When clients first come to see me for counselling at my practice, I always ask, “What is your bedtime ritual? What do you do to get ready for bed?”
Some are a little alarmed and others have a little bit of a routine, but most could improve on their bedtime ritual.
Your bedtime ritual is important as it signals to your brain that it is time to slow it all down and get ready for shutting off for the evening. This means that when you get in to bed, you’re not still “wired” and ready to go, feeling all antsy and agitated.
Everyone is different in what they like to do before bedtime. Certainly in places where there are definitive seasons, a summer ritual may be quite different to a winter ritual. There is no one way to do your bedtime ritual but I am going to list a few tried and true activities that can be incorporated as you like.
The 6-Step Bedtime Ritual
- Have a big drink of water. Being hydrated is the number one sleep aid. Drinking 2–3 litres of water a day will help ensure your rest time is actually restful. A thirsty body can’t regenerate properly and you will wake. Make that last glass a big one and have this as step one of your bedtime ritual.
- Have a warm drink. Hot chocolate, a good quality chamomile tea (because quality ones taste better – some come with lavender in them and I dare you to try to stay awake after drinking that combination), anything herbal but nothing with caffeine (black tea, green tea, coffee). If you are a light eater in the evenings, a milky drink (doesn’t have to be cow’s milk, any milk will do) can add extra fullness to your tummy so that you can sleep well through the night.
- Take a shower or bath. Letting the shower wash your day away as you take stock of the good moments and the not-so-good moments is a great way to process your day before you hit the sheets. Our brains naturally process our day whilst we are in the REM sleep phase but if you can’t get to sleep because something from the day is bothering you, then it’s not ideal to wait before doing that important mental processing. If you are too tired or water-conscious to take a bath or shower, just wash your face and brush your teeth while going over the events of your day, then put them gently aside.
- Dim the lights in your home. Try having dimmed lighting in the bathroom in the evening as you carry out step 3, as lower light signals to our brain that it is time to release melatonin (the hormone that gets us to nod off). Throughout the rest of your house, use lamps at night instead of bright overhead lighting and turn off the lights in any room you aren’t using.
- Read a novel. Reading in bed is great and really allows us to let our day go as we get lost in a story. Please don’t read non-fiction in bed unless you are sure it is not too stimulating or upsetting. I never read psychology books in my bedroom – it is my sacred place for reading stories and not thinking too hard. If you have an electronic device to read from, ensure it is in night mode so that the lighting is lower and doesn’t interfere with the melatonin release. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a prolific reader – read a page or two until you feel you are falling asleep.
- Watch TV. I can hear people everywhere falling off their seats! A sneaky episode or two won’t hurt you before bed. Just have the lights in the room down so the melatonin kicks in. A sporting match is not good bedtime ritual viewing, but a show you like that isn’t too loud and exciting is great.
It doesn’t matter if you only do some of these steps and not others (if you’re choosing a couple, please do include a drink of water) – just create a personal pattern of behaviours that tell your brain it is time to rest. Carrying out a bedtime sequence habitually will let your body know that it’s sleep time, and before you know it you will be all rested and ready to face the next day!
What is your bedtime ritual? Do you do some of the steps above? Are there things you would NEVER do at bedtime?
Having trouble sleeping? Counselling may help. Contact The Bondi Psychologist today. Skype appointments available.