • a decrease in sex drive?

  • impaired judgment?

  • a decrease in brain health with regard to memory?

  • an increased risk of chronic disease?

Sleep is essential. It really is worth prioritizing. Just as a morning routine has the power to create a grounded, healthy way to begin our day-- an evening routine helps us to wind down, to care for ourselves, and to gradually ready our brains for the more relaxed state of sleep.

A few activities that have been positively correlated with better sleep are

  • Regular exercise

  • Regular yoga

  • Regular meditation

I recommend building a ritual for bedtime much like we create a routine for our morning time. Consider a few details.

  1. What time do you need to go to bed to get between 7-8 hours of sleep each night?

  2. How long do you need for your bedtime routine? (The minimum is around 30 minutes)

  3. What components would work in your routine to make you feel calm and relaxed?

Here are some ideas.

  • Reading with a booklight (so that melatonin can kick in)

  • Enjoying a warm bath (Epsom salt is a bonus!)

  • Rubbing feet and hands with a lavender lotion

  • Turning on a diffuser by your bedside table

  • Sipping on a night tea (Celestial Seasoning Sleepytime Extra is a favorite of mine!)

  • Listening to soothing music as you brush your teeth/wash your face

  • Lighting a candle

  • Meditating

After suffering from a severe bout of insomnia for about a year, I got more serious about having a bedtime routine. I actually think of it as the "power down" space in my day. I really look forward to it!  My routine is usually about an hour to an hour and a half long. I begin at around 9 or 9:15 pm. I start with a bath. I usually read a bit. After my soak, I moisturize and get into some soft clothes. I brush my teeth. I always finish off with reading with a booklight in bed.  I may include some tea if I am wound up. Occasionally, I use a low dose of melatonin in lieu of the tea (I realize there is a mix of research surrounding melatonin which is why I use a low dose).

Sleep is not a luxury. In fact, getting enough sleep is one of the best ways to improve your health. I would love to hear about your bedtime routine!  What are your essentials? How many hours of sleep do you need to feel your best? What works to get you in a more relaxed state for sleep?