I’m a big fan of taking time to prepare for bed, whether you’re someone who occasionally has a hard time falling asleep, or you’re a hardcore insomniac. I believe an evening ritual can help anyone transition from day to night peacefully.
You will hear the sleep experts say that you should start to prepare for bed an hour before bedtime. That a “tech curfew” should begin, and you turn off all screens in the house, and engage in relaxing non-blue-screen activities. That sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Do you have an hour every night that you could devote to relaxing non-blue-screen activities?
Hm, me neither.
A REAL WORLD SOLUTION
You might have heard me take a more realistic approach and say that 20-30 minutes before bed is enough time, because realistically, how many people have a lifestyle that will allow for an hour of relaxation before bed!?
So then what do you do if you don’t have 30 minutes to relax before bed? What do you do if you don’t have 5 minutes to relax before bed? What if you’re a busy parent? What if you have a booming social life? What if you own a business and the hours before bedtime are your most productive? What if bedtime for you looks like a tornado that touches down underneath a soft duvet cover somewhere around midnight?
It IS possible to create a peaceful evening ritual that prepares you for a restful sleep EVEN IF you don’t have extra time to devote to it.
DESIGNING YOUR EVENING RITUAL
Let me ask you a question...
What do you do before you get into bed? What are the 3-5 things you do every night, without fail, no matter how busy your day was? Brush your teeth, wash your face, maybe you take a quick shower, or you have really long hair and put it into a braid. You can create a peaceful bedtime ritual by incorporating your current pre-bedtime activities. In fact, you already have a ritual, you just aren’t looking at it as something relaxing that can prepare you for rest.
Think back to when you were a kid getting ready for bed. What did that look like for you?
For most of us it probably looked something like this:
Right in the middle of whatever you were having fun doing, an adult announced it was time to get ready for bed. You brushed your teeth and emptied your bladder. You changed into your My Little Pony or Ninja Turtle pajamas. You climbed into bed, and spent time reading your favorite storybook, or looking at the pictures while an adult read to you. Maybe they also sang you a song. When your eyes couldn’t stay open any longer, the lights would go out, and you were left to fall asleep in your bed, tucked in beside your favorite stuffed animals.
I want you to recreate this routine, minus the footie jammies. It worked for us when we were kids, why don’t we think it would work as adults?
LET'S LEARN FROM OUR YOUNGER SELVES
The reason we even had a routine was because we were usually going from a high-energy activity to lying down in the dark. We would never think of plucking a busy child from their favorite toy and sending them right into bed without some kind of transition, not if we wanted them to drift to sleep easily.
As adults, we’re doing the same thing - going from a busy day full of noise and traffic and kids and then lying down suddenly, and wondering why that didn’t work! There needs to be a transition. A peaceful transition.
The very first thing I want you to do, in all bedtime situations, is to dim the lights. Turn off overhead lights and use the lamps. Make it sleepy. Then it’s time for your pre-bedtime wash-up routine. Choose which order you prefer, but as an example, it could look something like this: Change into your favorite cozy sleepwear, and brush your teeth. You put your hair up in a high messy bun, or back with a headband, or whatever you do to wash your face. Don’t rush through it, make it methodical. Pat your face dry, apply whatever face product you wear to bed. Give yourself a mini face massage while you’re at it. Make it enjoyable. You’ve had a long day.
See what we’re doing here? We are turning the mundane task of getting ready for bed into a nightly spa-like ritual. And believe it or not, repeating an activity the same way before bed every night can signal to your brain that it’s time to rest. The simple act of changing into a pair of pajamas every night can make you sleepy.
Whatever you do every night to prepare yourself for bed can be your bedtime ritual. It doesn’t have to be mind-blowing or game-changing. Use what you’re already doing instead of adding more activities to your already busy schedule. If these are the things you do before bed every night, craft them into a slow and simple routine. And do them in roughly the same order every night to signal to your brain that it’s bedtime.
YOUR RITUAL AS SELF-CARE
When I started to think of my simple and mundane face-washing routine as a bedtime self-care ritual, I started to take better care of myself. I paid more attention to what I was using on my skin, and what ingredients were in my products. I crocheted myself a cotton face cloth that I only use in the evening. I got into the oil cleansing method (Google it if you haven’t heard of it. It’s fabulous!) I bought a cute little decorative bowl to hold my face-washing ritual supplies. I even bought myself one of those rose quartz rollers that’s supposed to be good for lymphatic drainage, and I don’t know if it even works, but it sure feels good! And while I’m rolling a smooth pink stone over my face, I’m standing in front of the mirror, in my favorite cozy clothes, and my adorable slippers, and I’m being present in my body in the moment.
That’s a pretty peaceful way to end the day if you ask me.
When I stop to really pay attention to the repetitive tasks I do daily, I find more purpose and joy in them. They go from something I HAVE to do to something I GET to do. While you’re going about this evening ritual of yours, pay attention to your thoughts. If your body is slowing down and getting ready for rest but your mind is going a mile a minute, it’s time to make the inside match the outside.
Speak kindly to yourself. Tell yourself that tomorrow is already taken care of and tonight is about you. Think about how great your bed is going to feel under your tired body. Keep the thoughts and words positive, and let out a happy sigh as you’re getting into bed, that always works for me.
If you’re struggling with insomnia, racing thoughts, or bedtime anxiety, and you dread bedtime because of it, download my FREE sleep meditations HERE.