When I’m in my bed, I’m happy. It’s my favourite place for a morning cup of coffee, an afternoon dog snuggle, or to curl up with a good book before sleep. And since my job is to help people relax and fall asleep (I am the creator of the podcast and book Nothing Much Happens, Cozy and Calming Stories to Soothe your Mind and Help you Sleep) I think a lot about how to make bedtime into the best time.
I started writing and sharing my stories when I realised I had a superpower that most people don’t. I can sleep. And, not to brag (well maybe a little brag) I can return to sleep if I wake in the middle of the night, usually within a minute or so. I developed this superpower when I was little, maybe four years old or so, by telling myself a bedtime story after I’d been tucked in. I’d find someplace cosy and soft to rest my mind and I’d drift right off. In the decades since I’ve never stopped telling myself stories and they have become a consistent and enjoyable source of self care. Now I share them with folks all over the world who tell me that they are sleeping better than they have in years!
While finding a way to calm and focus your mind before bed is high on my list of recommendations for good sleep, I’ve got a few others.
- Create a routine…that you enjoy. You’ve probably heard this advice before but I really want to emphasise that you make it into something you look forward to, both because you’ll be more likely to stick to the habit and because you deserve to feel good. (YOU DO. This is not up for debate.) My routine starts with skin care. I take five minutes or so to wash my face and use my favourite serums and creams. Then I set up my sleep space, I spray my pillows and sheets with Sleep Better Pillow Mist from Tisserand’s Sleep Better Discovery Kit. I also use their Sleep Better Roller Ball on my pulse points and as I pull my covers up I take a few deep breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth). The scent of the jasmine, sandalwood and lavender are so soothing, I immediately feel myself relax. If I don’t quite feel sleepy yet, I reach for my book. (A real one that does not involve a screen.)
- 5-minute download. On nights when it feels like your brain is just too busy to come to a smooth stop, grab a journal and pen and set a timer for five minutes. Just start writing, any and everything that rolls through your mind. It doesn’t have to make sense, don’t edit it. Just let it out. A lot of the thoughts that dog us at the end of the day are just leftover static. When the timer beeps, draw a line under your download and if there is anything you legitimately need to stay on top of for tomorrow write it down in a clear list. Now that it exists on paper, you don’t have to hold it in your head.
- Give your brain a job to do. Once the light is off and the comforter is pulled up over your shoulder, give your mind some direction. Left to its own devices it can wander and race all night. The job could be noticing your breath as it moves in and out, or thinking through the details of a favourite memory, it doesn’t have to be anything complex. Doing this shifts you out of default mode (this is particularly useful for that 3:17 AM wake up) and even counting backwards from ten will do it.
Building these habits takes a bit of time, so be patient and gentle with yourself along the way and soon you’ll be getting more and better sleep; waking up refreshed and ready for a better day. Sweet dreams.
Written by Kathryn Nicolai, the creator of the podcast and book Nothing Much Happens, Cozy and Calming Stories to Soothe your Mind and Help you Sleep. (photo credit: Megan Elise Crimmins)