Before I became a mom, I never gave much thought to sleep. I just did it. Then our kids came along, and restful sleep became my biggest challenge. Long after they started sleeping through the night, I still woke up. The constant noise and activity during the day left me anxious at bedtime. Now that my kids are older, there are no tantrums and fewer illnesses, but the pace of life hasn’t changed. So, I had to make a conscious effort to figure out how to put the day aside and relax before bed.
Here are 7 things that have helped me get a better night’s rest, and may help you too…
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Write In A Journal
I’ve been writing in journals since I was nine. I’ve used them to recap my day, work out my goals, vent, and write notes about whatever I am currently learning.
Lately, I’ve been writing down lists of worries and to-dos so that I can let them go before I head to bed. These lists also work wonders if I ever wake up in the middle of the night. Insomnia can be a vicious cycle of not sleeping, worrying about not sleeping, and then not sleeping again. I break that cycle by taking the focus away from sleeping for 30 minutes or so.
Some years, I have just used a plain spiral-bound notebook for my journal. Most years though, I pick something beautiful that inspires me to write. I’ve bought many journals by Peter Pauper Press, Inc. They’re inexpensive but they hold up well.
If you need some guidance in writing, take a look at these journals with prompts, available at Amazon. These are helpful when you’re not in the habit of writing.
2. Warm Up To Relax Before Bed
Heat helps you relax your muscles and gives you that cozy, comfortable feeling. However, once you fall asleep your body temperature needs to drop, so don’t pile up the blankets and comforters. Instead, use heat (a warm bath, a hot herbal beverage or a heating pad) an hour or so before bedtime.
I warm a heating pad in the microwave and wrap it around my shoulders. I bought mine from a neighbor but you can find a similar Anti-Stress Microwaveable Comfort Wrap at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Hot, herbal tea also really helps me unwind. My favorite is this Organic India Tulsi Sweet Rose Tea that also aids digestion.
3. Wear Comfortable Clothing
Wearing the right clothing to
I just picked up the Graceful Bloom print notched collar top and pajama pants on sale at Soma. They’re made in the signature Cool Nights fabric which is literally cool to touch. (I compared it with clothing in their regular fabric so that I could feel the difference in fabric temperature!)
I also move a lot when I sleep, so I love that this is fitted but stretchy so that I don’t end up in a tangle in the morning!
4. Give Yourself A Massage
Sometimes, a heating pad isn’t enough to help me relax my muscles. I use a massage tool regularly to “iron out” my anxieties.
A few years ago when my shoulder tension was at its worst (giving me weekly headaches) I went to a massage therapist once a month, and she taught me to use this lacrosse ball to massage out knots between visits. If you try this, please do get instructions from a professional, and never press on your spine.
Tennis balls and foam rollers are softer options.
I also have a foot massager I can use while I’m brushing my teeth or any time that I’m standing in one spot!
After reading dozens of posts about how it can reduce inflammation, wrinkles, and the appearance of dark circles, I bought a jade roller. (Mine is no longer available, but this set is by the same company.)
I haven’t done any sort of scientific study, but after a few weeks of use, I didn’t notice any significant difference in the appearance of my skin. I did, however, notice that it released some of the jaw tension that tends to creep in at bedtime.
5. Adjust The Light
Our bodies are “wired” to sleep in darkness and wake up when there’s light, whether or not we’ve had enough sleep. So, when nature doesn’t match your lifestyle, use room darkening shades or curtains to help your natural circadian rhythm.
Blue light from electronics can reset this circadian rhythm, so ideally we would all refrain from electronic use a few hours before bedtime.
Did you just roll your eyes?
Okay, here’s an alternative: blue light blocking glasses. I bought mine on Amazon and since I’ve been wearing them, I’ve noticed less eyestrain and headaches.
6. Listen To A Soothing Voice
One day, I realized that what my yoga instructors were saying in class was the antidote for all of my busy mom issues. Even though I don’t practice yoga at night, they still have a physical and mental effect that helps me relax before bed.
“Take time to do what your body needs.”
“Put your worries aside and focus on being right here.”
I’ve also used the Headspace app for a few years, and there was something about Andy’s voice (and perhaps his familiar accent) that made me fall asleep when I was too stressed to do it on my own. I know that wasn’t the point, but it worked like a charm!
7. Take The Time to Relax Before Bed
You need time to develop a habit (experts say one month) so be patient if these hacks don’t work right away. Until then, make a concerted effort to create a ritual before bedtime that works for you.
Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that checking off my to-do list right up until bedtime, will help me sleep at night, but it almost always results in jaw clenching and disrupted sleep.
Drop me a line in the comments below and let me know how you relax before bed!