5 Rituals for a Good Night’s Sleep
Good sleep turns the mind into a diamond. Inadequate sleep leaves the mind dull. Anyone who has ever experienced insomnia would agree with this quote by the renowned yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar. But how do you get that sound sleep in the modern, fast-paced, anxiety-inducing environment?
Undoubtedly, our overall lifestyle has an essential impact on how many z-z-zs we get at night, so it is necessary to make informed choices every day. Advice to get plenty of sunlight, have an adequate level of physical activity, and reduce the consumption of stimulants like coffee and caffeine still works.
But changing the variety of our daily habits takes time. Meanwhile, we want to get adequate rest today, and the five bedtime rituals described below will help you make the first step to sleeping tight. And who won’t agree, it is easier to make significant life changes after a good rest!?
Before getting into some ritual ideas, it is essential to make it clear for the mind: sleep is vital. This sounds like an obvious thing, but in our ever hustling society, many forget that we are as productive while having a good night’s rest as when we are awake. To stop sabotaging our peaceful rest, we need to stop considering sleep a waste of time and program our mind to think of nightly rest as an act of self-love and care. Otherwise, no rituals would ever help.
#1 Indulge Your Senses Into Sleep
Sleep used to be a natural process for our ancestors. With no gadgets, artificial light sources, and city noise, their bodies were fine-tuned to fall asleep with the sunset and wake up at dawn. Unlike them, we can enjoy the many comforts of modern life but need to put extra effort to trick our bodies into sleeping well.
An evening ritual that tackles four of your senses can help to get quality rest. Start by preventing your body from getting warm. The lower out body temperature, the deeper we sink into sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is cool and keep any physical activity or a warm bath for two hours before bedtime. The planned increase in temperature is always followed by a natural decrease. In some Buddhist practices, it is even advised to wash your feet with cold water before bed to wake up energized and fresh.
For your eyesight, keep evening light sources warm and gradually reduce light to a minimum starting one hour before going to bed. The darker your bedroom, the deeper you will sleep.
You can use the sense of smell to fall asleep faster. Apply some essential oils to a napkin from natural material and place next to your bed. Use lavender, orange, eucalyptus, jasmine, frankincense for the best results.
For some, complete quiet is the best soundtrack for a good sleep. However, if you are experiencing high levels of anxiety, a particular frequency of binaural beats can help you fall asleep faster. Binaural beats are used in sound therapy to balance the body using a frequency that is associated with a specific state. For better sleep, try the theta or 4 to 8 Hz range that reduces anxiety, aid relaxation, and is associated with meditative and creative states.
#2 Stop Thinking about Tomorrow – Plan It
One of the most common saboteurs of our solid night rest is the mind: thoughts of today’s troubles or tomorrow’s problems simply do not let us fall asleep. The remedy is to write it all down.
Start with the negative experiences you want to let go of. These you can even list on a piece of paper and burn it. Proceed with the concerns that you have about the day to come. Divide them into things you cannot and can control. List the former and tell your mind that you are giving these problems away to the universe, and they are taken care of.
Then stop thinking about tomorrow and start planning it. Note all the practical solutions to any of the remaining problems and make a list of specific actions you will take the next day to feel at ease.
Caution! Do not overburden yourself with a list of 30 tasks. We do not want to plan just to go back to bed and start worrying about how you won’t manage to finish all the tasks on your list. Stick to five and remember to add activities that make your heart happy and your mind enthusiastic about waking up tomorrow.
#3 Create Your Personal Sleeping Trigger
Our brain loves patterns and thrives on connections. You can use this characteristic to improve the nightly rest.
Choose a particular activity that will precede your sleep. It can be a specific type of meditation, drinking a unique calming tea blend or listening to a pacifying sleep playlist. Over time, just like opening the fridge triggers hunger or sitting at the office table urges you to work, the chosen activity will make you feel more drowsy.
Here it is also important to mention how our brain activates a specific process in a particular environment. You are likely to crave coffee in the cafeteria at work or turn on a TV when you sit on the couch in the living room. Our brain, sadly, does not like multipurpose environments. So for any of the methods mentioned here to work, you must have a bed that is used solely for sleep – not work or lounging.
#4 Choose the Inner Dialogue
Frequently it is not a physical discomfort but the mental distress that robs us from a good night’s sleep. In short, we cannot sleep because we think and we think because we cannot sleep. Sounds like a vicious cycle? But there is a way out.
The first step is to let your mind rest at least half an hour before bed. This means finishing any tasks that require mental work and turning off any gadgets that are incredibly stimulating for our psyche.
Overall, daily meditation practice and the writing in the ritual #2 help to calm down the mind. However, the brain is stubborn, and if no matter what you do, the flow of disturbing thoughts doesn’t stop the best you can do is to choose the thoughts you think.
Fall asleep to the lullaby of your positive thoughts. You can choose an affirmation to repeat or envision your next day being sunny and successful. It is also powerful to set an intention.
For instance, you want to wake up at five in the morning to have a proper workout. As you fall asleep, repeat this intention commanding your brain to wake up early, motivated, and energetic. You will be surprised how it will follow your orders to a T.
#5 4-7-8 Breathing
This breathing technique is a modern take on the ancient yogic pranayama practice.
Slow full belly breathing launches the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for reducing stress and anxiety. Holding your breath slows down your heart rate, and while long exhalation allows releasing more carbon dioxide. As a result, our tense muscles relax. Meanwhile, focus on the breath helps to stop the inner dialogue.
To perform 4-7-8 breath, keep the tongue on the upper palate behind the teeth. Exhale completely through the mouth, maintaining the position of your teeth and tongue. Empty the longues completely as you make a loud wooshing noise.
Then with the mouth closed inhale deeply through the nose for the count of four.
Hold the breath for seven.
Exhale through the mouth with the same wooshing noise for eight.
This is one cycle. Repeat it three more times to get to a total of four. If it is too hard to hold your breath for so long, count faster but keep the ratio to 4-7-8.
Practice 4-7-8 breath beyond attempts to heal insomnia. Make it your daily sleeping ritual to rip the many benefits, such as pulse and blood pressure normalization, improved digestion, reduced anxiety, and appetite optimization.
Lastly, if you’ve been lying in bed for over 20 minutes and cannot fall asleep, get up. Do anything that makes you feel relaxed from light stretching to any simple housework or reading. Make sure to stay away from your gadgets. Get back to bed once you start feeling genuinely drowsy. And sweet dreams!
Have you ever struggled with setting a bedtime routine? What are your hacks for getting a good night’s sleep? We cannot wait to hear your stories in the comments!