The holiday season is a busy time of year for most of us (then again, when are we ladies ever NOT busy??), and one thing I hear from my clients a lot this time of year (and throughout the year) is: “I can’t seem to turn my mind off at night” and “I keep thinking of all things I have to do the next day.”
Besties, if this sounds familiar, have no fear. I’m sharing 7 suggestions for a soothing nighttime routine that will help you decompress well before you hit the hay so that you’ll be in REM sleep before you know it.
The major trouble I see in most busy women with this struggle is that they don’t give themselves enough time to prepare for sleep. Now before you click away from this post, thinking “PREPARE for sleep? I barely have enough time TO sleep, let alone time to PREPARE for sleep,” hear me out.
A nighttime routine doesn’t have to be hours long. In fact, it doesn’t have to be an hour long. It just has to be enough time for your body and mind to get settled so that you can mindfully focus on the act of sleeping when it’s time for bed. If you are willing to try a few of these suggestions, I’m willing to bet you’ll never look back. There’s no need to try to incorporate all of these in one night (though that sounds like an amazing night to me!). Just choose a few that would serve you best tonight and consistently check in with yourself to see what sounds good again tomorrow night. Consider this post a pre-sleep menu that you get to choose from each and every night. You can choose the same thing again and again, or mix it up every night. You’ll reap the benefits no matter what.
1. Turn off your screens
Ok, I lied. This one is my number one suggestion for a reason: I’d love for you to choose this each and every night, in addition to any of the other suggestions. Why? The research has made it pretty clear that staring at your cell phone before bed is bad for your sleep cycles, your eyes, your concentration, your mental health in general. Start your nighttime routine by putting your phone on the charger somewhere outside your bedroom. Or at least where you can’t reach it from bed. I like to put an alarm on my phone one hour before I hope to go to bed that says: “phone away for the night!” so that no matter what I’m doing, I get interrupted with the reminder that there’s no YouTube video or Instagram feed worth sacrificing precious self-care and sleep for. Turning off your screens for the night is essentially laying the foundation for the rest of your amazing nighttime routine.
2. Get comfy
You know what this means, and if you’re anything like me, you’re like YESSSSS! PJs on, bras off, get COMFY. Whatever that looks like for you, but put on something that makes you feel relaxed and cozy. Snuggle up with a blanket anywhere you like and be prepared to have some “you time.”
3. Light a candle or diffuse essential oil
I’m more of a candle girl myself, but I know tons of people are into essential oils and to that I say, you do you! However, there’s something about scent that really helps the mind take it in and relax a little more. So choose a favorite scent and set the scene for an amazing night of rest.
I know prayer isn’t everyone’s thing, but even if it’s not, don’t discount the power of prayer. Anyone can take some time to be thankful for what went well during the day, and to count their blessings. Anyone can ask for wisdom and peace for tomorrow. If you feel led, pray for the wellbeing of your loved ones and other people you know. Definitely pray for yours, too! For me, there’s something so peaceful about ending my day with prayer, and with the knowledge that God is in control and He’s always working for my good.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Meditation helps. If you’re willing to give it a try, meditation can help you relax, practice staying in the moment, and help your brain physiology actually change such that you’ll be less hard-wired for panic and more hard-wired for peace. Try using an app or just sitting in quiet stillness. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. Simply focus on your breathing and practice returning to the present moment over and over again.
Journaling is one of my favorite forms of self-care for a reason: it’s like a mini therapy session every time you do it! Set a timer for 5 minutes and just see what you start to write about. It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of emotions pouring across the page or you are simply writing down the things you did that day…just let yourself write and see what comes up. For people who have trouble with meditation, journaling can be another form of self-care that helps you notice your thoughts and discover why you’re having them, as well as possible solutions for dealing with them. It’s a win win for sure.
7. Make your to-do list for tomorrow
If you’re like most people (myself included!), those swirling 3 am thoughts tend to center around all that you have to do the next day (or week). The best way to deal with those thoughts is honestly to give yourself some time to make a plan of attack the night before. In your planner or a notebook (I love this one)
Try not to use your phone for this (see #1).
Another helpful tip for making your to-do list: stick to 5-6 items only. Let’s be honest, life is better when we have some margin in our schedules and we’re not running around like crazy, without being able to breathe or have a moment to ourselves. If you finish those 5-6 most important items, you can always add more things to do (ahem, like scheduling in some self-care!), but starting out with a list of 239 tasks to accomplish is not going to do anything to take your stress away.
Ok, my friends, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes a super soothing nighttime routine. Do you have any must-dos to add to the list? Any of the above that you’re definitely going to be trying before bed tonight? Let us know in the comments!
I’m wishing you a blessed week ahead!