According to happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin, what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. Since you go to sleep every day (well, late-night study sessions, new parenthood, and the occasional all-nighter aside), how you go to bed can make a huge difference in the quality of sleep you get.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to your physical health, sense of well-being, and mental clarity. It is reported that approximately 30 percent of adults experience difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early, difficulty sleeping well, and experiencing general insomnia. Creating a before-bed routine can help facilitate better sleep and allow you to wake feeling rejuvenated.
Consider those vacation days when you’ve got all the time in the world to prep for bed and you sleep soundly. Haven’t been on vacation lately? Maybe there’s a fantasy you’ve had of the best possible evening. Consider your favorite soothing rituals: does a bath or shower help you wind down? An evening walk around the block? Crafts? Listening to an inspiring talk? Reading? Writing tomorrow’s to-do list? Consider what healthy habits help you slow down and let go of your day. Your answers to these questions can all inform your creation of an evening ritual to wind down.
Before you start to get ready for bed, set yourself up for success by eating an easily digestible dinner several hours before you plan to turn in. According to Ayurvedic recommendations, soup and low-protein meals will be more easily processed and require less work from the digestive organs. Try incorporating Kitchari and soups to your dinner menu.
Following your final meal for the day, try this sequence, which will allow you slip from Savasana to sleep (remember, Savasana is not sleep!). This sequence is ideally practiced on the floor near your bed or even right in your bed. Best enjoyed in pajamas. Try this an hour to two hours before you hope to catching those ZZZs.
1. Set Up the Conditions for Calm
Make the area around you quiet, dark, and warm. Set up an environment so that you make yourself physically comfortable.
2. Turn Off Electronic Screens
This includes phones, TVs, iPads, computers, Kindles, etc. If you’re using your device for music, reading, or as an alarm/timer, set it to airplane mode and dim the light.
Studies show that the light emitted from your electronics significantly inhibits your body’s natural “wind down” cue in the evening. And staying off social media at least an hour before sleep gives you the opportunity to reduce mental activity, be present with your own thoughts and feelings, and release focus on other people’s lives (which in turn gives your parasympathetic nervous system a chance to kick in to relax you). Give yourself the best chance of a good night’s sleep by powering down.
3. Reflect on Your Day
Open your journal, practice a gratitude meditation, or share your thoughts of thankfulness with someone you trust. Offering gratitude can boost your overall sense of well-being, strengthen your empathy muscles, and increase optimism and compassion. What a nice way to end the day and invite in positive dreams!
4. Drink Warm Tea or a Mixture of Herbs in Milk
The warm liquid helps encourage digestion and the ritual of drinking the tea can be soothing and grounding. Choose herbal tea or non-caffeinated tea or try an Ayurvedic herb blend such as nutmeg, cardamom, and ghee. The relaxing herbal tea formulated by the Chopra Center is specifically meant to relieve stress and quiet your busy mind before bed.
5. Practice Trataka or Candle Gazing Meditation
Sit up. Light a small, unscented candle and place it close enough to you that you can see it without straining your eyes. In this meditation you’ll look at the flame as long as you can without blinking. See how long you can go. It will be longer than you think you’ll be able to! When you do need to blink or close your eyes, allow yourself to do that and decide if you’d like to reopen them or keep them closed. If you choose to keep them closed, visualize the candle flame before you. Just make sure you wake yourself up and blow out the candle before going to sleep!
6. Practice Restorative Yoga Asana
Follow the sequence below, or do the poses your body is craving.
- Come to hands and knees.
- Align your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Inhale and arch your back, gazing forward.
- Exhale and round your back, gazing in towards your belly.
- Repeat slowly several times to release your spine and joints from the day’s activities.
- From hands and knees bring your big toes together and widen your knees however much is comfortable.
- Sit your hips back towards your heels and rest your torso on a bolster or just between your legs.
- Reach your arms forward and rest your forehead on a block or the ground.
- Stay for 3-5 minutes breathing deeply.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
- Come to your back.
- Bring the bottoms of your feet together.
- Allow your knees to open to the side. For an even more restorative variation, recline onto a bolster and roll up blankets for under your head and knees.
- Stay for 3-5 minutes.
- From your back, hug your knees into your chest.
- Stretch your arms open to your sides like a “T” and let your knees fall to one side.
- Adjust to make sure you’re comfortable: knees can stay together or wrap one around the other, one leg could extend, or a blanket between the knees may feel best.
- Stay for 2-3 minutes and switch sides.
Happy Baby Pose
- From your back hug your knees into your chest.
- Separate your knees and draw them to your shoulders.
- Reach your hands up towards your feet or ankles.
- Move your elbows inside of your knees and pull down.
- It may feel nice to rock gently or to remain still as you breathe.
- Stay for 1-2 minutes and release.
Legs Up the Wall Pose
- Sit next to the wall and roll down to your side.
- Swing your legs up the wall and move as close to the wall as is comfortable for the backs of your legs.
- Rest a blanket under your head as a pillow and under your low back for support.
- It can also feel grounding to put a folded blanket on top of your feet, especially if it’s the weather is cold.
- P.S.: If your bed is against a wall you can do this one right in bed and then slide into sleep.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed that the creation of an evening routine will just be an addition to your to-do list, consider what elements among these suggestions you may like to incorporate. Start with one thing that really strikes you (such as, “yeah, I could drink some tea before bed, that’s manageable”) and begin to add on from there as you carve out more time for self-care before bed. Sweet Dreams!
Discover the perfect evening routine to help you get the best sleep of your life with 7 Days to Restful Sleep, Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s online program offering meditations, activities, and tips. Learn More.