In my last post, I talked about creating a morning routine to support your wellbeing, personal growth and inner peace. If this has inspired you to try to get up earlier in the morning, you might be wondering how on earth you are going to do that when you struggle to get enough sleep as it is!
Life is busy, and the time at the end of the day when your day job is done, the kids are in bed, and you have some time to yourself is time to catch up on your favourite tv programmes, chill out with a glass of wine, catch up with social media, housework, and a whole host of other things you want to do. You probably don’t want to think about having to go to bed earlier and wasting your precious ‘me time’.
I get that completely! I really do. I know how valuable your ‘me time’ is. I am a passionate advocate of the idea of Mums taking time to take care of themselves. And so I am not suggesting that your evening routines need to take away from self care and your need for time for you.
I am suggesting the exact opposite, in fact, an evening routine that entirely supports your wellbeing, self care and ‘me time’.
The importance of rest and relaxation
Your life is very busy. From the moment you get up in the morning, you have a long list of things that need your attention, time and focus. The kids need you. Your job needs you. You have the cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, bedtime stories, and so much more to do. It’s constant, and those moments at the end of your day when you can just flop onto the sofa in front of a good bingeworthy Netflix series are priceless.
Even if you do end up going to bed later than maybe you should, even if you wake up in the morning wishing you had been able to sleep for longer.
If you are able to organise your life and your routines so that you can get effective, restful sleep, how much better would you feel each day? How much happier would you feel if you could start your day refreshed, with some time to yourself before the demands of the day begin?
An evening routine that promotes restful, relaxing sleep will transform your life.
Why you need to sleep
Despite it being something that all animals do, scientists still haven’t entirely worked out why we sleep. There are so many benefits we get from it, and so many problems that can arise from not getting enough, that it is hard to pinpoint a single reason. But we do know that it is important. I am currently listening to ‘Why We Sleep‘, by Matthew Walker, on Audible, and will write a more indepth post about sleep based on what I am learning soon
Lack of sleep affects physical and mental health very quickly. If you are tired, you are more likely to eat high calorie, fast energy release food such as processed sugar, carbs and caffeine. This causes energy and blood sugar spikes which may be effective in the short term, but lead to unstable energy levels and long term health problems.
Being tired leaves you more prone to stress, irritable, less able to focus and concentrate, more likely to make mistakes and underperform at work. You are more at risk of traffic accidents. Sleep deprivation, even moderate levels, leads to the same level of cognitive impairment as being drunk! You wouldn’t turn up to work, drive or take care of the children when drunk, but we all do these things without enough sleep!
Clearly, it is important that you get enough sleep. But beyond that, the quality of your sleep is vitally important. If you do struggle to get enough sleep, you can improve your wellbeing by taking steps to get better sleep.
Getting better sleep
If you are waking up feeling tired all the time, despite seemingly getting enough sleep, you may not be sleeping well. We can all benefit from more restful sleep.
There are many things you can do to improve your sleep quantity and quality. Here are a few suggestions to help you think about how you can shape your evening so you get better sleep
Creating a routine around sleep and wake times is really important. We know this with children, making sure that they go to bed at their correct bedtime, but we often forget it as adults. The more you can get your body used to the same sleep and wake times, the easier it is to fall asleep at night, and wake up in the morning. This may take time to adjust if you are implementing a new routine, but stick with it, and you will see the rewards.
Getting enough exercise during the day helps promote good sleep. Being active throughout the day ensures that the body is physically tired by the end of the day, and helps to release stress and tension. Gentle movements such as Yoga in the evening will help your body to relax. Try to avoid overly vigorous exercise late at night as this will raise your heart rate and make rest harder.
Release physical tension
The ‘jattis’ of the Gitananda Yoga system are great for releasing the tension and stiffness that might build up in the body throughout the day. These gentle movements release stress and promote mental and physical relaxation. They are a great addition to your morning routine as well!
Time to digest your food
When do you eat your evening meal? Do you allow plenty of time for your body to get to work digesting your food before you try to sleep? If you eat late, you will find it harder to sleep as your body is still very active processing your food. Try to eat at least 2 hours before bedtime
Watch the caffeine
We all know that caffeine interferes with sleep. That is, indeed, one of the reasons we drink it, so we can stay awake when we’re tired! If you want to improve your sleep, be able to get to bed earlier, or be able to wake up better, cutting down on caffeine, and taking care not to drink it later in the day is vital.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that you allow at least 6 hours between your last coffee and bedtime. From personal experience, I would recommend more, drink coffee in the morning only, and drink water or herbal tea for the rest of the day. Green tea contains some caffeine, so this is a helpful substitute for coffee if you need your caffeine after lunch! Although if you really want to crack the caffeine dependency, slowly wean yourself off it completely!
When you have a lot on your mind, are worried about various issues in your life, or are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by life, it can sometimes be very hard to sleep due to the intrusive thoughts that arise when you are trying to relax. A regular gratitude practice is a great way to combat this. Spending a few moments each night listing and reflecting on the things that are good in your life can transform your sense of wellbeing and happiness. This can relax your mind enough to allow you to sleep better. Research is beginning to show that there is a strong correlation between expressing gratitude, and getting better sleep
Dim the lights
Our brains are still wired to respond to natural cycles of night and day. Sitting under bright lights late at night confuses the brain and keeps it thinking it is daytime. If you struggle to relax and get to sleep, try lighting some candles, putting on lamps rather than bright overhead lights, and creating a relaxing evening dim light.
Switch off devices
Aside from the addictive quality of social media sites, binge worthy Netflix shows and endless links to be clicked, the blue light emitted by your devices disrupts the production of melatonin. This is the hormone that tells your body it is time to sleep. If you can reduce the time you spend on your phone, tablet or laptop late in the evening, you give your brain a much better chance of settling into a natural, restful sleep. If this is not possible for you, your phone may offer a ‘blue light filter’ in the settings (I know my Samsung S9 does) or it might be worth investigating using ‘blue light blocking glasses, such as these.
*disclaimer* I don’t know from personal experience if they work, but may well investigate for myself at some point. This particular model is ‘Amazon’s Choice’ for blue light blocking glasses, and it has over 600 reviews and a 4.5 star rating
Getting quiet and breathing deeply
Spending time sitting and focusing on your breath at the end of the day is an excellent way to quieten the mind and let go of the busy, racing thoughts that might keep you awake. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes to let go of distracting thoughts and allow your mind to relax. You can try this for yourself through the ‘5 Minute Breath’ 10 day mini course, and you can learn about the benefits of this practice here
Taking a book to bed rather than your book is an ideal way to satisfy your urge to read something, while allowing your brain to relax and produce the melatonin it needs for sleep. Reading at bedtime is very relaxing, and a lovely way to relax. Try to read something light and easy to read, rather than something very gripping that will keep you turning pages until the early hours, or that will stimulate rather than relax your brain.
Go to bed early
I know that sometimes it can feel as though you ‘deserve’ the time you stay up after the kids go to bed, and that going to bed early feels like a waste, but trust me, if you can have a good long, restful sleep, you will feel so much better the next day, you’ll be glad you did. If you feel tired, don’t feel that you have to stay up. You’ll fare much better if you get the sleep your body needs, rather than forcing yourself to stay up because you feel you ought to.
Soak in the bath
If you don’t want to go to bed, but want to lie down and relax, a warm (not hot) bath will help to relax your body and mind. You can make a bath wonderfully indulgent with salts, bubble bath, face masks, candles, music, a good book and so on, depending on your preferences. Soak in a warm bath, then get some clean pyjamas on and get into a freshly made (before the bath) bed, and you will feel so relaxed, pampered and cared for!
This practice is a powerful way of releasing physical and mental tensions at any time of day, but is particularly good to unwind at bedtime. One of my local class students uses it when she has bouts of insomnia, and swears by it! Follow the practice in this video and see how relaxed you feel after it.
Write it down
Writing down the events of the day, the things that are on your mind, as well as your gratitude list can help to get stuff out of your head and clear space for rest at bedtime. Spend a few minutes each evening ‘debriefing’ from the day by writing out your thoughts and feelings, and let them go.
These are just a few tips that can help you relax and unwind at bedtime. I’d love to know what you do to get ready for sleep…share your top tips in the comments.
Create your Space to Breathe
The Space to Breathe 90 Day Journal will provide you with space to create your daily routines and rituals that support your wellbeing and your best life, and is a great complement to creating a new evening routine. Find out more about the journal and get your copy here