5 Pre-Bedtime Rituals That Fixed My Bad Pandemic Sleep Habits
I’ve always considered myself lucky in the sense that, when my head hits the pillow, I’m usually able to fall asleep within minutes. Considering one in four Americans experience some kind of insomnia in their lives, this is definitely a blessing.
It wasn’t until this year that I had significant trouble sleeping. Once the pandemic hit North America in March, for the first time in my life, I would stare at the ceiling for hours before finally drifting off. Or, I’d fall asleep quickly, but wake up several times throughout the night. While I was tired all the time, I just couldn’t sleep easily (or peacefully) at night.
If this resonates with you, just know that makes sense — and you’re not alone. From disruption to daily life to heightened anxiety, to money worries to social isolation – there are so many reasons why you might not be sleeping well right now.
Thankfully, there are a few practices for both your daily schedule and pre-bedtime routine that can help improve your rest. As a matter of fact, The Sleep Foundation suggests a combination of things attributes to this:
“Strong sleep hygiene means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. Keeping a stable sleep schedule, making your bedroom comfortable and free of disruptions, following a relaxing pre-bed routine, and building healthy habits during the day can all contribute to ideal sleep hygiene.”
Until this year, I’ve never had to work so hard at falling sleeping, but a combination of rituals and regular routines have eased my pandemic insomnia immensely. Hopefully, these tips can help you too.
1. Maintain A Regular Schedule
One of the biggest struggles with being home so much is maintaining a regular routine. Without the ritual of commuting to work, taking a lunch break with friends, heading to cocktail hour, going to the gym and so on, it’s easy to slip into an unmoored state. The days drift along without much to mark the time. These daily routines and habits are called “time cues,” and missing them can confuse our body clock.
Keeping up a daily schedule of regular meal times, sleep-wake schedule and exercise routines can contribute massively to our ability to sleep when the time finally comes.
2. Take In Fresh Air And Daylight
Exposing ourselves to sunlight is also key to regulating our internal clocks. Being outside when it’s light out signals to the body that it’s time to be awake (which further emphasizes that darkness means sleep). Sipping your morning coffee outside, taking a walk on your work break, and sitting with your windows open are all ways to achieve this in our daily routines.
3. Implement A “No-screen Time” Rule Before Bed
It’s well-known that the artificial blue light from TVs, computers and phone screens suppresses our natural melatonin. This means looking at such screens right before bedtime is a no-no, despite it being tempting.
I kind of always had this rule in place for myself, but I’ve imposed it more strictly this year. Getting away from screens also means taking a break from relentless bad news, and targeted ads for things I don’t need, which are not things to focus on before bed anyway.
Now, I don’t bring my laptop to bed; I also try to put my phone away at least 30 minutes before hitting the hay. As for alternative wind-down activities to do in bed, try any of the following:
- Read a book or magazine
- Listen to a podcast, audiobook or music
- Write in a journal
- Engage in crafting (or do something similar with your hands)
4. Engage In Stretching And Breathwork
Have you reminded yourself to take a deep breath recently? This past spring, I remember realizing how much tension I was holding in my body during a living room YouTube class via Yoga With Adrienne. As she prompted me to inhale deeply and “let it all out,” both my neck and back cracked as I sighed. There, eyes welling, I consciously unclenched the muscles I didn’t know were clenched and focused on my breath.
For me, breathwork has been key to managing my stress throughout the pandemic, especially at night. The ritual of intentional breathing in the evenings contributes to the practice of unwinding, later. Whether it be through yoga or meditation, breathwork is a compelling therapeutic practice. I have both Adrienne and the Headspace app to thank for my mental clarity in these stressful times.
5. Turn Out The Lights
Setting the mood isn’t only for romance; warm lighting can signal to your brain that it’s time to relax. Opting for lamps or “twinkle lights” in your bedroom are not only cute aesthetically, but will also calm you down. Scents can do this too — the smell of lavender, for example, is scientifically-proven to mellow you out. Whether you like to burn candles, light incense or diffuse essential oils, a relaxing smell before bedtime can bring your head to the clouds.
Ashley is a freelance writer and on-going contributor at TFD based in Toronto. An avid traveler, she recently returned home to Canada after two years living abroad in Vietnam and Japan. She loves to read, try new things in the kitchen and get outside. You can learn more about her work here and can follow her adventures on Instagram @ashley_corb.
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