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I’m one of those people who needs a lot of sleep. And it needs to be a deep, uninterrupted sleep for me to feel human in the morning. I have no idea how I’m going to cope when I have babies! Anyway, for now it’s just my partner and I, but for years I’ve struggled to discover how to sleep better. He’s never had any issues- he nods off in a matter of minutes, while I used to lie there staring at the ceiling.
But finally, I’ve worked out the key to a good night’s sleep.
Creating a consistent nightly routine.
This is something we’ve lacked for way too long.
My partner is a chef, and used to work in an extraordinarily demanding restaurant that meant endless late nights, interrupted sleep for me, and not enough sleep for him. As amazing as that professional experience was for him, we are now (happily) in a position where that is no longer necessary. And since we’ve developed a nightly routine that works for both of us, sleep is back on the agenda! I’ve noticed the significant difference that deep and adequate sleep has meant for his (ok, and my) mood, concentration and happiness. Plus, I’m a whole lot nicer in the mornings, now!
I know someone else who swears by a good night’s sleep….
This is Beau, our adopted Jack Russell. By day he loves chasing birds and skinks, by night he loves to blissfully doze tuck up in warm blankets. We spoil him, a lot. And he sure knows the importance of a good sleep.
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
A good night’s sleep is vital for so many reasons (other than being less snappy at everyone in the morning). While we are sleeping, our body repairs, detoxifies and regulates. It’s a chance for your body to recover from all of the running around we’ve done during the day, and prepare for the day that lies ahead.
Good sleep can result in:
- improved concentration, memory and performance
- lowered inflammation levels (and inflammation levels affect the entire body)
- improved mood and social interactions (I can attest to that!)
- improved detoxification
- improved immune function
- maintaining a healthy weight
… plus, life is just better when you don’t feel exhausted! But how do we help our body sleep well? We create a nightly routine that tells it it’s time to wind down and prepare to nod off.
The Importance of a Nightly Routine
I know I can’t be the only one that is a stickler for routine. While a bit of spontaneity and excitement lead to a rich, full life, I do like the day-to-day to have some predictability. And I know for a fact that my body loves it, too!
A nightly routine should be simple. This isn’t about creating a whole list of things that you now need to also fit into your life. It’s about creating space for yourself in a structured, predictable way that tells your body it’s time to prepare for sleep.
My nightly routine has evolved organically, and I’ve slowly added or removed things as my mind and body saw fit. I’m sure this will continue to happen for some time. Some things, such as the ‘no screens’ rule are taking a little longer to implement regularly than I’d like to admit. But, I’m only human, and sometimes that screen-habit is harder to break than an Outlander addiction.
I’ve also found that getting my serotonin levels balanced out has gone a long way to having a good night’s sleep. Boosting your brain’s ‘happy chemicals’ can be done in a number of ways such as exercise, eating a healthy diet and supplementing if necessary. I think in an upcoming post I might go a little deeper into my recent mental health journey (something that I honestly didn’t even know was holding me back until things started to change), but for now I’ll just say that correct serotonin levels= better sleep= happier days.
These habits can prevent a good night’s sleep
There are a number of things that can significantly mess up a good night’s sleep, and they don’t just include car alarms going off at 2am. It really matters what you do hours before your head hits the pillow that counts. So what are the biggest no-nos for a good sleep?
- Caffeine too late in the day. It’s best avoided past 3pm.
- Sugar too late in the day. Ditto as above.
- Screen time too late in the day. It’s best to put your phone and laptop etc down after 8pm.
- Eating too late at night.
- Not exerting your body throughout the day, either through exercise or your job.
It’s best to avoid these things in the hours leading up to bedtime. It’s surprising how actions at 3pm can result in lying awake staring at the ceiling at 11pm!
Inclusions for Your Nightly Routine
Nightly routines are very personal. They vary from person to person, depending on your lifestyle, family and job. I’ve found (as long as you’re avoiding the no-nos mentioned above) it matters less what your nightly routine is, and more the regularity of your nightly routine. There are a few key things I would strongly recommend if you struggle to sleep well, which I will mention in my routine outlined below. It’s taken my body a solid month to adjust to my current routine which is now working very well.
Here you will find some possible inclusions for your nightly routine, and below, I’ll walk you through my current routine. Some things you might like to include for a good night’s sleep are:
- Finish tidying and cleaning the kitchen after the dinnertime rush.
- Prepare your clothing, work items and perhaps get a head start on preparing your breakfast for the next day
- Take a relaxing bath in epsom salts
- Drink a calming, warming beverage (see my favourite below)
- Spend some screen-free time with your partner or family
- Do some gentle yoga stretches
- Listen to a bedtime story (more on this below)
- Complete your skincare and hygiene routine
- Set your alarm for tomorrow
- Read a few chapters of a book (the best part of my night!)
My Nightly Routine
As I mentioned, my routine has taken a while to evolve, and will continue to evolve as our lives change. Before focusing on establishing a nightly pattern, I had a vague routine each night, but nothing overly consistent. I’ve found that taking some time to mix a) the things that my body needs me to do and b) the things I want to do, for a good night sleep has resulted in a pretty happy medium. Here is what my nightly routine looks like:
5.30pm Finish My Work Day
Working from home has so many benefits- setting your own work day, mid-afternoon dog-walks and being able to pop on another load of laundry in the middle of the day. However, it is easy for your work day to drag well past a solid 8 hours… and into the night. Set a workday for yourself, and ensure all of your professional work is done by a certain time each night. Otherwise, how is your mind meant to switch off when you’re doing invoices at 10pm? Plus, all of that screen-glare is winding your brain up!
7pm. Eat a Healthy Meal
Ahhhh, food. My joy. As I’ve mentioned, my family loves a good meal. This means that plenty of love and effort is put into our nightly dinner to create a nourishing, nutritious meal that we enjoy sharing together. We tend to linger over this evening interlude, sharing our days, joking around and just catching up. It’s never rushed, and we love carving out time in our busy day to come together over beautiful food. Providing your body with healthy nutrients (even when you’re exhausted) will allow it to repair and recuperate overnight.
8pm. Set an Alarm & Put the Screens Down
The ‘screens down’ rule is something that has been the hardest for me to implement. Honestly, I’m still getting a bit of resistance from my partner about this, which is understandable given I’m less than a saint at it. I’m still searching for an analog alarm clock so that we can completely kick all screens out of our bedroom. This is a work in progress, but we’ll get there! I absolutely know that less screen time is key to having a good night’s sleep, so I really need to start implementing this!
So, I like to set my alarm for the next day relatively early, then put down my phone and do my best to leave it down!
8pm. Set Your Lighting
This habit has resulted in some of the best changes to our sleep. We have venetian blinds in our rooms that we set to a downwards 45 degree angle before bed. This means that as the sun slowly rises, natural light gently filters into our room, alerting our bodies that it is time to rise and shine. This might be a little tricky if you live in a climate where the sun rises later in the day (or ridiculously early), but as soon as you can get some form of natural light into your room, do it!
9.30pm Have a Calming Beverage
For me, this is The Beauty Chef – ‘Sleep‘ turmeric drink. I love, love, love The Beauty Chef products. As in, I’m obsessed. Over the past month I’ve incorporated the Sleep powder into my nightly routine and I’m loving the results. This turmeric-based powder is filled with probiotics (for a happy tummy, skin, entire life etc.) and a host of sleep-inducing natural herbs and spices. You’ll find lemon balm, passionflower and sour cherry to name a few, which have long been known for their calming properties.
This drink is best consumed around an hour before you want to fall asleep. I like to sleep at 10.30pm, so I make a soy or hemp milk turmeric latte around 9.30pm. The packet says to add 1tsp to your drink, but I’m pretty sensitive to natural remedies so I find 1/2tsp in half a glass of milk does the job. I gently warm this (but don’t completely heat it- you don’t want to kill the good bacteria) while whisking and take five minutes to quietly sip it.
I haven’t found this to be a ‘miracle’ drink. By that, I mean that the first night I didn’t suddenly have the best, deepest, most rejuvenating sleep of my life. What I have found, however, is that within a week of consistently drinking this before bed, my sleep became deeper and more restful and I fell asleep much quicker than I would previously. I used to lie awake for a solid half an hour while my partner dropped asleep within 30 seconds. So frustrating! Now, I’m consistently asleep within five minutes. I am 100% confident that has come from drinking The Beauty Chef Sleep powder.
9.45pm Time to Read/ Switch off
Given I prefer to sleep at 10.30pm, 45 minutes to read might seem like a lot. But reading is my happiness, so I love to read for as long as possible. Having said that, you don’t have to read during this time. You could journal, share your day with your partner, meditate, do some gentle stretches or take a bath. This time is about making space for an activity that is calming, restful and entirely for you.
9.45pm Enjoy some Essential Oils
Essential oils are a beautiful way to calm down after a long day. I love iKOU’s Sleepyhead rollette- it’s filled with lavender, sweet orange oil and other goodies like sweet almond oil. I gently roll the tip over my inner wrists, and collarbone and let the relaxing scents calm me down.
10.30pm Listen to a Bedtime Story
This one might sound a little strange for adults. But on the rare nights now when I still can’t drop off (I honestly I can’t remember the last time that happened since drinking The Beauty Chef ‘Sleep’ before bed), a bedtime story will do the trick! I love the stories on the Calm app. It has bedtime stories for adults, meditations and relaxing music. There is a free option and you can pay to upgrade if you wish to. I love listening to the bedtime stories- they’re beautifully written and narrated, and just completely, well… calming!
And the trick to it all is…
Doing it regularly! Your body will learn that it is time to wind down and prepare to sleep if you give it a consistent nightly routine. It will learn that ‘turmeric drink + a bedtime story’ or ‘screens down + warm bath’ = time to get ready to nod off.
I’d love to hear what your nightly routines are! Is there anything that you just have to do to get a restful night’s sleep?