Often trying to have a sound sleep and waking up many a times in between can be so frustrating. It’s not a good thing when we don’t get enough shut-eye: We’re tired and grumpy and fragile the next day. Sleeping well is necessary for a proper emotional and physical reset not to mention a host of health-related reasons.
Sleep is incredibly important for so many reasons. It is the time when our tissues are able to renew, our organs and muscles heal, and our brains recharge by redistributing their fluids. It is also a vital time to allow our minds to rest so we can wake rejuvenated and ready to take on another day. Sleep is a key ingredient in our overall wellness.
There are all kinds of physical changes happening that ramp you up, which is the exact opposite state of what you need to be in when you’re trying to fall asleep. Even if having a hard time going to sleep may be a common occurrence, resulting to a quick and easy fix (like sleeping pills) can do damage to your body in the long haul. However, there are more natural methods you can try that can help ease your night anxiety like going to bed at the same time every night, relaxation exercises, meditation (clearing your mind) and the list goes on.
First Things First, What is a Sleep Ritual?
What are sleep rituals? Yeah! That’s right? The name says it all but formality sake let’s get a generic meaning of sleep ritual.
Learning about rituals from “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz. Whilst habits are often seen as activities you have to force yourself to do, rituals are instead activities which you are pulled towards. It takes some time to convert a habit into a ritual, but once you have it becomes something that does not require thought or energy, and instead can provide you with vast amounts of extra energy.
Looking at the Online Urban Dictionary “Sleep Rituals" are the things you do before you go to bed, often the same things every night. These things may include, brushing your teeth, taking out contacts, writing poems, meditation, strolling, listening to lullaby and so much more provided it’s been done before bed and most importantly every night.
We all know that turning a routine into habit takes time, but ultimately yields positive results. Hitting the gym, flossing, and eating healthier all require adhering to a routine to make them a part of your daily life. The same can be said for bedtime routines too.
Why Should You Think About Sleep Rituals?
Firstly, let’s talk about our circadian rhythm or body clock. This is basically what’s responsible for you feeling energized or drowsy around the same times every day. The National Sleep Foundation notes that “for most adults, the biggest dip happens in the middle of the night and just after lunchtime (when you tend to crave a post-lunch nap).”
This rhythm performs best when you maintain regular sleep habits, like sleeping and waking at the same time every day, even on weekends. When it’s thrown off, like when you stay out late at a party or are feeling jet lag after a trip, your circadian rhythm is out of balance and you’ll likely feel tired and have trouble concentrating.
Implementing a bedtime ritual that you stick to will help you keep your rhythm in sync, allowing you to relax at a specific time each night, so you fall asleep right on schedule.
I would like to outline that everyone’s sleep routine is different. Some people enjoy reading a book and winding down, while others prefer listening to music or chatting with their spouse, some young fellows like to play games or watch TV. However, it is easy to find out our personal routines, “just ask yourself; what makes me sleep faster? Whatever you enjoy doing to relax at night, it should be something that is mellow and put you at ease before your next day.
Research indicates that studying before going to bed can greatly improve your recall of that information later. Turning your mind off is a challenge when you’re stressed or anxious. A nightly routine helps you relax, fall asleep more easily and be better prepared for the next day. Reflecting at the end of each day, even for just a few minutes can have a big impact on your future. Those moments before you close your eyes can be pivotal to your success.
How to Create a Sleep Ritual
Disengage: An activity to allow total disengagement from the day’s work. This is a wind down period, which allows you to evaluate the day’s work, think about the greater challenges, gradually stop thinking about work and reach a state of tiredness.
Most Importantly Avoid re-engaging: After the activity, go straight to bed. Be sure that all devices are in a separate room to the one you sleep (and slient). Once in bed, do not read books which are related to your work in any way.
It’s important to start with something simple, so that you can keep to it and allow it to convert from being a habit you struggle with to a ritual you are pulled towards doing. Once you are performing the ritual regularly, you can start to add more good habits and let those become rituals too.
Don’t worry if you miss days. It’s important to avoid guilt, and instead learn what is best for yourself and try again. It took some time, but I perform my ritual almost religiously now during the week. However, I don’t usually do it at the weekends. If I miss it one day, it is often due to being overwhelmed by everything that is going on. In those cases, I’ve found becoming consciously aware of the reason I’ve slipped out of my ritual, and then making a definite decision to start it again has allowed me to reduce the impact of stress.
Finally, make it a priority to unwind in the evening by practicing personal relaxation or meditation techniques that work best for you. This is different for everyone, but suggestions include writing in a gratitude journal to ease your mind and focus on the positives in life, listen to a relaxing audio-book like or podcast, or doing a few minutes of focused breathing and meditation.
Everyone’s pre-bed ritual is different; it all depends on what you find relaxing, enjoyable, and helpful to de-stress and prepare for the next day. Whatever your routine looks like, just know that you’ll be on the right path to getting amazing sleep and a beautiful wake-up.