Sometimes Sleep Eludes Us
Falling asleep can be difficult, particularly when the demands of adult life intrude on our natural sleep rhythms. We find ourselves staying up late to get a work project finished on time, waking up early to get the kids ready for school, or staying up way too late because we binge watched that new Netflix drama when we finally had the chance. We take time when we need to and when we can but sometimes that means our sleep schedules suffer. We sleep inconsistently and we often sleep less; leaving our bodies confused and more than a little drained.
So what are busy adults to do? How can we help our bodies understand when it’s time to sleep even though we don’t have the luxury of a set bedtime every night? While getting in bed every night at the same time would certainly be an ideal way to help your body and mind learn to sleep regularly, we know this isn’t always possible or realistic.
Remember When You Slept Like A Baby?
The good news is that there are some things you can do to help your body wind down, self-soothe, and give it the message that it’s “lights out” time. Remember when you were little and your parents would say “it’s time for bed”? Well there was a reason for the elaborate ritual of a bubble bath, getting into pajamas, reading bedtime stories, singing lullabies, and dimming the lights, before the final “lights out” occurred.
Participation in this nightly routine served as a signal to your mind and body that it was time to sleep. Taking a warm bath, putting on soft clothing, listening to repetitive, lulling sounds all served to soothe your senses and help calm your nervous system. This ritual served as a “buffer” between the alert activities of daily life and the peaceful sleepiness of the bedroom. Over time, you learned to pair the feeling of sleepiness with the ritual so that just participating in the early parts, such as putting on pajamas or reading a bedtime story, could result in sleepiness.
Creating Your New Wind Down Plan
As an adult, you can now decide what you want to include in a routine for yourself. No matter your age, you can benefit from a bedtime routine to which you adhere nightly. Even if you aren’t able to keep a consistent bedtime, a consistent bedtime routine can help your body relax more efficiently when it is time to go to bed and increase the likelihood that sleep may be possible.
Consider what may be soothing to your senses. Go through them and make a list of things you may want to include. If you do incorporate taste, be sure not to eat anything heavy or difficult to digest too close to bedtime and stay away from caffeine (try soothing herbal teas). An example routine may be to read for thirty minutes in a chair (not your bed), then do five minutes of gentle stretches before taking a warm (not hot) bath while sipping chamomile tea. After your bath, brush teeth and do any other hygiene before getting into bed.
You need to pick a routine you can stick to as consistency is key, so if it’s as simple as spraying a lavender spray on your pillow each night before you lay down then that’s okay too! Just having the dependability of a routine brings comfort. The wind down routine is a time for you to explore what relaxes you and is when you can look forward to self-care.
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