The Importance of a Nightly Routine
A few months ago I was having a terrible time sleeping. It took me a very long time to fall asleep and when I finally did, I didn't always feel rested when I woke the next day. Not being rested and mothering seven children don't go well together. I was STRUGGLING. Big time. When I'm tired, I'm cranky. Patience is something I'm constantly working on and being tired was not helping my cause. I want to be kind and patient with my children. I want to have the energy to play with them. I want to have a desire to cook dinner and do the other household tasks everyone counts on me accomplishing day in and day out.
I knew I was doing something wrong so I began looking at how I was spending my time during the waking hours. I was exercising daily and that was good. Research shows that people who exercise roughly 20 minutes a day sleep 65 percent better than those who don't. That's a pretty significant difference! As far as what I was eating, I do my best to maintain a healthy diet. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies and don't drink anything other than smoothies and water (ok, ok, and the occasional milkshake).
Along with the importance of diet and exercise, I came across this theory of nightly rituals in my studying and how they affect our sleep too. I discovered that giving our bodies cues that sleep is coming leads to a more restful night. Here are the things that have helped me the most:
My bedroom tends to be the catch-all for random things in the house. Clutter causes stress and organizing and clearing things out has helped a lot. I have found that tidying up the rest of the house helps too. Making sure the toys are put away and the counters are cleared have a calming effect on me.
Cool things off:
Research shows that the optimal sleep temperature is between 60-67 degrees. This range causes a drop in your body's core temperature and initiates sleepiness. 60 degrees sounds freezing to me, especially with little children in the house that don't always stay tucked under their covers. We generally have our thermostat set between 67-68 degrees at night.
After dinner I can usually be found going room to room and switching off all of the overhead lighting and turning on lamps and task lighting. In my reading I discovered that exposure to too much electrical light can suppress levels of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy. Dimming has helped my body ease into sleep in a more natural way.
It's proven that the bright blue lights from our phones mess with our circadian rhythms. I do my best to stay clear of my phone a good 45 minutes before I plan on going to sleep. I have noticed that reading real paper books instead of digitally on my phone has helped me feel tired faster. Apart from the sleep benefits, I have found that reading a real book is just more satisfying.
Setting the stage:
Outside of the other tips mentioned above, setting the stage for sleep is the thing I have found to be the most therapeutic. Every evening when I begin to wind down for the day, I light my favorite candle on my bedside table. I change out of my regular clothes and into my pajamas. I wash my face and brush my teeth. Before getting into bed, I kneel to say my nightly prayers. These simple actions when done deliberately is like a bit of therapy after a long day giving to my family. It's a few minutes that I spend giving back to myself and it's helped immensely.
Do you have a nightly routine? Have you found things that help you get a more restful night's sleep? I'd love to hear!
Oh! I wanted to share that I read this book and found it enlightening about sleep and it's importance in our lives.