How a Simple Evening Ritual Can Improve Your Sleep
Are you struggling with sleep? I understand as this was me too. I spent many years battling insomnia, and so sleep is something I take seriously. When I was not sleeping well, it impacted every area of my life. I was crankier to everyone around me; I felt less able to cope with life’s little stressors; my job performance suffered, as it seemed like it took me twice as long to do everything; and I felt like I had no energy to live the life I wanted to live. I even dreaded going to sleep, because I knew I’d just toss and turn all night. If you can relate to this scenario, know that you CAN improve your sleep. I did, by changing my sleep habits and using tools to help relieve my chronic stress. One tool I find extremely helpful is an evening sleep ritual.
An evening ritual helps with sleep because it tells your brain that it’s time to rest. As you’re probably aware, the brain sends out hormones, such as melatonin, when it’s time to sleep. We want those hormones to release at the right time so we drift off to sleep more easily. When you create a nighttime ritual and repeat it, it becomes a habit that the brain comes to expect. “We do this, then this, then this, and then we go to sleep.” This repetition primes the brain for sleep. The brain then releases the right hormones at the right time, and we get to sleep with more ease.
Imagine how the perfect nanny might put a small child to bed. She’d probably give that lucky child a warm bath, maybe with some bubbles and a soothing scent. Then she’d take the child out of the bath, dry her off, and change her into some cozy PJs. After that, maybe it’s time to sit in everyone’s favorite rocking chair for a story and a cuddle. Then a tuck-in and a hug, and it’s off to dreamland. Do you think that child goes to bed quickly and easily? Yes! Imagine how she probably feels as she’s drifting off to sleep. Loved and peaceful, because she knows she is loved and taken care of. Now imagine YOU are that child. How would you like to feel as you drift off to sleep?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that part of the process (for me) of really owning what it means to be an adult is learning to take care of myself in the ways that I most need it. In the past, I’ve often expected others to do this for me, the way that a child (rightly) expects a parent to take care of her. Then I’ve gotten mad when people don’t do it “right.” But the truth is, no one can take care of me. That’s something I have to do for myself. A bedtime ritual is one way I take care of myself. It reminds me that I am loved and taken care of (by me!), because I give myself a valuable gift no amount of money can buy: a good night’s sleep. The good news: You can give yourself the gift of a better night’s sleep by creating your perfect bedtime ritual.
OK, Jimmée, I’m In! How Do I Create My Evening Ritual?
- Choose an amount of time. 15 minutes could absolutely work, and 30 minutes would be luxurious. I suggest starting small and easily do-able, because the magic is in repeating it nightly. Make it something you look forward to. The last thing we want is another item on the “to-do” list! This is sacred time for you.
- Pick a few ideas that sound really enjoyable to you. I’ve included a list of possibilities to get you started, but this is your ritual, so be creative! Design something that really appeals to you.
- Do the activities in the same order every night. This repetition is how you teach the mind to associate the activities and sleep.
- Give it a month, and see how it feels. It takes time to make change, so give it some time. Think of this time as time you’re investing in the most important person in your life: YOU. And if you miss a night, no stress! Just go back to it the next night.
Some Ideas to Consider Including in Your Evening Ritual
- Dimming the lights about an hour before bedtime. Melatonin needs darkness to be released, so you want to start priming your body for sleep by turning down those lights!
- Setting your phone and computer screens to “nighttime mode.” The blue light that’s emitted from screens on their default setting can interfere with getting to sleep.
- Doing nightly maintenance tasks: brushing teeth and hair, changing into cozy pajamas, washing your face, etc.
- Stretching or doing some long yoga poses. Tyler Ippoliti’s “Simple Stretch to Release the Day” on the Sanity&Self app takes only 3 minutes and is a great place to get started.
- Taking a hot bath. This one is so powerful, as taking a bath raises the body temperature and then causes it to drop, and your body needs to be a little cooler to initiate good sleep. As little as 10 minutes in a hot tub can stimulate this effect. A bath also relaxes the muscles and feels so indulgent. Adding in some lavender essential oil is a bonus for extra relaxation. Top pick!
- Writing in your gratitude journal. This is a great way to end your day on a positive note and help your mind relax for sleep. If this idea sounds appealing, check out my article “Three Easy Steps to Start a Gratitude Journal” for quick tips to get started.
- Reading a calming or uplifting book. (I love to end my day feeling inspired, so I always have something uplifting on my nightstand.)
- Listening to a Sanity&Self bedtime meditation. There are so many great ones to choose from! Jenna Padilla has some lovely nature-inspired meditations, and if your mind is racing, you can always try my “Turn Down the Volume” series to help you quiet the anxiety, worry, or self-criticism that won’t let you get the rest you need.
I hope that starting a sleep ritual is a helpful step toward a better night’s sleep. Please remember that getting a good night’s sleep is absolutely possible, but it takes time to change long-standing insomnia. Be patient with yourself, and try new things until you get the result you want. The time you invest in yourself is absolutely worth it, because YOU’RE worth it. If you need more ideas about how to get a better night’s sleep, check out my “Getting the Sleep You Need” series, which has more tips for getting that rest you deserve. I always love hearing from you. Let me know how it’s going in the comments!
Listen to Jimmée’s 7-Days to Better Sleep in the Sanity & Self App, or get a sneak peek by clicking play below.
About the Author
Jimmée Greco is a yoga & group fitness instructor, and personal trainer originally from Carmel, CA , who specializes in guided breathing and meditations. Jimmée got into fitness and yoga to help people lead their best lives and become the best version of themselves. Jimmée is the friend who will take you out to coffee when you’re sad and tell you funny stories at her own expense. Her favorite way to self-care is to play music, draw, and paint. She’s also an expert knitter, chess player, and the mom of 2 kids and one corgi. Visit Jimmée online at www.jimmeegreco.com and be sure to check out her meditation and sleep content in the Sanity & Self app such as Turn Down the Volume and Reduce Stress.