This is a guest post by Elise Museles of kaleandchocolate.com, attorney turned certified eating psychology & nutrition expert.
You probably know that you should be getting more sleep. In fact, there is evidence that only 40% of Americans are getting the recommended amount of shuteye! We can do better.
Our lives and our bodies deserve better. Lack of sleep has a cumulative effect. It reduces our immunity and slows our metabolism. It makes us more prone to stress and raises our cortisol levels. It makes us grumpy and irritable and likely to make less-than-great decisions. Who among us hasn’t found ourselves standing in front of the fridge with an empty jar of peanut butter, wondering how we got there?
Waking up late and poorly rested can trigger a domino effect that throws off your whole day. You hit the snooze button (three times), rush through your hair and makeup routine, and gulp down a less-than-healthy breakfast. You then stumble into work with low blood sugar, a foul mood, and a messy ponytail on top of your head. Is it a surprise that your meeting goes poorly, your lunch is a whole pizza, and you road rage on the way home (in the dark now!)?
It may seem like a no-brainer, but when we’re well-rested, these things are a lot less likely to happen.
If you know you should be getting more sleep, you probably are familiar with the basics of how to do it. No caffeine after 2 pm! Get the screens out of your bedroom! Make sure your room is pitch black and cool!
All of those are wonderful, helpful, effective suggestions. And you should take them! But I’d like to add another tool to your ‘more sleep toolbox’. I call it: the nighttime ritual.
A nighttime ritual is any set of behaviors or activities that help you wind down and decompress before bed to get you ready for the eight hours of sleep you need. These are things that calm and center you, preparing you for that deep, restorative sleep that will make the next day easier…and more productive!
Here are some of my favorite nighttime rituals.
1. A soothing evening snack or drink
We are all familiar with the wisdom to “eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch, and a pauper for dinner.” Although we do sleep better on a stomach that isn’t too full, we don’t want to wake up at 3 am starving. I like to keep my dinners light, so if I need a nighttime snack, I’ll munch on a handful of walnuts or cherries, both of which are natural sources of melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness).
If you like to wind down with something comforting & cozy, you can’t beat the extra TLC you feel with a healing turmeric latte or a warming cup of herbal tea. An apple with nut butter gives you a generous serving of fiber with a bit of healthy fat and protein, while bananas are filled with magnesium, potassium and tryptophan—minerals that relax your body to help you get a bit more shut eye. (A little nice cream, anyone?)
2. Get tomorrow out of your head and onto paper
Do you do that thing where you lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, and mentally compile pages of to-do lists? Yeah, me too. Let’s stop. If you take five minutes each night to write down your next-day tasks, you won’t have to lie awake worrying that you forgot something!
For bonus points, write your to-do list on paper (so you won’t get sucked into your computer or phone) and do this somewhere other than your bedroom. Then leave it there – far, far away from your bed. Total game-changer!
3. Prepare for tomorrow so you can truly relax once you’re in bed
Your future self will thank you! Spend 20 minutes laying out your clothes for the next day and making sure you have what you need for breakfast. Are your smoothie ingredients peeled and chopped? Are your overnight oats soaking? When you prep ahead, you eliminate any thoughts about stressful mornings that could keep you up at night.
4. Try a little bit of stretching or gentle movement
I like to move through a few yoga poses before bed, or even just sit on the floor and stretch. It helps me work out the kinks of the day and signal to my body that we’re slowing down. There are even bedtime specific yoga routines!
5. Make your preparations for bed as lovely and luxurious as possible
I know it’s tempting to quickly wash your face and then pull on some old sweats, but it’s so much nicer to make bedtime into a sweet, relaxing ritual. What if you spent half an hour in the bathtub soaking your tired muscles in Epsom salt or a bubble bath? Or found a pair of lush, pretty pajamas you really liked? Or made your moisturizing process into a mini massage? What if you splurged on Egyptian cotton sheets and a few pillows that perfectly meet your fluffiness needs?
You’re a lot more likely to get ready for bed in a timely matter if you actually enjoy the process!
6. Practice gratitude
A gratitude practice can help put things in perspective, especially if you’re feeling a little low. It can be done by writing your thoughts down in a special journal, sharing the highlights of your day with your partner/roommate/pet, or just mentally thanking life for the good things it served up today. If you’re stuck, remember you can be grateful for anything. I’ve even written, “I’m thankful that my dogs are happy and healthy.”
7. Feel good with soothing essential oils
Essential oils are one of my favorite pantry staples, but I use them for more than salad dressing! Rose and lavender oils relieve stress and bergamot is said to alleviate mild anxiety. Of course, you can simply breathe in your essential oil of choice, but you can also add a few drops to a bath or to the floor of your shower. I love these recipes for calming essential oil face mists!
8. Cuddle someone who loves you
Your cuddle buddy can be your kids, your partner, or your pet! Whomever you cuddle, the benefits are the same; cuddling has been shown to boost immunity, lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol levels. Just as importantly, it’s fun and calming and the perfect way to end your day. This month, I’m doing the challenge right alongside you. Getting enough sleep is something that I really struggle with, too! I got into some bad habits while writing the book with massive deadlines to meet, and I still am not back on track. So, I’m ready for more + better sleep!