Better sleep for the tired heart and anxious mind
During turbulent times, I have often gone about my days doing my best to implement the ideas and practices that I’ve learned from self help books and spiritual guides. For some of us, the biggest challenge is allowing our body time to recover after stressful events, and it’s usually not something we notice until its time to go to bed. For me, the post-divorce journey was majorly challenging, not only as I had to unlearn life with a partner, but also had to accept what it meant to be a solo mother. On top of my usual Wayne Dyer reading schedule, I read a lot of material on minimalism, mindfulness, and listened to so many podcasts that helped me to navigate my way to beautiful peaceful days.
But sleep… sleep was the fun part. And by fun, I mean terrible.
So I thought I’d share a list of 7 things that I found to be helpful when it came to re-establishing my nighttime routine. These changes helped to re-train my mind and body and put me on the path to the best sleep I've had in years... even with a toddler.
1. Minimise the clutter in your room…
…and if possible, re-paint your walls. You’d be very surprised at how simple design and neutral colours can have a positive affect on how you relax. Think about all of your favourite hotels and relaxing holiday destinations. Chances are, you may note a common theme of white sheets, minimal clutter, and relaxing low light. There’s no reason why you can’t create the same experience in your own home on a modest budget.
2. Buy a lamp, and start using it
An hour before you intend to sleep, switch to using warm lamplight only. The final hour before jumping into bed is quite possibly the most important hour of the day. It’s when we go over everything that happened during the last 24 hours, and begin anticipating what awaits us tomorrow. Setting low light every night before sleep will train your mind to accept that this is the hour where things begin to slow down.
3. Get rid of noisy bed sheets
And I don't mean the sound of them… I mean, the visual noise of that big floral print. While it may look great during the day when your bed is made and styled just like the catalogue, but what do those colours inspire within you when its time to cozy up? If you’re anything like me and love the simplicity of neutral shades, perhaps spend your dollars on great quality cotton sheets that don't command your visual attention, instead invite you in for a soft cuddle.
4. Refresh your sleepwear
This may seem fickle and pretentious but making this little change worked for me. I stopped wearing old oversized t-shirts to bed and treated myself to beautiful, breathable fabrics that moved with me when I tossed and turned. For me, there’s something therapeutic about wearing fresh white, loose fitting pjs that don't restrict my movement. Plus, treating myself to something special for bed is one of the best gifts I have ever given myself… thank you TJ Maxx, thank you.
5. Do something good for your skin before you sleep
This sounds like an odd one because many of us already have a good skin care routine, but I have lost count of how many people have complained to me that parts of their skin is so dry… be it elbows or knees or ankles, lately I keep hearing that something is “so dry”. If you already have a skin care regime in place, great! If not, now is the best time to introduce one. Perhaps in that final hour before going to bed, spend a minute or two applying good quality oil to the areas you want your skin to feel healthier. Introducing this little ritual will encourage you to bring your attention to the moment at hand. Focus on the feel of the oil - one of nature’s greatest gifts - and appreciate the nourishment it brings to your skin.
6. Disconnect to reconnect
Before you put your phone on charge for the night, set it to ‘do not disturb’… a little tough love for you: your sleep will only get better when you start acting like you actually care about it, and checking your phone to see if he messaged you 13 times before you actually get too drowsy to remember, is not the way to show your body you care about sleep. Sorry babe, but it is not. (We all know how that goes… hello shitty sleep!) Unless you are on call for an important family matter, the hours between getting into bed and waking up to the sweet sound of your alarm do not need to be disturbed by obnoxious bright lights and buzzing sounds coming from a phone that wants to tell you someone liked a pic on your Instagram account.
7. Read, pray, meditate… and let it soak in
If you were raised by a praying woman, you probably have a little experience with bed time prayers. The 20-year-old version of me remembers thanking my Creator for my friends and family and praying that I’d pass the test or get the job… then life kicked my ass and all the prayers flew out of my head. The words were there, but they didn't echo like they used to. If there’s one thing I can say with complete conviction, it’s that my relationship with God went from my head to my heart. I was forced to look for what made me feel His divine presence and go beyond linear cognitive understanding. When I thought I knew God, I would proudly declare my faith and feel no shame for it. But after the emotional ass kicking, I couldn't muster up the words to pray and all I had left was an empty cup that I desperately tried to fill with the wisdom of those who have walked this messy path before me. Taking a little time each night to read anointed words that encouraged healing was one of the best things I did for my heavy heart. This was particularly valuable in the final 15 minutes before attempting sleep. I discovered that the last things I allowed for my brain to focus on before closing my eyes would be the things my head and heart would marinate in for the next 7 hours. This takes time and practice. Plant thoughts of healing, and then enjoy the fruits later.