Tell me something real quick. Do you have a bedtime routine? I don't mean do you wash your face and brush your teeth before retiring for the night. I'm thinking that, for most of us, that's a given. What I mean is do you treat getting ready for sleep as something special? Because, after all, every time you put your head on your pillow, the next 6-8 (or more) hours are going to help refuel and rejuvenate you for the day that lies ahead.
That's why I personally believe that creating a bedtime routine is a true act of self-care. If you agree but you've never really gotten around to putting an "official" plan together, here are 12 tips that you can either take literally or use as a guideline — things that can make getting ready for bed fun to do and your quality of sleep so much better for you.
1. “Dress Up.” For Yourself.
OK, so here's what I mean by this. While it actually is best to go to bed with absolutely nothing on at all (check out "Yes, Sleeping Naked Could Help Your Anxiety & Sleep Pattern"), if, for whatever the reason you're not comfortable doing that, please avoid a ratty T-shirt or pajamas that you've had since you just got out of college. Y'all, if you're doing this sleep thing right, you'll be in your bed for at least 6-8 hours, so why not treat your body to some sleepwear that is cute and comfortable? Just make sure that whatever you go with that it is made out of a breathable fabric (so that your skin can breathe). I mean, you invest in clothes for every other occasion, right? Why should what you will spend one-third of your entire life in look like a hot ass mess? By the way, the blog Shop with Leslie actually has a list of pajamas and loungewear brands that you can purchase from Black-owned companies. You can check it out here.
2. Treat Yourself to a Nighttime Snack
While it's a pretty common rule that you shouldn't eat 2-3 hours before turning in (so that your body can digest your food, so that you can fall and stay asleep easier), I'm pretty sure you know your system and what it can and can't handle around bedtime. If you happen to be someone who craves a bit of a snack, some foods that can actually help you to sleep better include figs (the magnesium in them can calm your nerves and increase your sleep time); sweet potatoes (the potassium, magnesium and calcium in them can relax you — sweet potato fries, anyone?); oatmeal (it's a natural source of melatonin); popcorn (it's a whole grain that has carbs that help to make tryptophan in your system); almonds (they're another good source of melatonin); watermelon (the choline in it will help you to remain asleep); pineapple (the properties in it will help to boost your melatonin levels); yogurt (the properties in it make falling asleep easier to do); salmon (the vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids in it will increase your serotonin levels), and dark chocolate (it's also loaded with magnesium and we already discussed what it can do).
If you want something to wash all of this down with, some warm oat milk, some tart cherry juice (which is also a good source of melatonin) or some chamomile tea (which is a natural relaxant) will all hit the right spot.
3. Spray Your Pillows with a Sleep-Inducing Essential Oil
If you're like me and you enjoy lighting a couple of scented candles around bedtime yet you're afraid that you might fall asleep and forget to blow them out, how about spraying your pillows with an essential oil that is proven to help you get a good night's rest instead? Some of my favorites include lavender (it lowers your blood pressure and relaxes you); peppermint (it's awesome if you struggle with seasonal allergies or you're sensitive to dust and you're looking for a way to not sneeze all night long); sandalwood (it contains mood-stabilizing properties that can help to calm your mind and nerves); marjoram (it has a great reputation for physically and mentally inducing feelings of tranquility), and ylang-ylang (it's great at lowering your blood pressure and heart rate).
Just put 10-12 drops in a small bottle of distilled water and spray your pillows about an hour before turning in. Trust me, it's divine.
4. Make Sure You’ve Got a Leg Elevation Pillow
If you're looking for a way to stimulate blood circulation, reduce body swelling, and/or soothe back or leg pain, a leg elevation pillow is totally what you need. The reality is that around 70 million Americans have some sort of struggle with falling or staying asleep. Since the fetal position, being on your side or lying on your back (did you know that only eight percent of us do this?) are the best sleep positions, it's pretty easy to get your legs into a position where you can get the most out of this kind of pillow. Anyway, Prevention did a feature on some of the best ones that are currently on the market. You can check it out here.
5. Do Some Stretches
Speaking of increasing blood flow, when was the last time that you took out at least five minutes to do some stretching before turning in? Not only is it a great way to stimulate blood circulation, but it also can help to significantly reduce muscle tension too. You can check out a video that features some pretty easy bed-related stretches here.
6. Play Some Nature Sounds
Personally, when it comes to what I like to hear while I'm sleeping, it's either silence or the sound of rain. Since I've been incorporating ASMR into my sleep routine, I feel so much more refreshed when I wake up in the morning. The reason why nature sounds are a good sleep agent is that your brain is able to process sounds like rain, wind, ocean waves, birds, and thunderstorms as being non-threatening. This, in turn, decreases its natural flight-or-flight response and helps your mind to relax so much better.
How cool is that?
7. Pamper Your Lips
I don't know about y'all but something that actually will wake me up in the middle of the night are dry lips. Like they will literally annoy the crap outta me. That's why I've gotten into the habit of applying some shea butter onto them before turning in. The properties in shea butter instantly help to soothe my lips so that when I wake up, they still feel soft and moisturized. If you're not sleeping alone, add a bit of honey to your butter. Chile, just trust me on that. #wink
8. Give Yourself a Head Massage
Another really effective way to reduce stress and tension is to give yourself a quick 5-7 minute head massage. This is especially beneficial if you're attempting to go to sleep when you have a bit of a headache or you're really worried about something because the increased blood flow can help to decrease discomfort and relax you. Just make sure to especially focus on your temples (they protect an artery known as the meningeal artery which supplies blood to the outer covering of your brain) and that you apply a little bit of lavender oil (mixed with a carrier oil like sweet almond or grapeseed; straight lavender can "burn" super sensitive skin) to really penetrate your head and make you feel so much better.
9. Write Down Something You Did That Day That You Are Proud Of
Just a few more steps. Now that you're feeling more tranquil and serene, pull out your journal and write down something that you accomplished throughout the day that you're super proud of. Be as specific as possible (including the time of day that "it" happened). This can help you to fall asleep on a positive note which is always a plus when you're looking to get a good night's rest. Also, since you're documenting these kinds of moments, it can be something truly wonderful to reflect on every 3, 6, or 12 months.
10. Have a Mini “Burning Ceremony”
If the last thing that you like to do is brush your teeth before getting into your bed for good, before walking in there, pull out a sheet of paper and quickly jot down something that you need to release from the day too. Going to bed with burdens on your mind can hinder sleep and also cause you to wake up on the wrong side of the bed if you're not careful. So, whatever it is that causes you to low-key cringe when you reflect back on it, put that on the paper, stand over your sink, flick your lighter, and burn it. It's symbolic of letting the day go and preparing for what lies ahead.
11. Devote 30 Minutes to a Book or Podcast
Quality time with yourself is super important. So, definitely make sure that you make the time to be able to read a chapter of a book or listen to at least part of an episode of your favorite podcast. You know, if there's one thing that nighttime should be seen as, it's when you can pamper yourself by doing something that you really enjoy — something that your hectic daytime schedule hinders you from partaking in. Besides, reading is another proven way to cultivate a great sleeping environment and there is also scientific evidence that podcasts (so long as they aren't super "deep") can help you to sleep better as well.
12. Establish a Set Bedtime
I think it's crazy that folks totally get why children should be on a sleep schedule and yet they don't make the connection on why they should have one too. Going to bed around the same time every night supports your inner clock getting into a set routine which can also make sleeping easier. Everything that I just mentioned, you should be able to do within an hour. So, try and be intentional about going to bed around the same time each and every night (at least throughout the week). It will make easing out of bed and into the next day's schedule more than just bearable. Watch out and it could almost be a pleasure, chile.
Featured image by Getty Images