It’s my firm belief that a nighttime routine should be indulgent, nurturing, relaxing and easy to maintain. Your routine should feel like a beautiful splurge at the end of your day, but also manageable to stick to… not just another item on your to do list.
For people who struggle to fall asleep, a nighttime routine can also be extremely functional. Your body naturally wants to keep to a routine, and the more you can create external cues that it’s time to wind down for bed, the more success you’ll have. Based on what I’ve seen, people who struggle with sleep tend to adopt one of these activities, like dimming the lights for an hour before bedtime. I think choosing just one in isolation is stopping short. The power of the routine is its cumulative effect. Try stringing them together to see the full power of a nighttime routine in all its glory! This is the sequence that works for me.
- Set a daily reminder.
I encourage you to pick up your phone right now and set a daily reminder to begin your nighttime routine. I start mine about two hours before I plan to actually go to bed, so that I’m not rushed. The reminder will help you adopt the routine until it becomes a habit.
2. Dim your lights.
Begin simply by turning down the lights. If your overhead lights don’t have dimmer switches, try lamps or candles instead. I like to dim the lights two hours before bedtime as a visual cue for my body. It should go without saying, but try to minimize screen time at this point in your evening.
3. Treat yourself to a ritual bath
I realize that baths aren’t for everyone, but for me, they’re the definition of luxury and relaxation. I highly recommend incorporating ritual baths – baths taken with a special purpose – into your routine. Every step of preparing and enjoying your bath should be carried out very deliberately with an intention in mind. Set the intention based on what you need physically, emotionally or spiritually at that moment. Check in with yourself. Do you feel tense? Overwhelmed? Exhausted? Is your to-do list running in an endless loop in your mind? Your intention doesn’t have to be fancy; it’s about acknowledging how you feel now and how you want to feel and giving yourself permission to change. A lot of times my intention is simply to let go. Set your intention while you prepare your bath – dim the lights, light a candle, add bath salts, start a playlist or a meditation – and then revisit that intention while you soak.
4. Prepare a warm drink.
Following my bath, I prepare a warm drink to enjoy as I’m getting ready for bed. Again, some people don’t enjoy warm beverages, but they’ve always been incredible calming and nurturing for me. I have a few favorite warm drinks in rotation at the moment; I choose them based on how I’m feeling physically and emotionally. If my day has been hectic, and I feel scattered and overwhelmed, I choose something grounding like a ginger tea or a golden milk. If I need a little extra self love, I might opt for something rich like cacao with rose petals. If I’m running low on time (or have already brushed my teeth), I’ll just drink warm water. Don’t forget your intention from the previous step. P.S. I recently got some heart-shaped tea spoons, and they’ve made this nightly ritual even more delicious.
5. Incorporate essential oils.
I’ve recently started incorporating essential oils into my daily routine. (I bought a diffuser and am LOVING it. More on that later.) I like to add a couple of drops of essential oils to the body oil I use at bedtime. You could use a diffuser in your bedroom or just apply a couple of drops of essential oils to the bottoms of your feet.
Some popular nighttime oils are:
- Frankincense helps with anxiety, stress; “king of essential oils;” instills peace, comfort and relation
- Rose helps with stress, tension, grief; “queen of essential oils;” brings in divine love or self love
- Lavender helps with agitation, anxiety; the Romans used lavender in their baths for its calming and curative powers
- Ylang Ylang – helps with stress, tension, anxiety; use it when you need a dose of childlike playfulness (can cause irritation on the skin, so test a small patch first or dilute with oil or lotion)
6. Try guided meditation, yoga nidra or relaxing music.
When I’m stressed, I clench my hands while I’m asleep…until my hands go numb. Needless to say, I’ve tried different techniques to drop this habit. A friend suggested yoga nidra, and it’s the only thing so far that works. Not everyone can find 20 minutes for a yoga nidra practice, but if you can, you might just fall asleep on the spot. I also really enjoy guided meditations and love the Live Awake podcast. (You can find it on SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts.)
Remember, these are just my suggestions. Try them for yourself and notice how you respond. The success of your routine is less about what you choose and more about being consistent with a system that works for you. If lavender makes you feel energized instead of relaxed (as it does for me), then adapt. Once you land on a routine, implement it every evening, preferably at the same time.