Does your evening routine involve a quick cleanse of the face with a wipe to remove the day’s makeup, a snack because you were too tired to cook a proper meal and you’re now hungry, checking your Instagram feed one last time or shutting down your laptop as you reluctantly resist watching one last episode of your new Netflix obsession? Hmmm - how’s that working for you? We all know this kind of behaviour isn’t great for our sleep patterns but it’s hard to switch off and let go in our busy, modern world. Experts call this kind of behaviour “bad sleep hygiene” and we easily fall into these habits when we dismiss the importance of letting our body unwind ready for sleep. If you experience difficulties falling asleep, toss and turn throughout the night and wake up feeling groggy, this blog might be just the inspiration you need to bring a calming close to your day, restore your energy levels and get your wellness back on your track.
Personally, I’ve always been a morning person and function best if I wake up early to practice self-care, workout and organise my day and the house. However, for this to happen successfully I need to be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour and sleep well.
A while back, this all went out of the window. For a period of about a month, I went from hitting the yoga mat to hitting the snooze button – I was still getting up early enough to do what had to be done (kids dressed, dishwasher unloaded etc etc) but nothing extra and nothing for me. My mornings had become rushed, stressful and unproductive. My evenings were just as bad, spent busy catching up on chores, working on the laptop, scrolling my phone, trying to squeeze in a workout or yoga flow and mindlessly watching something I really wasn’t that interested in with a glass of wine I wasn’t even enjoying. My sleep suffered as a result and the whole thing escalated into a cycle of poor sleep, slow mornings, packed over-long evenings.
Keen to reclaim my healthy mornings, I decided enough was enough and I created a plan that would restore balance to my day. I knew I needed more relaxation in the evenings so I could get the sleep required for my favourite early starts. I call this approach ‘bookending my day with wellness rituals’ and it’s a simple technique you can use whenever you need to shift the focus back on to yourself and your wellbeing. Basically, it means prioritizing your wellness needs first thing when you get up to supercharge your energy levels and again at the close of the day to help you unwind. It sets the right tone for a healthy day to follow, encourages a good night’s sleep and is more likely to result in you waking up refreshed and ready for the new day. It’s a circle of wellness, which keeps turning and feeding back into your healthy intentions rather than a cycle of propping yourself up with coffee in the mornings to wake up and alcohol in the evenings to unwind.
I personally experienced so much success with my bookend approach, that I wrote a two-part blog to share with you, this being the second part. You can read the first part 3 Healthy Habits to Supercharge Your Mornings. Even though we’re well into the school holidays and I have the added challenge - as all working mums do of juggling work, childcare, play date planning, holiday packing etc – I am still managing to fit in my morning self-care and wind down my evenings. I can honestly say I feel amazing – both physically and mentally, not something I can normally claim at this point of the summer!
So how does this all work when you’re tired from a busy day at work or you just want to collapse after you’ve finally got the kids to bed? First of all, you need to decide what time you want to wake up, work back 7-8 hours and then set yourself a sleep-prep window of a minimum of 30 minutes, an ideal of 60 minutes. Say, I want to get up at 6am, I need 8 hours of sleep, so I go to bed at 10pm and start my bedtime wind-down at around 9.15pm. I know that sounds super early to a lot of you, but trust me it works. Your routine will look different to mine. For example, you may want to get up at 7am and you need 7 hours of sleep, so you go to bed at 12 and maybe, you feel you could spend 30 minutes on your sleep-prep. You can play around with the timings to see what works for you – everybody is unique so there is not ideal bedtime, the important thing is to do the all natural, holistic wind down routine so you are calm and sleep-ready.
Research shows if we practice “good sleep hygiene”, or more simply put incorporate relaxing, quiet activities into our evening routine we are more likely to fall asleep quicker and get better quality sleep. This can be anything from going to bed around the same time every night to investing in cool, cotton sheets, opening the windows to let cool air circulate, putting all devices aside, using aromatherapy, cleansing your face with nourishing oils, giving yourself a foot rub and learning some relaxing breathing techniques.
Okay, so now you know the thinking behind the plan, you can do the fun bit which is picking and mixing from the wind-down list below. Just think of it as your grown-up equivalent to the sleep routines we lovingly create to help our children calm down for bed. Try to incorporate at least two or three of these rituals below into your routine every evening.
Good luck & hope you find the tips helpful
Love & light, Lucy x
Non-negotiables for real success
- No screens half an hour to an hour before bedtime
- No caffeine after 2pm
- If you do drink alcohol, drink at least a big glass of water to counterbalance every unit drank
- No heavy or spicy food after 7pm
- If your bedroom also doubles as a home office - can you store away your work equipment so it’s not such an obvious presence
Pick and mix list close of day rituals
- Spend ten minutes or more in quiet meditation to calm your mind
- Note down what you have been grateful for in a journal – it’s also a wonderful resource to look back on when you’re having a bad day
- Give yourself an aromatherapy foot rub – a couple of drops of Lavender essential oil mixed into a body butter is one the best ways I know to help you unwind
- Spritz your bed, your room, your pillows, anything around in fact, with a pillow mist. I personally love the one from Neal’s Yard
- Brush your hair to stimulate your scalp or give yourself a head massage
- Bathe in a deep, oily bath scented with sleep-inducing drops of Vetiver, Lavender and Ylang Ylang.
- Practice pranayama – experiment with different breathing techniques such as the calming 4-7-8 pattern. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Then, close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Next, hold your breath for a count of seven. Finally, exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one cycle. Repeat three or four times.
- Do some slow, deliberate and deep foam rolling
- Enjoy some restorative yoga poses such as Legs Up the Wall, Pigeon, Butterfly and Child’s Pose
- Give yourself a gorgeous face massage with a nourishing aromatherapy facial oil