Developing a ritual before sleep helps let our bodies know that it's time for bed.
Our bodies are bombarded all day with stimuli, including signage, sounds, and smells. This keeps our body on alert as it defends itself against the environment, making sure we stay alive (thank you, body!). So when it's time to prepare for sleep at the end of the day, our body needs help knowing that it's safe so it can relax and fully rejuvenate. The best way to do this is by developing a nightly routine.
You probably have some kind of nightly routine, but the question is: Is it truly serving your body?
Sleep is vital to our health, as it is the time the body heals and repairs itself. Sleeping allows your body to heal and repair your heart and blood vessels, as well as give your brain time to form the pathways you need in order to learn and create new memories and insights the next day (which is why sometimes, the best thing to do really is "sleep on it"!). Sleep also increases your ability to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.
You may be inhibiting your sleep without even knowing it.
Our biggest stimuli in the 21st century? Screens. We look at them all day, whether it's our phones, televisions, electronic bill boards, computers... and we've made a habit of extending this into the night as we lay in bed on our cell phones, scrolling through social media or playing games. This consistency of light throughout the entire of day throws of our biological clock or circadian rhythm, causing our sleep to suffer.
Turns out, being exposed to light — any light — decreases our bodies' production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, and interferes with our biological clock. The light that has the most effect on sleep is blue light — which just so happens to be the kind of light coming out of all those screens.
What to do?
It isn't easy, and I know this...but we need to put away the screens before bed. Technically, studies are showing you should stop looking at bright screens an entire 2-3 hours before bed, but I know from personal experience no millennial can handle that. So try just 15-30 minutes before bed, instead. Turn off the TV. Shut down the computer. Plug your phone in, set your alarm, and turn it on silent as you get ready for bed — then avoid checking it again after you crawl under the covers. Hell, if you need to start with just 5 minutes, do it.
If detaching from your phone stresses you out, try using a little cannabis beforehand. You'll be more focused on the present moment instead of worrying about who is or isn't texting you, and you can focus on yourself instead.
Make a little routine that's unique to you.
Once you've shut down the electronics for the day, create a little relaxation ritual of your own that you love and look forward to. Slip into those crazy soft pajamas, wash your face, make some tea, and write in your journal. Smoke a bowl, take a bath, put on your favorite lotion, and snuggle up next to your coziest pillow. Whatever it is, try to do it as consistently as possible each night so that your body becomes familiar with the pattern.
Consider incorporating cannabis into your routine.
A lot of people find relief in using cannabis before bed, using it to relax the mind or ease tension and pain in the body. Of course, just like with anything, figuring out what strain and which method of dosing works best for you can take time. A few things to know:
- Indica strains are normally best for sleep because they contain terpenes (the compound that gives cannabis its smell and flavor) that induce sedating effects. Talk to your budtender about the best strains they have available for sleep, then pick a strain that smells good to you.
- Inhaling (smoking or vaping) is a quick way to get the effects of cannabis. This is great if you're looking to quiet your mind and let the stress of your day fade away. Smoking also forces you to focus on your breath, paying special attention to each inhale and exhale — a very meditative practice.
- Edibles can be wonderful for those suffering from chronic pain that keeps up them up at night. Since edibles are metabolized by your body differently, their effects are stronger and last longer — sometimes anywhere between 8-12 hours. If you're using edibles, remember that their effects take a little while to kick in — sometimes up to 2 hours — and keep that in mind as you plan your nightly routine.
- Live in a prohibition state? Not a problem. Imported CBD is completely legal, and has been used by many to help aid sleep. Take a look at Evoxe's Balance pens or Apothecanna's topicals to see if any of these products could benefit you.
If you're new to using cannabis, it's important to keep track of how different products and strains are affecting you. You can download and print our free cannabis use tracker here.
Ideas for things you could include in your perfect ritual
- Take a hot bath or shower. Your body needs to be cool as it sleeps, so taking a hot bath or shower will at first heat you up, then bring your body temperature down as you step out.
- Give yourself a full body massage. Let's be honest, who doesn't love a massage? Pause and check in with your body, giving a little extra love to the areas where you can feel tension is built up. This helps flush toxins, boost circulation, and loosen your muscles. Tip: Use a little cannabis beforehand, and you'll get lost in this practice! Download instructions here.
- Drink a little nutmeg. This was a tip I learned from Ayurvedic expert Kellen Brugman. Nutmeg has sedative properties and is a natural sleep aid. Add about 1/8th tsp to a cup of warm milk to sip on while you journal in bed. The warm milk will also help relax your body and mind.
- Invest in some quality pajamas. By changing out of your work or day clothes into "sleepy time" clothes, you signal to our body that it's time for bed. And if you love your pajamas, you'll look forward to putting them on every night — an awesome bonus.
- Practice breathing exercises. Focusing on your breath is a wonderful way to calm the body and ease the mind. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique for sleeping here.
- Write in a journal. Reflecting on your day through writing is a great way to process and release emotions, as well as create a space of gratitude and positivity. Read more about how writing can transform your health here.
- Find a favorite scent. Smells are incredibly powerful and can trigger memories and emotions. When used at bedtime, that power can be harnessed to let your body know it's time for sleep. Whether it's your face wash, a mist you spray on your pillow, the lotion you rub into your feet, or a lip balm, find a scent that puts you at ease and use it each night. Read about 6 essential oils you can use for sleep and stress relief here.
What are some of the things you incorporate into your bedtime routine? Share them with us below or on social media with the hashtag #SelfCareShare!
Copyright © 2016 Kristen Williams, All Rights Reserved