Say it with me: Self-care is healthcare!
And an evening ritual is a great way to support your self-care strategy, while integrating healthy sleep hygiene into your life.
Your evening ritual should be personal (meaning it should make sense to YOU), doable, and practiced consistently for best results. When crafting your evening ritual, try to choose activities that nurture your body, mind, AND spirit—that’s the key to a practice that will hold the most benefits for you.
But first…what is good sleep hygiene?
Getting to sleep by 10 pm every night is considered optimal for your circadian rhythms. Ayurvedic wisdom and Traditional Chinese medicine support this idea. Staying up past this time can result in your getting “a second wind,” which may make it more difficult for you to get to sleep OR stay asleep through the night.
Screen time should ideally end at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light can disrupt your circadian rhythms as well. Some people recommend wearing amber glasses that filter blue light in the evenings (starting from the time you would turn on lights in your home.)
In the days before electric lights, people were used to going to bed earlier – adjusting their schedules to fit nature, getting more sleep in the darker winter months. The hormones that regulate our sleep are affected by light.
During the daytime, it is best to try and get as much natural light as you can (one reason why it is beneficial to spend time outdoors every day), and to limit artificial light, especially in the evening/nighttime hours. This is also why it is a good idea not to turn on a lot of lights (and definitely no screens!) if you wake up during the night and have hopes of getting back to sleep.
You might also try the f.lux app for your computer. It adjusts the light of your screen to the time of day. It’s free, and it just might help you to sleep better!
If you suffer from hypoglycemia (where your blood sugar drops while you are sleeping, which then wakes you up – often around 2 am), then having a small protein and fat rich snack just before bedtime can help. Some people also recommend eating a spoonful of raw honey just before bed, as that can be a slow-burning source of glucose.
If you don’t suffer from blood sugar dysregulation, it is considered best to have your last meal several hours before bed. This practice is supposed to contribute to the health of your mitochondria; also, digesting a heavy meal takes energy, which would be better spent repairing your cells while you sleep.
So other than unplugging early and getting to sleep by 10, what other things can you include in your evening ritual to help to nurture your body-mind-spirit, while signaling yourself that it is time to sleep?
Good suggestions include:
- A cup of soothing, relaxing tea, such as chamomile or a “sleepytime” blend
- A warm bath or shower, followed by oil massage. You can even add relaxing essential oils, such as lavender, to promote sleep.
- Writing a to-do list for the next day (IF you are the type of person who gets in bed and whose mind starts to whirl thinking of everything you have to do. Sometimes getting it all down on paper and out of your head is a big help. For other people, this practice might be agitating, so use discretion.)
- Listening to calming, soft music or guided relaxations.
- Doing a couple restful yoga poses, such as viparita karani (legs up the wall pose)
- And my favorite: a gratitude practice! Seriously, this practice has changed my life. “Gratitude turns what you have into more than enough.”
I do a very simple gratitude practice: I just get in bed and think to myself all the things that I am grateful for in that moment. I think over my day and list everything that I am thankful for, no matter how small. That is the secret. It is easy to be thankful for the big things, the good times. It takes more practice to learn to see the gift in everything, even the “bad things.” That is why it is called a gratitude practice.
The more you practice gratitude, the more it becomes your nature to see the blessings in everything, including your trials and tribulations. Once you become used to doing it, your whole perspective shifts, and happiness and gratitude become your modus operandi. You can also keep a gratitude journal.
I encourage you to create an evening ritual for yourself right away. Keep it simple-just a few steps- so it is easier to remember and implement. You can add more to your ritual later. Infuse love and intention into every act. And don’t beat yourself up if you have to skip a night, just get back on track as soon as you can.
Finally, try practicing gratitude, either as part of your evening ritual, or at another (specific) time of the day. Remember, consistency is key!