Sleep. Nothing like it right?
You can drink a gallon of kombucha, align your chakras, spend hours every day in a downward facing dog, eat only superfoods or pop a jade egg, but if you’re not getting the right amount or quality of sleep, you may as well throw the rest out the window. That’s because, whilst many wellness trends come and go, sleep transcends all. Which is why we knew we needed to talk about it as part of the Healthy Habits series! Researchers are now starting to suggest that rather than sleep being one of the three pillars of health (along with nutrition and exercise), sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body for health.
But the reality is, so many of us struggle to get enough sleep, whether it be due to overexposure to screens, insomnia or stress. I for one know what it’s like to be in a pattern of going to bed late or tossing and turning all night. The worst! Of course, there are plenty of justifiable reasons for poor sleep – working night shifts, taking different medications, anxiety, or a new mother who doesn’t know when she’ll get a decent night sleep again (fingers and toes crossed some time soon!). But for the rest of us, an addiction to Pinterest or simply thinking we don’t really need to sleep that much aren’t great reasons, and can be a disaster both in the short and long term.
But what can you do about crappy sleep? In the last few years I’ve found that the biggest tool for better sleep is to create a personal routine by investing time and planning into the before, during and after of sleep. Not getting obsessed with it (that can make poor sleep worse!), but putting a few habits in place to create better sleep. And whilst it’s rare to have great sleep all the time, I’ve found a lot of these have helped me. The trick is to try them and see which ones work for you, so you can create your own personal sleep routine!
Here’s a few thoughts about developing better sleeping routines!
The focus for your routine prior to going to bed is about building habits that calm and relax you, gradually turning down the activity levels so you can embrace sleep more easily, rather than being plunged straight into a state of needing to sleep being not being able to. The big one here is to power down your devices in advance of going to bed, so your eyes can adjust to the night time. Drinking tea, doing some yoga and reading a book are all simple techniques that help here too.
Obviously, the goal of a routine during sleep is to stop you waking up, which can throw your sleep off entirely. So, create an environment conducive to sleep by darkening the room and making sure it’s a cool temperature. If you’re prone to waking up to go to the toilet, perhaps consider skipping the tea before bed. And if you wake up a night and start panicking about not getting enough sleep, focus on taking 20 deep breaths. This helps me when I’m struck by night time anxiety!
Surprisingly, how you wake up can impact your overall sleeping habits, routines and quality so don’t forget about the hours after you sleep when developing better sleep routines. For me personally, it’s all about making the waking experience more pleasurable (with music instead of an awful alarm, and by using natural light) and creating great reasons to get out of bed (a yummy breakfast, a work out session planned with friends).
Below we’ve created a sleep tracker for you because without actually tracking your sleep it can be difficult to even know how you actually sleep – it might be better (or worse) than you think! Download the printable here.
At the end of the day, creating a sleep routine that works for you is really about trial and error, working out what your body likes and responds to. So it’s a good idea to experiment with different activities and habits and see how they go for you. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to sleep, but whatever your routine is, having one can really help – as long as it’s not scrolling Instagram for 3 hours before bed :).
Illustration by Natalie Ong.