Creating a Ritual of Sleep
As soon as we wake up, we immediately wish we were back asleep. We crave it and long for it throughout the day. We buy soft pajamas, special blankets, and agonize over how soft or firm our pillow is. When it comes down to it, we should spend a little over a third of the day asleep. In fact, most scientific studies recommend adults 18 and older get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Despite being a basic human necessity, like water, breathing, and food, we just can’t seem to get enough of it.
Sometimes, it isn’t our fault that we don’t get the needed amount of sleep. New parents, for example, have to sacrifice a lot of sleep to take care of the baby. Sometimes illnesses or emergencies may arise that interrupt our sleeping pattern for a time. Some professions, like nursing, doctors, fire department, police, etc., require shifts 12 hours or more
Our body needs sleep. It’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-have that allows our bodies to function properly. When we’re younger, sleep promotes healthy growth and development, which is why you see babies sleeping throughout the day and toddlers requiring nap times. As we grow, sleep supports healthy brain functioning and is beneficial to both your physical and mental health. Our bodies also heal while we sleep because our brain and other systems are able to focus all their attention on repairing body systems that are damaged and refreshing those that are worn and tired.
Sleep is so vital to our health, and yet how often do we sacrifice the precious time we have to sleep for something else that, usually, isn’t good for us? We pull all-nighters to finish work deadlines for a job that screams at you for taking time off to go to the doctors. Staying out late to party, drink, and have fun is a rite of passage for most young adults. Netflix and other streaming services allow us to binge-watch shows and movies late into the night while we simultaneously scroll through social media.
While staying up late every once in a (long) while isn’t necessarily a bad thing overall, it is unfortunately the exception that has become the rule for too many of us and our mental and physical health suffers because of it. The hard truth is we need more sleep in our lives, and not just sleep, but deep, healing sleep.
Easier said than done, right? If we could just “get more sleep”, we’d just do it, wouldn’t we? Perhaps not.
At the end of each day, many of us just throw off our day clothes, slip on our pajamas, and scroll social media for hours before hitting the pillow, and then are surprised that we can’t fall or stay asleep. While many medical conditions exist that prevent sleep, many of us are simply sabotaging our chances for a good night’s sleep. Getting ready for bed should be more of a big deal than it is.
This is where we look to establish a healthy sleep ritual. A ritual is more than just a healthy habit. It’s a methodical routine that looks beyond just the steps to make it happen. In a ritual, you focus more on how you feel, why you’re doing the routine the way that you do it, what makes each part of the ritual so important to you. A ritual should be a conscious, healing process instead of a muscle memory action, like brushing your teeth.
With this understanding of the importance of creating a sleep ritual, here is a base ritual that you can start implementing and change depending on your preferences. The important thing to note is that you are creating a mindset that allows you to prepare your body, mind, and soul for rest, for relaxing, for healing. Each step should be taken with purpose, with looking forward to the result while also paying attention to each step.
First, note when you would like to preferably be asleep, or at least lying down in your bed. An hour before this time is when you should start your ritual.
Stop eating around this time, and stop drinking anything stimulating, like caffeine, or alcohol. Turn off devices like computers, phones, and your television. The point here is to eliminate distractions and to stop stimulating your senses so that they can start winding down to rest.
Prepare your body for sleep. Do some light, relaxing stretches. Child’s pose is a great stretch to do before bed. Meditate. Journal your thoughts from the day and purge them from your mind. Draw. Color. Do some deep breathing exercises. Some people find showers or even baths help them get ready for sleep.
Make yourself a nice cup of herbal tea. We recommend teas like chamomile, lavender, magnolia, or valerian tea. Get into your pajamas and start thinking about sleep. Maybe heat up a nice heating pad to place on your neck and upper back to allow you to relax.
Prepare your sleep area. Turn down the blankets, turn off the harsher overhead lights and just use the lamps (or dim the lights if that’s an option). Put on some soothing lavender or cocoa butter lotion on your hands, face, neck, even your feet.
Get into bed, sit back, sip your tea, and feel the moment. Enjoy the comfort you’re experiencing from the tea, the heating pad, from being in bed. Allow yourself this moment of peace. Breath deeply in your comfort. If your mind is still distracted and racing, perhaps this would be a good time to read that book you’ve always wanted to read. You could even journal or draw or color here. The point is to allow yourself to enjoy relaxing.
Once your tea is finished and you’re approaching your appointed bedtime, lay yourself back and close your eyes. Pay attention to how your muscles are in this moment. Are they tense? You’ll often find that, despite enjoying your relaxation, they are. Start at the top of your head, and slowly release your muscles. Release the muscles in your next, shoulders, upper back, lower back, and so forth, until you get down to your feet. Feel the release. Experience the release. Turn off the lights, and sweet dreams.