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As explained in chapter 6-3 of my book, DREAM Wellness: The 5 Keys to Raising Kids for a Lifetime of Physical and Mental Health, more than half of American adults say they experience sleep problems on a regular basis. The things you do before bed can determine whether you toss and turn or get a good night’s sleep. This Wellness Wiki will show you how to create bedtime rituals that will have you waking up every morning feeling refreshed and restored. If you’re a parent currently raising children, many of these tips will apply to your children as well, helping them create better habits for a lifetime of better sleep.
Included in my book’s workbook, there is a Creating a Sleep Healthy Lifestyle Plan and Family Sleep Plan. As a gift, I have included that resource for you to download for free!
Bedtime Rituals for Your Body
1Turn down the lights. Exposure to light causes your body to produce hormones that increase alertness, while darkness does the opposite. Turn off the TV and computer screens at least an hour before bedtime, and draw the shades. Most devices emit blue light which makes your brain think that it is daytime and therefore does not produce melatonin, a hormone needed to fall asleep.
2Slow down. Many individuals find that exercising late in the day disrupts their sleep. Devote your evenings to gentler activities, such as knitting or reading to your kids.
3Have a snack or treat. Certain foods and beverages promote sleep. Eat a light snack with protein and healthy carbohydrates, like an unsweetened whole grain cereal or gluten-free oatmeal with almond milk. Treat yourself to a small cup of chamomile tea. (Too much liquid can cause you to wake up with the need to go to the bathroom.) Avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
4Apply a fragrance. Lavender is an age old remedy for insomnia. Keep a lavender plant on your nightstand. Sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on a cotton ball and slip it inside your pillowcase. Vanilla has similar effects.
5Give yourself a massage. If you’re alone in bed, indulge in a self massage. Use one foot to rub the other. Soak your hands in warm water. Gently rub each finger from the base to the tip. Move your thumb in circles on the palm of the opposite hand.
6Warm up. Raising your body temperature induces drowsiness. Take a hot bubble bath or slip underneath a heavy blanket.
7Get into position. Sleep positions can work for or against you. Sleeping on your back with a good cervical pillow (use code DREAM10 for 10% my favorite pillow) is the ideal position for most people.
If you prefer to sleep on your side, make sure your head is laying parallel to the bed and not propped up or bending down. (The pillow I use is great for both back and side sleeping.) Feel free to place a pillow between your knees for extra comfort. If lying on your stomach, consider flipping to your back or side unless there is a functional reason why you need to sleep on your stomach.
8Treat aches and pains. It’s hard to relax when your body is sore. Try to do what you can to feel more body comfort before getting into bed. Stretch, do yoga, use a foam roller or sit on a massage chair. (If the pain is caused by something more than regular muscle soreness, see a chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist / body worker or other healthcare professional to get to the root of the issue.)
9Block out noise. Intrusive noises are everywhere, from car alarms in the city to crickets in the country. Turn on a fan or listen to a white noise machine to help you block out the noise.
Bedtime Rituals for Your Mind
1Suspend daily concerns. What if you get to bed on time, but lie awake worrying about your credit card bills or tomorrow’s meeting at work? Resolve to let go of distractions so you can sleep better. Keep a notepad and pencil by your bed… if you get thoughts of genius or remember something important, jot it down so it doesn’t stay on your mind all night long.
2Meditate, pray or BrainTap. Meditation and prayer may be just what you need to guide your mind towards sleep. Relax and focus on virtuous thoughts. BrainTap changed my life by retraining my brain to help me relax, fall asleep and stay asleep.
3Engage in something monotonous. For some people, boredom is the preferred solution. Before getting into bed, organize your sock drawer or read through the manual that came with your car. If you’re still feeling wired, count sheep or recite multiplication tables to yourself.
4Play a lullaby. Music is so effective at putting babies to sleep that there’s a whole category of songs for this purpose. Music is an approach you can still use when you get older. You might like Mozart or soft jazz.
5Create a trigger. Your mind and body is closely connected. Any object or practice can make you drowsy if you learn to associate it with sleep. Put on a pair of soft flannel pajamas when you’re ready to retire for the night. Go ahead and hug your teddy bear.