“Everything feels worse at night,” my mother told me when I was suffering from insomnia in middle school. It was a piece of advice that continued to soothe me throughout high school and college when fear of the future, or anxiety about the present, (in college it was probably more related to my Red Bull addiction), would keep me up at night. It seemed I was always alone with my thoughts while the rest of the world was quietly asleep.
I had difficulty falling asleep since I can remember. My mind was always active- thinking, analyzing, daydreaming, reflecting.
Then something magical happened. I studied abroad in India, and for the first time, my mind felt at peace. I don’t know if it was the energy of living in the mountains, the classes I fell in love with, the fact that I was far away from everything I had once known, or everything combined, but I fell in love with sleep. Once my head hit the pillow it was like the world became still and, for once, so did my mind.
When my studies abroad ended and I returned home, my sleep issues started to plague me again. However, I was no longer willing to accept the fact that I was a terrible sleeper; if I could fall into a restful sleep in India, I could do it anywhere. So I read a bunch of things about sleep, tried different rituals, such as keeping electronics away from my bed, limiting caffeine intake, blah blah blah, but nothing seemed to work until I finally confronted WHY I couldn’t sleep and WHAT, exactly, was keeping me up at night. Once I realized my mind was my real issue, I was able to create a little nighttime routine that shuts my brain off and triggers me into a deep, happy sleep.
Now, I’m not an expert on this subject, but I feel that everyone deserves a peaceful sleep. Each person is different, but if you feel like you’ve tried everything to help you sleep, and yet still feel exhausted or haunted by the night, try this nighttime ritual that changed my life:
- Confront why you can’t sleep. When I couldn’t sleep at night, it was often because a thought or memory would invade my mind that I didn’t want to think about. So I would try to distract myself, or think of something else, which only kept my mind even more active as I tried to resist the thought. Instead of running away from your mind, give it the space it needs to think what it wants. What even is a thought? It’s nothing to be afraid of. Something that helps me not get wrapped up in my own head is visualizing my thoughts as waves of the ocean – they’re constantly flowing, evolving, and changing.
- Practice yoga every night before bed. Whether you’re doing a 10 minute sequence of gentle stretching, or an hour of power yoga, making this practice a part of your nightly routine is an amazing way to release the stress of the day and prepare your body for rejuvenating at night.
- Take a shower. Some people prefer morning showers, but I consider nighttime showers an essential part of cleansing my mind and body from everything that happened during the day. You don’t want to bring the dirt, grime, and activity from the day into your bed. Trust me – when your body feels clean, it triggers your mind to feel clean.
- Moisturize with coconut oil. Coconut oil is found in many massage oils for its relaxing effects on the body. Although it can feel greasy at first, it’s an effective ingredient to keep your skin hydrated and calm. I smooth it over my body and face right after my shower so that it can set in while I sleep. I wake up with my skin feeling soft and refreshed.
- Consider your bed a sanctuary. Buy soft, comfortable sheets in soothing earthy tones such as Terra cotta, blue, or sage, or in clean, serene shades of white. I like keeping my bed sheets a tad wrinkled, as they appear when they’re fresh from the wash, rather than crisp, for a more welcoming vibe. Some people like decorating their bed with decorative pillows, but they’re always a pain for me to take on and off, so I prefer to get comfortable, soft pillow cases that can add a decorative touch to an already-comfortable piece. Keep electronics away, unless it’s a Nook or Kindle. Find out what aesthetic makes you feel zen and then incorporate that vibe into your bedroom.
- Read something peaceful before bed. While we sleep, our brains absorb all of the information we received during the day. With that in mind, I like to soothe myself to sleep by reading books about mindfulness, yoga, or Buddhism before I go to bed. It helps set the tone for happy, vivid dreams or a deep sleep. If you need suggestions for books, I recommend The Four Agreements, The Untethered Soul, The Art of Happiness, or The Mindfulness Revolution.
I hope this ritual helps you rest, relax, and release.