So you want to get a better night’s sleep? I talk regularly about the importance of having a morning routine, a balance practice. When you start your day the way you want to live your day, you are more likely to be less reacting and more responding to things throughout your day. In other words, when you transition into your day slowly and intentionally, you are more centered and at peace, and your attitude is more positive.
We know the value of starting the day off with good intention and peace of mind. But let’s also understand why an evening routine is important. The amount of stress or balance that you experience when you wake up in the morning depends not only on the quality of your sleep but on how you felt the night before. And the most important factor in falling into a good night’s sleep is managing stress during the day. The less stressed you are by the end of the day, the easier time you will have unwinding.
In his excellent article: Beyond Paleo: Get More Sleep,Kris Kresser, a licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of integrative medicine, describes it perfectly:
“Most of us run around like chickens with their heads cut off all day, and then wonder why we can’t fall right asleep as soon as our head hits the pillow. If our nervous system has been in overdrive for 16 hours, it’s unrealistic to assume that it can switch into low gear in a matter of minutes simply because we want it to. Of course this is why sleeping pills are growing in popularity each year.”
So how do we switch gears at the end of the day?
Creating a “changing gear” routine before bed helps to transition peacefully from the busy-ness of the day to the peacefulness of night. I advice my clients to set an alarm, reminding them of their evening routine, just like they set an alarm in the morning. And by the way – if you choose to set an alarm morning and evening, find one that doesn’t have a sharp and annoying ring tone but rather a pleasant sound, like something instrumental. (and yes, you can find something loud enough that will wake you up, even though it is a pleasant sound). There are many, many beautiful meditative, reflective music selections available on iTunes that you can quickly download onto your iPhone or iPod. You can use earphones if the sound will bother your sleepmate.
What works for you might not work for somebody else. The key is to try different options and to choose what works best for you. If you like structure, you might end up having the same routine every night. If you prefer variety, maybe you will change what you include in your evening routine, but you’ll be consistent about doing something every night. It doesn’t have to be long. Anywhere between 10-30 minutes works best.
Here are some Balance Practices to choose from to create your evening routine:
- Limit the use of your computer, smartphone, and interaction with the outside world through screens in the evening. Decide on a time where screens are off. 8 pm might be a good choice if you would like to go to bed by 10 pm.
- Dim the lights 2 hours before you go to bed. You are giving your body a signal to start producing melatonin, a natural sleep hormone.
- Create a Tea Routine and do nothing for a while. Try chamomile tea for its calming effects, and of course, avoid caffeine.
- Listen to a relaxing guided visualization for 15 minutes. (download it to your iPOD, don’t use your computer)
- Listen to classical music.
- Read something inspiring. My 2 favorite books to read before bed are The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, and The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie.
- For some people, getting organized for the next day relieves a lot of stress: packing lunches, deciding what to wear, reviewing your calendar. If this sounds like something that will help you relax (for some people it will do the opposite!), make sure you do it in the beginning of your evening routine.
- Clean your kitchen, including the sink and the counters and clean up your bedroom space. It might help you relax if you know that you’ll wake up to a clean space.
- Shower! Even if you usually shower in the morning, try showering in the evening as well. It has a cleansing effect, like washing off your day, when you do it in the evening. Spritz your shower with an essential oil spray, like lavender, to help you calm as well.
- Take a bath and add essential oils and/or Epsom salts. Lavender and Ylang Ylang are my favorites. Epsom salts help relax muscles and release toxins.
- Journal. Journaling works for some people as a way to wind down their day; for others journaling works better in the morning. Give journaling a try.
- Keep a gratitude practice. Every evening write down in your journal 3 things you are grateful for or 3 things that went well that day. Paying attention to what went well helps you release negative emotions. If journaling isn’t for you, practice being grateful during your quiet meditative time, or simply lie still and breathe deeply, focusing on 3 positives in your day.
- Use a god box. Any box can work – big, small, paper, wood – simply take the lid off and have a small notepad and a pen next to your bed and write down your concerns on pieces of paper and place them in the box. Turn it over, or put the lid on it, and ask God to take care of things for you so you can have a good night’s sleep.
- Do Reiki! Take a Reiki Class and learn to give Reiki to yourself before bed. For many years, I have had the practice of giving Reiki to myself every day upon awakening and before bed. What a gift to open and close my day with peace and relaxation. Sometimes I even fall asleep during the Reiki practice!
So you want to get a better night’s sleep? You want to wake up to a clean slate, a clean bedroom, a clean kitchen while feeling refreshed and ready to begin a new day? Creating a habitual balance practice both morning and evening are the key to restful sleep and less stressful days. Whichever practice works for you, begin tonight. Allow time in your evening to let go of the day’s anxieties. Self-care routines and all the tips I’ve provided for you will help assure you can start your Balance Practice tomorrow morning, rested and ready to WAKE UP!
What is your favorite evening routine? Please share in the comment area. Would love to hear from you!