A few months ago, I told my mom I was getting really tired, really early for a few nights in a row. She informed me that I was getting older! Insert jaw drop here – more that she said that than anything else! haha. Luckily the super tired, super early thing didn’t last very long, but I can see that whether it’s age or just the lifestyle that comes with age (adulting is a lot of work after all), relaxing and falling right to sleep every night isn’t as dependable of a process as it once was. There is one thing that helps me every night, however, and that’s my nightly routine. It’s nothing fancy (you’ll see) and it’s certainly nothing groundbreaking, but the process of going through my bedtime routine helps my body and mind understand what it’s time to do.
My Nightly Routine before Bed…
My Nightly Beauty Routine
This part is so fancy – I wash my face and floss/brush my teeth. Every night, I’m diligent about washing my face to get rid of makeup, dirt, and anything else from my day. Washing and moisturizing your face is mandatory for healthy skin, but it’s also an integral part to telling my body we’re about to go to bed. The same goes with brushing my teeth. I’ve been in the habit of doing both of those things every night since I was a teenager, but I will solemnly swear that besides being good for my skin and teeth, it’s also good at triggering a more successful bedtime.
My Nightly Stretching Routine
When I started college, my lower back started bothering me. Sitting for hours on my bed doing my homework was – no surprise – putting a lot of strain on my body. My roommate stretched every night, which was all fine and good, but I didn’t really pick up on the fact I should be doing it too for a few years.
Anyway, I started a 3ish-minute stretch routine every night. Not only did my lower back thing disappear, but the rest of my body started feeling better. I’ve adapted the stretches over the years to be more of what I need and it’s probably closer to 5-minutes now, but it helps my body stretch and relax!
At the moment, my routine stretches my hip flexors and achilles tendons (my two most important at the moment), my hamstrings, shoulders, triceps, calves, and something else I can’t think of at the moment. I recently added in a downward dog to get everything else I was missing and that was a big change. The downward dog pose really gets everything. If you’re good about pushing your hips into the air, it really stretches your upper and lower back, hamstrings, and hips! Talk about an all-in-one!
My Nightly Disconnect Routine
Dimming the lights
This part of my nightly routine has two parts and this first is something my husband started doing. He has struggled with sleep far more than I have, so he has a variety of things in place that help him rest. One of these that I’ve really liked is dimming the lights. We don’t have remote-controlled dimmer lights, not to fret. We have two lamps in our room – one on each nightstand. I rarely have my light on, so he has his on. When we’re getting into bed, he takes a t shirt and covers up part of the lampshade to dim the light. It’s not dark in the room – in fact it’s bright enough that I can still read – but it does provide an easy step between bright lights and pitch darkness (the Collins dictionary and I agree that’s phrase).
The second thing is my phone. You hear a ton that you need to put your phone away well before bed. I’m not that good, let’s be honest, but I do try to limit it.
First I try not to open up any email or social media apps right before bed. I find them to either be never ending rabbit holes or depressing – neither of which we need before bed. The two apps I’m apt (hah!) to open are the weather app, which only holds my attention for so long, and a game app that won’t let me keep playing for free once I’ve died 5 times (which usually doesn’t take me too long).
I also, and this one is BIG for me, have my ‘do not disturb’ enabled on my phone. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a setting on your phone (iphone tutorial here) where you can tell your phone not to make sound or vibrate between certain hours. You can set it so that if someone is on your favorites list, the call rings OR if someone calls twice within a few minutes, it’ll ring. This doesn’t help me fall asleep so much, but it prevents my phone from waking me up for a tweet or text that can wait til morning. You can do this for your ipad too. My hours are 10pm (we usually go to bed around 1030) and 7am. I’d recommend starting it 30 minutes to an hour before you usually go to bed.
My Nightly Recentering Routine
I think one of the hardest things about falling asleep is that your mind is still spinning from your day. It’s hard to slow it down. I’m a firm believer that acknowledging things on your mind helps your brain process and store them away. The most common methods of this are praying, meditation, and journaling. I try to pray every night before falling asleep (let’s be real, I don’t always make it). It’s more of a conversation that I have than anything else. I think about what I’m thankful for and what I’m worried about (big and small). I like to think I’m sending those to a higher power to deal with overnight while I sleep. If you’re into meditating, then it’s the same thing – sending those happinesses and woes into the cosmos.
I recently (like last week) started journaling. I use a pencil so I can write while I lay down instead of having to sit upright. And instead of recounting my day in my journal, I address the thing most perplexing to me about my day. There have been some days when I didn’t have anything to write. Other days I pulled something from a conversation that kept playing over and over in my mind. I wrote out the issue and then my thoughts on it. It helped me figure out why it was bothering me and how I would move forward with it. It was like finishing the chapter of the day.
You can pray, meditate, or journal however is best for you. Recentering your brain, body, and soul by acknowledging what’s on your mind is crucial to a successful nightly routine that gets you relaxed before bed!
My Weekly Nightly Routine
All of these steps in my bedtime routine are simple enough and straightforward. They take time to start to train your body that these actions mean sleep is coming soon, so give these and others a try for a while before giving up. I’m also a firm believer in having a bedtime. It’s hard to have your body feel tired at the same time every night, but winding things down at a similar time is far better than just waiting til your body tells you. Life anyway, and especially life this day and age, are full of stimulation. At some point, the clock has to dictate when you’re going to try to slow the stimulation.
Do you have any other recommendations for relaxing before bed or steps in your nightly routine you can’t live without?