If you’re one of the millions of people on the eternal quest for a good night’s sleep you’ll know how desperate the situation can feel. After a less-than-ideal night under the covers, it saps you of your radiance, your energy, your concentration, and dampens your mood. Getting enough quality sleep is a fundamental biological function essential for wellbeing—so where do you start when sleep seems so elusive?
We’ve compiled the key elements, habits and bedtime rituals that will pave the way for a peaceful night and let you reclaim the best of your days:
Phase 1: Daylight Hours Matter
The most helpful way to view sleep is as a 24-hour cycle—it’s not just the part where you turn out the lights and hope for the best. Sleep and wakefulness are two sides of the same coin and your body has an internal “clock” that constantly runs in the background of your brain alternating between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.
This sleep/wake cycle is controlled by your hypothalamus (a part of your brain), but external factors like lightness and darkness also have an impact. Too little natural light during the day confuses this internal clock as well as the hormones that prep your body for sleep many hours later. Here are some practical things you can start doing (and some other habits to drop) to help support your body’s internal clock to run on time and achieve deeper sleep:
- Wake up at (roughly) the same time each day
- Draw the blinds first thing in the morning
- Enjoy your breakfast outside or in natural sunlight
- Take a walk outside during the day on your lunch break
- Move your desk closer to a window if possible
- Exercise in natural light instead of indoors.
Maximizing your daylight exposure in these ways sends a signal to your brain that this is the start of your awake cycle, which begins the countdown to the start of your sleep cycle.
Phase 2: Create a Wind-Down Transitions from Day to Night
When you walk in the door after another hectic day, what does your wind-down routine look like? Do you have one or do you simply get straight into the next round of jobs to do around the house until you collapse, exhausted, into bed (only to feel completely wired!).
Give your mind and body a window of time to transition from your too-busy day to a relaxed evening ahead. Have you ever tried to put an over-stimulated child to bed? It generally doesn’t go too well and the same rings true for adults—create a ritual that promotes letting go of the day, regaining balance, and feeling at ease. Here are some ideas:
- Detach from devices and turn them to silent
- Cook dinner and connect with your family mindfully
- Brew a calming herbal tea.
- Stretch on a foam roller or try some light yoga
- Practice deep breathing
- Play some chilled tunes
- Soothe your temples with comforting aromas.
Phase 3: Hello, Pre-Bedtime Rituals
The onset of sleep is a highly-choreographed process and what you specifically do in the 30-60 minutes before lights-out matters. With so much to get done during our wakeful hours, it can be easy to view bedtime as an inconvenience and something to put off as long as possible. But as Arianna Huffington taught us, sleep is actually a performance enhancer—a secret weapon that boots daytime productivity by allowing you to recover and restore your mind and body. Here are some of our favorite rituals for ultimate calm:
- Journal any final thoughts or worries
- Take a steamy shower in near-darkness
- Play a guided sleep time meditation
- Massage a luxurious, non-greasy oil into your skin
- Play white noise while you settle under the covers
- Keep your room cool (and dark) and your feet warm.
Whether you have trouble winding down, getting to sleep, staying asleep, or wake up feeling groggy—these simple habits and rituals will promote calm and a greater sense of ease in your day-to-day life. Pick the ones that suit you and your lifestyle best and that help you to connect with your body, calm your busy mind, and invite more relaxation into your routine. Quality sleep is one of life’s precious gifts and while getting there takes time and patience—it’s now peacefully within reach.