Confession: I’m a worrier. I’m prone to anxiety and overthinking things. Like, a lot. So sleep hasn’t always been the easiest thing for me. But I’ve developed some useful evening rituals that help me get more (and better) sleep.
Before we dive into my evening rituals, there are four principles I follow when it comes to getting deep rest and restorative sleep. I learned these during my restorative yoga teacher training, and apply them in my everyday life. These four qualities soothe our nervous systems so that we can begin powering down (and staying out of “high alert” status).
Slow yourself down.
Practice gentler movement or even do a little seated meditation to begin winding down.
Practice rituals that are slow and steady.
Single-task, rather than multi-tasking.
Turn down any music and make sure that sounds are soothing and soft.
Let conversations be hushed or quieter.
Turn off any phone notifications.
Turn down the lights.
Turn off any devices with glowing screens, or at least set them aside.
Draw the shades.
Light candles or otherwise embrace softer light.
While sleeping, get blackout curtains, if necessary, to create a dark environment.
Make sure that you’re nice and toasty.
Have a cup of tea.
Use a hot water bottle by your feet.
On an average night, here are some of my evening rituals:
- By 8:30pm, I’m usually starting to wind down my day: tidying the house, feeding the cats and any other evening chores. The overhead lights are off and the shades are drawn at this point.
- Turn off my screens, usually by 9pm. Phone goes on airplane mode and is tucked away. I close my computer for the evening.
- I do a little bit of gentle yoga, often in bed or standing to the side of the bed.
- I drink a cup of tea and get a hot water bottle settled by my feet (9 months out of the year).
- While I’m drinking my tea, I usually read. Favorite bedtime reading is poetry, books on meditation or dharma, or New Yorker articles my sweetie has saved for me. I stay away from anything stressful at this point.
- Right before sleep, I usually give myself a hand or foot massage with a little cream or body oil.
- At a certain point, we say our goodnights and turn out the light. Once I’m settled in with the lights out, I usually do a little breathing practice to ease myself into sleep.
My evening rituals are incredibly important to my self-care
How I end my day is just as important to me as how I begin it.
By creating ritual and supporting my nervous system to transition out of the day (and my thinking mind) and into a restful state, I get better quality sleep and feel more vibrant as a result.
It’s not always perfect, but this kind of attentive ritual is the aim. Above, you’ll notice that there’s something for each of my senses, and that I’m bringing the principles of still, quiet, dark and warm in whenever possible.
Rest isn’t lazy. It’s an incredibly powerful time for self-healing.
While we rest, our bodies are repairing themselves on a cellular level. Our immune, lymph, digestive, and respiratory systems all enjoy a boost. Our minds are able to integrate all of the input we offer during the day.
In a literal sense, we are healing ourselves as we sleep.
Supporting our nervous systems to get the best rest possible is key to supporting ourselves with self-care.
Evening rituals are for pulling inward and soothing anything that ruffled me during the day.