Did you get enough sleep last night? Would you like to fall asleep easily and stay asleep? In his book, Why We Sleep, sleep scientist Matthew Walker suggests that six hours or less of sleep per night reduces cognitive function and is considered sleep deprivation. Studies show that restful sleep helps to maintain a strong immune system, improve memory, enhance mood, repair and rejuvenate tissues, improve cognitive function, and contribute to weight loss.
Ayurveda has considered sleep a key pillar of health for thousands of years, and recommends going to bed by 10 p.m. and waking up by 6 a.m. as a healthy sleep schedule. Interestingly, that is the same schedule that sleep scientists today recommend for optimal rest and cell rejuvenation.
In modern times, we need to put more effort into signaling to our bodies that it’s time to rest. That’s why it’s important to develop and maintain a healthy and effective bedtime routine. Watch Anna share her tips or continue reading below for some simple strategies to help you do this.
Anna’s Six Strategies for an Effective Bedtime Routine
Eat a Light and Early Dinner
Try eating a light dinner so your body has time to digest and can relax into sleep. Eat your dinner no later than 7:30 p.m. and don’t eat anything between dinner and breakfast the next morning. That means no late-night snacking.
You should also give your digestive tract time to process the food from dinner for at least two hours before you go to bed. Going to bed on a full belly will create indigestion, poor digestion, and may lead to restlessness.
Drink Soothing Herbal Teas Before Bed
Enjoying a warm cup of tea in the evening is a calming practice to help your body transition to a state of relaxation. Lavender, Chamomile, Passionflower and Lemon Balm are herbs that are known to have a calming effect on both the mind and body and can be found in many soothing herbal teas.*
Make the tea, sit with the tea, smell the tea, savor the taste of the tea, and mindfully drink and enjoy your tea. Your evening tea ritual can also be accompanied by reading something inspiring or writing in a gratitude journal.
Turn Off All Screens An Hour Before Bedtime
In the past, before artificial light, humans were in sync with the natural light and dark cycle of the earth moving around the sun. The setting of the sun signaled to the brain that it was time to start preparing for sleep.
Today, we have artificial light, screens, and distractions that keep our minds engaged longer into the evening. The light that we take in through our eyes signals to the brain that it’s still daytime, even after the sun has set. Due to this, the brain doesn’t release melatonin because it thinks it’s not time for sleep. That’s one of the main reasons why some people find it difficult to fall asleep.
To help your brain know that bedtime is getting closer, turn off all screens and dim all of your lights. Allow yourself and your brain to recognize that it’s time to slow down, relax, and prepare for bed.
Take Longer Exhalations
Take five minutes to breathe mindfully before bed. Breathe deeply and easily while following the path of the breath through the body. Allow the breath to move like a wave up and down your body. When you're ready, gently start making your exhalations longer than your inhalations to promote rest, relaxation, and letting go.
This practice can also be done if you wake up in the middle of the night and have a difficult time falling back asleep. If that happens, count back from 47 to 1 like so: 47 breathing in, 47 breathing out, 46 breathing in, 46 breathing out, and so on. The breath is your cheapest and always available relaxation technique. Use it well.
Meditate and Relax, or Try Yoga Nidra
Try a five-minute guided sitting meditation or meditation on the breath. To relax even more, lay on your back with your legs up on a chair or up the wall. Relax your body completely and follow the path of the breath through the body.
Or, explore a guided Yoga Nidra (yoga sleep). You can easily find them on YouTube and on apps like Insight Timer, which is the world's largest free library of guided meditations. Invite your body and mind to relax so that you can fall asleep easily and rest well.
Use Essential Oils
Dab a few drops of Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood and/or Chamomile on your wrists and temples before bed as these scents are calming to the mind and body. If you have a diffuser, you can put the essential oils in the diffuser in your bedroom before bedtime or as you’re going to sleep. I personally use this technique and it works very well for me.
According to Ayurveda, and modern medicine, sleep is a key pillar for health and well-being. A consistent and relaxing bedtime routine will help you fall asleep easily and stay asleep. May you sleep well tonight!
Top photo: Scott Martin
Middle photo: Melissa Coogan
Bottom photo: Scott Martin
Anna is the author of Yoga for Paddling, and an internationally celebrated paddling, yoga and Ayurveda health coach. She creates empowering experiences that help women build courage and confidence through mind, body and adventure. Anna has been featured in mainstream publications such as Outside Magazine, Time, Shape and Self, and was named one of the most inspirational paddlers alive by Canoe and Kayak Magazine. Anna lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband Andrew and adventure schnoodle, Ceiba.