There are lots of important ingredients in your arsenal of beauty and health: a water bottle to help you stay hydrated; a perfect-match concealer; your fave shade of lipstick or eyeliner; the pair of jeans/yoga pants that make your butt look great; even the workout routine. But one of the most important tools in your lifestyle beauty bag is sleep.
Sleep is important. When we sleep, the body takes the time to repair and heal blood vessels. Ongoing sleep defiency can contribute to chronic conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and heart disease. During sleep, your body increases blood flow to the skin; skimping on a night’s rest slows cellular turnover in your skin, and also increase dehydration in your skin.
A good night’s sleep helps your brain integrate information, helps you pay closer attention, make better decisions and be creative. According to Ayurveda, the ancient Vedic science of wellness and preventative health, your body needs to be asleep by 10 pm to digest the food, the work, the exercise, the joy and struggle: in short, all of what you’ve experienced throughout the day, so you can integrate and incorporate it.
That’s all great, but knowing the science doesn’t make it easier to sleep. If you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep what might help is a bedtime routine: a simple string of habits that you employ every night to help you wind down, relax, and prepare for an evening of sleep and rejuvenation. Here are a few suggestions:
- Commit to prioritizing more sleep. Our world is so full of distractions, and sometimes it’s hard to choose our own health over what’s hot. FOMO is real. But choosing sleep over a late night of fleeting fun or work pays off with the benefit of a clearer mind, a healthier body, and a peaceful heart. Commit to yourself to choose the rest you need over that next round of drinks or binge watching Netflix or Hulu. You’re worth it.
- Make your bed. A made bed sleeps better than a rumpled one. So long as the sheets are smooth and even, make it how you like it, but when you crawl into a freshly made bed, you’ll feel great and ready to relax.
- Disconnect. The blue spectrum light from all the screens—television, smartphone, laptop, tablet—mimics sunlight and tells your brain to stop secreting melatonin, the hormone that signals your body when to sleep and when to wake. Turn off all digital devices an hour before bedtime.
- Prepare your body. According to Ayurveda, one of the most effective ways to invite sleep is to rub the scalp and the soles of the feet with sesame oil before going to bed. If you choose to rub the scalp, be sure to wrap your head so you don’t get oil on your pillowcase, and a nice pair of socks can help protect your sheets. Also, wash your face and brush your teeth, so you go to bed clean. Finally, brew a cup of chamomile tea, or warm a cup of milk with a small pinch of nutmeg and a little sweetener. A warm, lovely drink will help carry you off to sleep.
- Soothe your senses with the environment. Turn the thermostat down to 69 degrees, or open the window a crack to let some cool air in. Dim the lights as you prepare for bed. If you have loud neighbors, find yourself a playlist of soothing music or nature sounds. Put a few drops of essential oil in a small bowl of water beside your bed for the world’s simplest infuser, or invest in a tealight or electric infuser to fill the room with scent sure to calm the body and the mind. Good choices include Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Sandalwood, and Sage.
- Reflect. Just before bed is a great time to look back over the day and practice gratitude for the large and small blessings that you experienced. If tomorrow’s tasks feel daunting, take a minute (literally, 60 seconds; more than that and you’ll get carried away on the task list hamster wheel) to build a to-do list, and then let it rest. For some, reflection includes reading a sacred text or poetry. Reading before bed can help relax the mind, so long as we don’t get too caught up in what we’re reading.
- Meditate or try some yoga. Not only can these practices be helpful at reducing stress throughout the day, but before bedtime they can help quiet the mind and gently release tension from the body in preparation for sleep. Now’s not the time for a power flow practice, though; keep it simple and gentle. Check out this slideshow of simple postures to help prepare the body for sleep. You can even do them in bed!
Building yourself a bedtime ritual can help you enjoy preparing for bed and sleep more easily and soundly. Try some or all of these ideas, and let us know how they work!
Here are a few snapshots of Jessica preparing for bed.
What is your bedtime routine for sleeping more easily and soundly?
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