I am the lucky aunt of four amazing nieces. Often, I watch these toddler girls fight bedtime with such vigor that I wish I could impress upon them how fortunate they are to be able to simply go to bed because it’s bedtime. They have no lingering work to finish, no cleaning, no meal prep, no bills to pay, no electronics to monitor before bed. They have the best bedtime routine anyone could wish for: bath time, cozy PJs, story time in a rocker, some cuddling, and then lights out with gentle stars shining on the ceiling from a ladybug lamp. I envy their bedtime.
But as adults, our bedtime routine — or lack thereof — is usually very different. We are often stressed, overworked, over-full, wired up, and tired, but restless at the end of the day. These behavioral habits can lead to lack of sleep or poor sleep quality, which in turn can cause grogginess, irritability, and lack of focus the next day. And the cycle goes on. But thanks to Ayurvedic and yogic practices, we can implement new, healthy bedtime patterns. Here are some time-tested methods to add to your new bedtime routine for a good night’s sleep:
Adding a workout to your daily routine can increase your chances for a better night’s sleep. According to the Huffington Post, “adding even just 10 minutes of exercise may produce a noticeable improvement in sleep quality.” While morning exercise seems to be the best bet for getting shut-eye later on, exercising in the afternoon or early evening can also benefit your body’s ability to slip into a quality slumber.
2. Watch What and When you Eat.
Eating a meal that’s too heavy or high in protein, and therefore harder to digest, too close to bedtime can cause your body to work hard and prevent relaxation. If you like to have a snack before bed, choose foods that contain tryptophan, a naturally occurring amino acid that can cause sleepiness. Some vegan sources of these foods are legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and certain fruits and vegetables. Perhaps have a small bowl of whole-grain cereal with nut milk and a sprinkle of blueberries.
3. Take a Warm Bath.
Bath time isn’t just for kids! Fill a tub with warm water and a few drops of a relaxing essential oil, such as lavender, eucalyptus, or sweet orange. Allow the warmth and aroma to soothe your body and relax your mind.
4. Drink Warm Herbal Tea.
5. Write Down Your Worries.
If an anxious mind frequently keeps you from falling asleep, make a habit of writing in a journal each night before bed. Getting your concerns down in writing helps relocate them from your mind to another space, so you can hopefully get the much-needed sleep that will help you deal with your issues in a more productive way the next day.
6. Unwind with Yoga.
7. Breathe and Visualize.
Conscious breathing exercises can help relax your nervous system and prepare you for sleep. These range from breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth (to promote proper air flow through your breathing pathways at night) to breathing deeply while visualizing each part of your body in relaxation.
8. Consciously Relax Your Muscles.
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique in which you actively contract and then relax different muscles throughout your body, starting from your head all the way down to your toes.
9. Power Down.
Expert advice says to discontinue the use of electronic devices about 15-30 minutes prior to sleep time. This may seem very difficult to those of us who check email on our phones or tablets until right before shut-eye, but the electronic buzz of these devices continues to infiltrate our minds long after we’ve put them away. Instead, try reading a book or magazine, or choose one of the relaxation methods mentioned above.
10. If All Else Fails, Consider Therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that aims to help us change our “stuck” behaviors. CBT-I (insomnia) specifically addresses difficulties with sleep. In this method, a therapist works with a patient to change old patterns and create new perceptions and habits for achieving restful sleep.
Sleep is such an essential part of our wellbeing. So many factors in our increasingly busy, information-packed lives can contribute to poor-quality sleep that it’s no wonder sleep trouble is currently a hot topic. But we also have an excellent tool box of natural, healthy mind-body practices that we can turn to for help. Which ones will you try?
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