A good night’s sleep is so important for our overall health, not only do our minds rest at night, it’s also where our bodies and muscles restore and heal, so sleeping well is vital to our overall health and wellbeing. In today’s fast paced environment many adults are not getting enough sleep each night, and the quality of our sleep is often poor. Everything from our use of technology throughout the day to the stress were exposing our bodies and minds to all have an impact on our sleep cycle, so I have tried to create the perfect bedtime ritual, to combat some of this and create the ideal circumstances for a good night’s sleep! This bedtime routine is extensive, but you can pick and choose what might work for your routine, cause while switching everything off and dedicating several hours to your night-time routine might sound a little excessive and unrealistic, even implementing some of these things could have a huge impact on your sleep quality!
8 PM: Switch off Digital Devices – It’s Time for Some Selfcare!
Selfcare isn’t just for Sundays and taking a little time to pamper yourself and make yourself feel good, can be very beneficial for your sleep. The first step here is to switch off digital devices, not only could the blue light from the screen be impacting your sleep, it’s also a good habit to switch off and focus inward. I shower at night and therefore selfcare has always been somewhat part of my bedtime ritual, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to see this as less of something, that I needed to get over with, and more as something that I’m doing to take care of myself and show myself some love and care. Here are some things to you can do to take care of YOU after you’ve switched your phone to flight mode.
Yes, indulge in a bath, but if you think that is an overkill, a shower can do the trick! First of all, a shower or bath at night, will wash off bacteria and germs from the day, which will help keep your skin clear and healthy! This has always been one of my main reasons for showering at night, I love feeling clean and fresh before I curl up in my clean sheets.
But there’s more to it than clean skin, a shower or bath at night helps regulate your body temperature and blood pressure. Your body has drop the temperature a few degrees for you to fall asleep, so a bath or shower can help open up blood vessels in your skin and help your body shed heat.
Finally hopping in a bath with Epsom salts, magnesium or using products scented with essential lavender oil will help your muscles and mind feel calm, relaxed and ready for bed!
After a nice hot bath or shower, the pampering continues! Showing my body some love and care every night is not only about moisturizing after a shower, I try and see it as a selfcare ritual where I take care of my body and show myself some love. We spend a lot of time criticizing ourselves and especially our bodies, but I have legs that allow me to walk and run and arms that allow me to hug the ones I love, and all of that deserves some love and care.
On top of that gently massaging your muscles and skin before bedtime can help your muscles relax and give you a better night’s sleep.
9 PM: Restorative Yoga to Rest and Restore
A little restorative yoga session before bed, can work wonders for a good night’s sleep and it is great to make it a part of your bedtime ritual. Don’t practice anything too strenuous or complicated, the goal is to clear the mind of thoughts and worries and to ease tension in the body.
Set the Scene
I don’t know about you, but I love making it nice and cosy for myself before any yoga practice, sometimes that may involve cleaning up some clutter in the living room before rolling out my mat and putting on whatever music I’m in the mood for. For a night time practice it’s often about surrounding myself with softness; plush blankets and bolsters, maybe lighting some candles and using some essential oils on my temples and wrists! A diffuser is definitely on my wish list and would make a perfect night time restorative companion.
A gentle stretch does not only relieve tight muscles after sitting at a desk all day or from being physically active, yoga can help lower stress levels a relax the nervous system and help us slow down for a good night’s rest. Here are some poses to try for a little night-time restorative sequence you can make part of your bedtime ritual. Don’t worry if you don’t have props like bolsters, bricks or straps at home, you can easily use makeshift props in the form of pillows, blankets and books. For a night time yoga sequence, focus on opening the hips and lengthening the spine. The spine and hips work hard during the day and can especially the hips can often become tight from the day’s activities (or lack thereof), and finally some poses are said to have direct impact on your melatonin production. Try this little sequence before bed and see how you feel, stay in each pose for 1-2 minutes and focus on the breath.
Supta Bandha Konasana – Reclining Goddess Pose
Sit down in front of a bolster, knees bend and feet together. Slowly lower your spine down on the bolster and rest your head back keep your palms facing upward and chest open. Let your knees fall to either side and put the soles of your feet together. Adjust the stretch to suit you by bringing the heels closer or further away from your body or placing bricks underneath you knee for support.
To come out of the pose, bring your knees together and support yourself with your hands on the ground and lift yourself up from the bolster.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana – Pigeon Pose
Come onto all fours and bring your right knee to the floor by your right wrist and shin parallel to the top of your mat. Square your hips towards the front and slowly lower your front body and chest down towards the floor. Find where the pose feels comfortable to you and adjust the stretch with props like a blanket or bolster under the hip of the bend leg or rest your front body on a bolster. Repeat on either side.
To come out of the pose come back up to the wrist and slowly come back to all fours.
Viparita Karani – Legs up the Wall Pose
This pose with your hips raised and your feet up against the wall is said to increase the blood flow towards the brain and stimulate the pineal gland, which produces the sleep hormone melatonin, so it is great to combat insomnia. Sit sideways next to the wall with a bolster or rolled up blanket behind you. Swing your feet up against the wall and lay back on the ground. You can wiggle around and make the stretch suit you. If your hamstrings feel tight, move further away from the wall, and if your feet are falling to either side, put a belt around your thighs or ankles. I love to do this stretch in bed with an eye pillow on, if I’m feeling antsy. Always does the trick!
To come out of this pose, tug your knees in towards your chest and roll to your side, push yourself up to a seated position.
Salamba Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand
If you’re unfamiliar with a shoulder stand, don’t practice it as a part of your night time routine, and instead save it for class where you have guidance and support. But if you feel comfortable in a shoulder stand and plow pose, it can have the same effect as legs up the wall and stimulate the pineal gland. Lie flat on your back with your knees bend and feet on the mat. Grab a hold of the outsides of your mat and swing your feet overhead, interlace your fingers behind your back and walk your shoulder blades closer to each other, bring your hands to support your back, keeping your elbows in and gaze straight up. Only stay in this pose for as long as you feel comfortable.
To come out of this pose, bend your knees and while still supporting your spine, slowly roll back down to a flat back.
10 PM – Journaling and Reading
Swapping Netflix and bright screens, for a couple of chapters of a good book could really help keep your circadian rhythm in check. Blue light seems to be quite the buzzword lately, but even with the phone and tablet set to warm light and blue light blocking glasses, it seems like the simpler option is just to open a book and relax with a cup of tea. Another thing I’ve taken to do over the past year is journaling every night. What I do is very light and simple, you might want to do more, but I find that this is a great place to begin, and especially at night, you don’t want to get your mind rolling too much and start pondering big life decisions. I keep a gratitude journal and each night I write down three things I’m grateful for. It ranges from little things like the weather, a great lunch or a kind gesture, to big things like love, my health and family and friends. It takes some practice, but I’m sure you’ll find that consistently finding things you are grateful for, will actually change the way you think and approach your life every single day.
10.30 – Pranayama and Moon Activating Breath
The cherry on top of a prefect bedtime ritual is this pranayama practice, even if this is all you can find the time for, you will be on your way to a better night’s sleep. The pranayama practice of Chandra Bhedana calms the nervous system and helps you to feel calm and relaxed. The breath activates the left side of your body and brain and your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your inner calm and quiet.
Sit up straight in your bed or on a cushion.
Place your thumb on the right nostril and your ring finger on the left nostril.
Press and block the right nostril and take a deep breath in through the left.
Hold the breath for a gentle beat, before releasing through the right.
Repeat this for a couple of minutes.
Release the breath and notice the calming sensation through your body and mind.