The lack of proper sleep can have an overwhelmingly negative effect your mental health, physical health, productivity and overall quality of life.
The Art of Going to Bed celebrates simple steps for investing in the most important part of the day, preparing to sleep!
Between our careers, families and other important things we care about, taking the time to care for ourselves often takes a back seat.
As a mom, wife and entrepreneur I had to find creative moments to nurture and sustain my mind, body and spirit and preparing to sleep has become a vital and sacred practice that I award myself with at the end of the day.
This practice helps me to resign the stresses of the day, submit to rest and rise better prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow!
We all know what it means to sleep. And because it’s so easy even a baby can do it, it can be extremely frustrating when we have to wrestle with it every night. And because it appears to be a simple concept, we can take for granted how important it is to our mental health, physical health, productivity and overall quality of life.
So before we go any further, let’s start by reminding ourselves of some simple sleeping basics.
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Pick a bedtime when you’re usually tired.
- Get 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks before bed
- Stay away from big meals close to bedtime
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime.
- Minimize noise and light.
- Avoid late evening naps.
- Minimize the consumption of liquids close to bedtime.
- Exercise early.
- Some hot teas and warm milk are said to help you sleep better as well.
The ability to manage everything on your mind is a major task when preparing to sleep. I used to have the habit of settling into bed, staring into the air and revisiting the events of my day. The quiet of bedtime became a trigger for my mind to wonder. I’d think about what happened during the day, what I did, what I didn’t do, what I should have done and how I’d fix everything tomorrow! And eventually, this became normal.
But what I didn’t realize was:
- This was becoming a bad habit and a regular unhealthy bedtime ritual.
- These late night thoughts would seep into my dreams.
- I was allowing my bed to be a place where I rehashed my worries and plans.
- Worry and planning was becoming the very last thing I did right before I’d close my eyes to sleep.
- The physical action of getting into bed was becoming a trigger for worrying and planning.
All these things contributed to shallow and unsettled sleep while also causing me to wake up super conscious of the stresses of the day before.
Do this instead:
- Create a Mental Bedtime– a time when every thought & action thereafter is dedicated to preparing to sleep, nothing else!
- Assign a time prior to your mental bedtime to review the day and plan your actions for tomorrow.
- Create a trigger to remind you of your mental bedtime- an alarm, a TV show going off or coming on, after your usual phone call with your sister, etc.
- In the beginning, reward yourself every time you honor your mental bedtime- purchase an aroma candle, new comfy socks, your favorite tea etc…anything that encourages sleep and relaxation.
- Minimize phone calls, exposure to any electronics and social media that might disturb your mental bedtime.
- Let your family know your mental bedtime so they can help to support you.
This may be a little difficult at first, keep trying. Eventually, it will become natural and effortless. Remember to use your triggers; they can be very powerful when trying to introduce new habits.
There has been many a day when I have gone to bed ready-road! Ready-road is an old fashioned term my parents would use when my brothers and sisters and I would fall asleep in the same clothes we had worn all day!
By not taking the time to honor your body with the proper thoughtfulness and care for what is going in and on your body prior to bedtime, makes it highly unlikely that it will consistently grant you the pleasure of a good nights’ sleep!
- When your mental bedtime has clicked, assess what your bodys’ needs based on the activities of your day.
- Cleanse your body. Consider a warm shower or bath or whatever you deemed necessary in order to eliminate the residue of the day so that you feel renewed and refreshed.
- Smell “nice” and feel good to the touch. The feel of clean skin against clean cotton bedding is amazing!
- Perform your usual beauty routine. Here a simple one. Thoroughly wash your face, tone & moisturize. Brush your teeth, Lotion the rest of your body, don’t forget your feet.
- Select sleepwear that is loose and comfortable and made of natural fabrics. Natural fabrics breathe and will keep your body cool. Include house slippers or socks
- Remove any unnecessary jewelry or accessories.
- Free your face from the imposition of your hair falling across it throughout the night by putting it back with a soft band or scrunchy.
- Eliminate anything tight or binding. If you prefer to sleep in a bra, it is suggested that it be light weight with no under-wire.
- Be sure to take your scheduled night time medication. Safely keep them at your bedside as a reminder.
- Make your bedtime bathroom run. Be sure to do this before you get into bed, there’s nothing more frustration than having to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom if you can help it.
If you treat your body well, it will respond to you likewise!
When I was a little girl, my Mom’s bed was the best place in the world to be! I felt safe, warm and protected there. And anytime I had a hard time sleeping, it was the first place I’d turn to for rest. I took note of practices my Mom used to make sure her bed was a haven for sleep.
- Make sure your bed is clean and free from crumbs and clutter.
- Choose colors that are calm and subtle.
- Only use your bed as a place for sleep and other pleasurable activities; so that when you enter, your body and mind knows only good things await!
- For optimal use update your mattress every 8 years.
- Use hgh quality cotton sheets.
- Replace your pillows every two years. Those stuffed with buckwheat hulls, Japanese igusa grass and rubber are said to be the most comfortable for sleeping.
- Never place shoes at the head of the bed. (I’m not sure why, it’s something my Mom taught me)
- Keep the area around your bed free of unnecessary debris.
- Create a decompression space to sit and rest before you get into bed.
- Be careful who you let in! Your bed is your refuge and should only be accessible to those you love and those that love you!
What we see, feel, smell, touch and hear right before bedtime can influence your state of mind and stimulate you in a way that may make sleeping difficult. There was a time when I was so busy and distracted that my bedroom had become my dinner table, office, entertain room and a social space. It looked and smelled like a cross between my local office depot and pizza hut!
- If you must utilize your bedroom for multiple purposes, clean up behind yourself as soon as you’re finished.
- Store garbage and smelly trash in a more appropriate location.
- Dust regularly.
- Use cleaning products that are not too abrasive or heavily scented.
- Keep your favorite aroma candle lit from time to time.
- Try not to use this space for arguments or disagreements.
- Keep your bedroom cool even when you’re not there. It’s refreshing to come into a cool space at the end of a long day.
- Keep a live, small green plant where it can be easily seen in your bedroom.
- Let soft music/sounds play in the background from time to time.
- Open the curtains and let the sunshine in at times.
- Open the windows from time to time to clean the air.
This can get a little exhausting but if you make even the smallest effort, it will make a big difference in creating an environment that invites sleep.
When was the last time you jumped up in the middle of the night because you thought you forgot to do something important? Having kids and/or trying to manage all of your responsibilities can cause you to fall asleep where you are, as you are, without first making sure everything else is as it should be.
- Make a list of every important thing you need to do before you go to bed.
- Create a ceremony out of completing each item, keeping in mind that every task you complete brings you that much closer to sleep. Here are some bedtime reminders:
- Check on the kids
- Check the lights
- Check the stove
- Make sure the doors are locked and alarms are on.
- Set alarms.
- Set timer on the coffee maker
- Prepare any necessary outfits, lunches etc.
- Say goodnight
- Check on the kids one more time!
You don’t want to do all of these things yourself; you can assign some of them to someone else. But if you do them then you’ll know they’re done! Completing your bedtime ceremony helps to calm your mind, settle the house and lets everyone know the day has officially come to an end.
When I lived in my first apartment, I was in a very bad relationship and I learned early in my life to take the time before I went to bed to connect with God. Reminding myself that I was not alone, that there was an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient force accessible to me, to guide me through my troubles, gave me the courage to close my eyes and rest. These days, my life is in a much better place, but nevertheless, no matter how tired I am, I never neglect to say my prayers.
- Create a space ideally in your bedroom that you designate specifically for prayer, meditation, etc.
- This should be the very last thing you do before you get into bed.
- Here are some suggestions on prayer & meditation
- Get comfortable so that you’re not distracted by any physical aches or pains.
- Take a few deep breaths, in through your nose and out of your mouth.
- Before you begin to pray, concentrate on your breath, the rise and fall of your abdomen.
- Think on your higher source.
- First, speak/think of everything that you’re grateful for that day.
- Think/speak on the things that are challenging you and those you love.
- Ask for forgiveness
- Promise to do better
- Ask for what you need.
- Pray for the needs of those you know and those you don’t know
- Taking this time to connect to Spirit;
- Settles the mind
- Helps to elevate stress and worry
- Gives you a renewed sense of hope
There are the moments between the time you get in the bed, the time you close your eyes and the time when you actually drift off to sleep. Sometimes sleep can come on before you know it but sometimes it can take a while. There are a few little things you can do between these moments to welcome sleep in.
- With each sleepy bat of your eyes;
- Think on good thoughts
- Think of gratitude & gratefulness
- Notice the in and out of your breath
- Notice the comfort you’re feeling as your body gives way to the warmth and protection of your bed.
- Note that at this very moment all is well.
It used to be a time when I would jolt myself out my bed with a sense of urgency to start my day; like I was already behind even before my day got started! I was neglectful of the moment. I simply got up and got started! Over the years, I realized that the way I rose in the morning was indicative of the way I went about the rest of my day.
- Be slow to open your eyes once you know that you’re awake, make a moment of it! You’re alive and that’s a good thing!
- Look for the sunshine. Guide your eyes to where the sunlight is coming through; this will help to establish a more hopeful spirit for the new day.
- Be slow to get up just in case there are any cramps, aches or pains that manifested over night.
- Make a statement of gratitude for the day before you let your feet touch the ground.
- Say a simple prayer for guidance as you go about your day.
- Get out of bed, take a deep breath and stretch.
- Take in some water & morning sunshine to wake-up your digestion and collect a little Vitamin D
Practicing the art of going to bed may seem a little overwhelming at first but eventually you’ll realize that these are really just some common sense habits. And when you can do even some of these things consistently, they can make a noticeable change in your sleeping habits and your ability to accomplish other really important stuff!
Good Night…Sleep Well.
Disclaimer: Please be aware that the information provided in The Art of Going to Bed should not substitute for or be considered as a medical or mental health tool. I don’t dispense medical advice of any kind. The information provided is general in nature, given with the intent of assisting you in your quest to get a good night’s sleep.
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