The act of maintaining a healthy sleep routine is a notion that, up until not too long ago, was foreign to me. I’ve fallen into some pretty bad sleeping habits over the years, most notably while I was at school, when, despite 7am starts, I’d put off going to sleep until the early hours of the morning. My work ethic undeniably suffered but, though I do make a conscious effort to get something that resembles 8 hours of sleep, even now there are nights where I’ll spend my final waking hours with my eyes plastered to a screen, binging on my latest Netflix obsession or simply scrolling through pointless articles/social media posts that provide no value other than a distraction for my eyes as they get heavier and I eventually pass out.
I’ve begun to realise that this way of sleeping is at odds with how I want to live my life i.e. mindfully. I should be enjoying the time before sleep for what it is, not trying to distract myself with extraneous, unnecessary stimulation. I should wake up each day with a feeling of readiness and zest for life. So, in an effort to build a more healthy approach to going to bed and retrain myself in the art of falling asleep, I’ve been working on a sleep routine.
1. All lavender everything – For me, lavender evokes a complete sense of comfort and calm. Whenever I smell it I’m transported back to my childhood, to warm, sleepy bubble baths after days spent in the swimming pool on our holidays in the south of France. So, naturally, when I want to feel relaxed and ready for bed, it’s lavender I turn to. A bath with L’Occitane’s lavender bubble bath, a spritz of my DIY lavender and bergamot sleep spray on my pillow or popping some lavender essential oil into my oil burner are all ways I like to incorporate the plant’s scent into my bedtime routine.
2. The screen ban – We all know that the light emitted from our various screens can mess with our sleep and, though I find it hard to completely ban my laptop or phone from my bedroom, it’s on the nights that I do that I sleep most peacefully and feel most refreshed upon waking. Ideally I’d be implementing the screen ban a couple of hours before bed, but I find this to be a tad impractical. Instead, I try to keep my use of electronics in the evening to a minimum and get all tech-related tasks out of the way before I crawl under the covers. Whilst in bed, instead of diving head first into a Netflix binge or scrolling through my social media feeds, I’ve started to get into the habit of reading a book or journalling.
3. A mug of tea – Tea never fails to warm me, put me at ease and cleanse my mind. It’s a staple throughout the day but especially important in my pre-bed schedule; boiling the kettle, pouring the steaming water over my tea bag and setting my tea timer is one of my favourite rituals, and I like to spend the time waiting for my tea to brew reflecting upon my day and acknowledging what I’ve been grateful for. When the tea is ready, it’s time to take it to bed, where I find that it’s the perfect partner for getting lost in my book. My usual tea of choice is Earl Grey with a splash of milk, but recently I’ve been rather impartial to a peppermint; it’s caffeine free and can help with a host of health issues.
4. Finding some Headspace – The Headspace app features a 30-session pack dedicated to helping you ‘create the inner and outer conditions for a truly restful night’s sleep’. Head to the series page, click on the ‘Health’ folder and you’ll find the pack in there. Because my mind seems to go into overdrive the second my head hits the pillow, I often find that I need the distraction of a social media scroll or an audiobook after I’ve turned the light out; Headspace’s sleep pack however, instead of acting as a distraction, has imparted some effective and powerful meditation techniques that have actively aided my mind in unwinding as I drift off to sleep, facing my propensity to overthing at night head on instead of attempting to mask it.
5. Eight hours – Experimenting and pinpointing exactly how much sleep I really need was one of my best moves in terms of formulating a healthy sleep routine. On days where I didn’t have to be up at a certain time, I used my Withings Activité Pop fitness tracker to see how much sleep my body ‘naturally’ wanted without me telling it when to wake up. I began to see that eight hours was my ideal, and was then able to set that amount of sleep as a goal on the watch, which in turn allowed me to view via the Withings app how I was getting on each night, getting insights on sleep quality and the percentage of my goal I was reaching. With this precious information I’m now able to be more flexible with my bedtimes and can plan when I head to bed accordingly each night, depending on when I need to be up the next day.