Our favourite bedtime rituals
We know that when it comes to sleep, our body and brain can associate certain, repeated, pre-bedtime activities with falling asleep or winding down. It’s a bit like Pavlov’s dogs - we can condition ourselves to think of sleep - or think we’re sleepy - whenever we perform specific actions.
Rituals are also heaven sent when we’re struggling with sleep or feeling stressed, and allow us to reset and recentre when our usual routine might be up in the air. A routine is a great anchor to have - sleep is an especially important part of tackling anxiety, creating emotional resilience and ensuring cognitive repair.
Here at M Life, we’re not sleep experts by any stretch, but we’re delighted to share our pre-bedtime rituals for a top notch night’s sleep.
Go to bed at the same time
Creating a good sleep cycle and automatically preparing to wind down starts with establishing a rhythm. Having a definitive time when we start winding down, and by which point we aim to be asleep, allows us to create a window in which to perform our other bedtime rituals and introduce a bedtime routine that makes our going to sleep literally happen like clockwork. In general, having boundaries is a good thing, and helps us develop the willpower to turn off our screens, put our minds literally at rest and prepare to hit the hay. This kind of self-control in particular is like a muscle - the more we use it, the stronger it becomes.
Step away from the screen
Yes, everyone’s always harping on about it - but seriously, putting the screen down is essential for a good night’s sleep. Blue light, whether that’s from a phone, smart watch, TV, or tablet, isn’t great for us anyway, let alone before bed. It keeps us awake and suppresses the production of certain chemicals, such as melatonin, but increases our levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Replacing the screen with a calming yoga session, a book or something like drawing, knitting or simply sitting and listening to relaxing music is far more beneficial to sleeping - and sleeping well.
Stretch - don’t sweat
Exercise is a wonderful thing and actually can contribute to a good night’s sleep. However, for some, exercising too close to bedtime can result in an elevated heart rate, higher body temperature and increased levels of adrenaline. During the day, this isn’t a problem, but if we struggle to get to sleep or come down off the post-exercise high, exercising close to bedtime might not be the best idea. If we prolong the decompression and relaxation we need before bed, and the time it takes us to get to sleep, that can also mean we go to sleep later, and cut short our precious hours of shut eye.
For those of us who need to do something physical before bedtime, a soothing series of stretches, done on their own or via slower forms of yoga, can help us shake off the day, allow our bodies much needed movement, and clear our mind of sleep-disturbing thoughts. It also helps send oxygen to our muscles and ensure physical and mental alignment.
We also recommend thinking about a change of clothes - try yoga clothing which is looser and softer to the touch than a usual workout outfit but isn’t quite pyjamas. This simple change of clothes can allow for a habitual, sleep-inducing transition from day time, to down time, to sleep time.
Practice a meditation or mantra
The timbre and rhythm of repeated meditations or mantras can be soporific, while also allowing us to calm and settle our minds. Gratitude-based mantras are particularly good as they can have a positive impact on our psyche - they allow us to feel in control of our emotions and prioritise feelings which are more conducive to sleep, such as happiness.
The meditation doesn’t have to be long, or very complex - it can be short and self-guided, repeating a mantra (e.g. a phrase or thought) for 10 minutes or so. Alternatively, apps like Headspace are great for those who need help to submit to a more meditative state before bed and want to try a longer session.
Set the scene
A cool, dark room, and one with white noise to drown out any distractions, is key. Placing any phones or screens outside of the room is good too, so we’re not tempted to look at them (a non-phone based alarm clock is helpful if using a phone as an alarm!). It’s also important to create separate zones, so that we know we’re preparing to go to sleep when we enter a space. Even if it’s the same room we occupy during the day, a change in light, temperature and ambience can mean we form a new, sleep-based association. Scented candles, incense, oils or pillows are also super helpful for creating the right atmosphere for sleep.