Stress is the new smoking. Studies have linked stress to countless health problems including insomnia, inflammation, obesity, Alzheimer’s Disease, anxiety, depression, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, premature aging, and even premature death.
Lately, there’s been much commotion about the importance of a healthy morning routine to start your day off on the right foot. But how can you possibly start your day off bright eyed and bushy tailed if you don’t get a proper night’s sleep?
Here are 10 ways you can create a stress-free night routine to make for sweet dreams and a morning where being chipper is even possible.
1. Create a plan. What does your perfect night look like? Only you can know for sure exactly how your “dream night” would go. If reading is your magic night cap, then schedule in reading time with an inspiring book before bed. What time would be your ideal sleep time? Then make sure you’re setting enough time after dinner to prepare to be able to go to sleep at that time. It’s all about planning.
2. Give your electronics a “bedtime.” Try and power down all electronics 3-5 hours before bed. If you have a favorite show that’s after hours, Tivo or DVR it to watch the next night at a decent hour. And this applies to computers, ipads, iphones, and even podcasts. Let you body get into the natural rhythm of peaceful, quiet nights.
3. Prepare your bedroom. If you had royalty coming over to your house to sleep in your bed, how would you prepare the room? Candles, possibly? Incense, perhaps? Clean sheets and an immaculate room, definitely. Mess equals stress, so clean your room up before you go to bed to ensure a stress-free environment. Also, make sure to completely cover all windows so that your room is pitch black. Studies show that even the tiniest light from a clock or otherwise can decrease the production of melatonin (important for sleep and health!). So power everything down and unplug from the wall if you must. If you have any other lights on, make sure you have something to place over it so you can’t see the glow.
4. Skip the snack and opt for tea. Chamomile, skullcap, lemon balm and lavender tea are all known sleep aids. There are few things more calming than drinking a cup of tea.
5. Take an epsom salt bath. It’s a folk remedy to give children a bath before bed because it helps them sleep quicker and better through the night. Why is it that we don’t use that remedy for adults too? Place about a ½-1 cup epsom salt in the bath along with a few drops of sleep-promoting essential oil in your bath, such as lavender, vetiver, Roman chamomile, bergamot, sandalwood, marjoram, or cedarwood. Epsom salts help relieve pain and inflammation and also contain magnesium—known to help with sleep. A small scale study conducted in 1985 found that people who take a warm bath before bed fall asleep more quickly, as well as report better overall quality of sleep.
6. Self-massage. How often do you say (or think) the words, “I need a massage”? Well, now there’s no excuse—you can do it yourself. Don’t just slap on the oil either. Take time on each and every area of the body with an organic oil and don’t forget to spend time on your feet.
7. Create a “dump” journal. And by “dump,” I mean dumping out the mind of any thoughts, worries, ideas and ‘to do’ lists. If you’re busy thinking about what you have to get done tomorrow or if you’re afraid you won’t remember something, just jot it down so you can get your mind off it.
8. Try a gratitude exercise. You can keep a separate gratitude journal after you write in your “dump” journal. That way, you’re thinking of all the awesome things you’re thankful for before bed. Oprah Winfrey says, “Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.
9. Gentle yoga. You don’t want to break sweat before bed, but some slow mindful stretches can help ease stress and get your body feeling better and prepared for lying still.
10. Meditate. Yoga is a preparation for meditation; and what better way to send you into dream world? One study from 2009 showed how meditation can help fight insomnia. The research found that meditation provides deep relaxation and peace, leading to longer and better sleep. Try this “big mind” guided meditation if you need some guidance.
Bess O’Connor, a certified Ayurvedic and Holistic Health Practitioner, explores the heart of health at the core of alternative medicine, massage therapy, conscious movement, nutrition, meditation and other healing traditions.