Bedtime Rituals for a Healthy Night’s Sleep
Bedtime Rituals for a Healthy Night’s Sleep
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Technically, we all know how to go to sleep: Turn off the lights, slide into bed, close your eyes, your body does the rest. But how we prepare ourselves for bed—mentally and physically—is as important as how many hours we get, says body alignment expert Lauren Roxburgh.
We know it’s not a good thing when we don’t get enough
shut-eye: We’re tired and grumpy and fragile the next day. Sleeping well is necessary for a proper emotional and physical reset not to mention a host of health-related reasons, which is why we asked Roxburgh for advice on how to improve our sleep hygiene. Roxburgh’s new book, The Power Source, is a practical handbook for finding balance, releasing stress, and cultivating energy to align body and mind. And the path to well-being, says
Roxburgh, starts in bed.
A Q&A with Lauren Roxburgh
Sleep is incredibly important for so many reasons. It is the time when our tissues are able to renew, our organs and muscles heal, and our brains recharge by redistributing their fluids. It is also a vital time to allow our minds to rest so we can wake rejuvenated and ready to take on another day. Sleep is a key ingredient in our overall wellness.
With my clients, I’ve noticed that stress—which they often hold in the pelvic floor, hips, and lower back, where they tend to subconsciously clutch and hold onto tension—is one of the biggest culprits in disrupting their sleep patterns. Too much stress causes a state of hyperarousal or that feeling when you can’t shut off your mind and you’re running things through your head obsessively. As a result, it can be hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. A lack of good-quality sleep can make you irritable and anxious.
Finding ways to unwind, become present, and transition from the yang (doing) of the day to the yin (being) part of our day is important for getting a full night of sleep to truly feel healthy and happy.
There are both psychological and physical factors that can upset our natural circadian rhythms. On a psychological level, we’re all increasingly held hostage by our “always on” world, and so many of us find it hard to shut down. We’re thinking too much, getting stuck in our heads, and feeling unable to turn off the constant bombardment of emails, texts, and so on. This can cause our minds to become too busy, making a full night of sleep almost impossible to get.
Likewise, our growing addiction to technology, on a physical level, can cause sleep problems. It’s now common knowledge that the blue light from our computer and TV screens inhibits the production of melatonin, something that is central to our circadian rhythms.
There are dietary factors that can also make it hard to sleep. Drinking stimulants late in the day or drinking alcohol can cause problems with sleep. Eating a big meal late in the day can cause discomfort and is asking the digestive tract to work instead of relaxing.
I like to call it sleep hygiene. Winding down at the end of the day and setting yourself up for a great night’s sleep is key to cultivating better sleep and a more natural sleep rhythm. That means:
- Don’t overlook things like decluttering—you want an organized, clear, and clean bedroom at the end of the day. That starts with having a clean bed: I love the Avocado Green Mattress because it’s all-natural, nontoxic, and made with organic materials. Creating a natural resting sanctuary with a beautifully made bed can dramatically affect your sleep and especially your ability to fall asleep.
- Get off the devices and screens an hour or two before you go to bed to reduce your exposure to blue light and to wind down away from distractions. If you use your phone as an alarm, make sure you put it in airplane mode.
- Eat a light dinner and try not to eat after 7.30 p.m. Valerian root tea (sometimes referred to as nature’s Valium) and chamomile tea are both soothing; they make for a great evening beverage. Magnesium also works wonders for me.
- Try to get to sleep at least a couple of hours before midnight. The sleep you get before midnight is known to be more effective and restorative than the hours you get after the midnight.
- Going to bed at the same time each night and going to bed at the same time as your partner are also great ways to get into a healthy sleep rhythm.
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Finding ways to calm and clear the mind is a great way to set yourself up for a good night of sleep. I like to lie on my bed and do a full body scan to check in and see where I might be holding on to any stress, fears, or emotions. It’s basically a mental exercise of quieting your mind and moving up the body from the toes all the way to the head and tuning in to see where you might feel tight and tense. Once you’ve identified the area, you can spend a moment focusing on unwinding that holding pattern.
Going for a walk and getting some fresh air is another great way to clear the mind. A ten-minute walk in the evening can be a great way to do some deep breathing—what I call a walking meditation—to unwind and exhale anything from the day you might be holding onto.
The other thing I find really powerful is doing some visualizations and affirmations. I’ll spend five minutes doing this after I’ve done my body scan when I’m feeling really relaxed. A daily gratitude practice also is key. Thinking of three things that you are grateful for is an incredibly powerful way of resetting your state of mind at the end of a busy day.
Gua sha, which I discuss in The Power Source, is an ancient Chinese holistic therapy to get stagnant chi (energy) moving. You can do a facial massage on yourself with a rose quartz gua sha tool by gently stroking it along your face. Although this technique can be used on many areas of the body, I particularly enjoy doing it on the face, jaw, and neck to reduce tension.
Stretching and belly rolling with the body sphere are incredibly releasing. Too often this stomach area tightens up and clutches when we are under stress or overworked, which results in losing touch with our core, true feelings, and insightful intuition. This soothing belly self-massage feels incredible and helps “reorganize” you before bed.
Ultimately, it’s all about finding what works for you, so experiment and try things until you find the tools that resonate. For me, some of my favorites are:
- Aromatherapy: Uma oils are some of my favorites. I also love burning sage periodically. The ritual of clearing energy really helps me.
- Writing in a journal: The Five-Minute Journal is a super simple and easy way to make this a daily practice.
- Herbal baths: I love goop’s “The Martini” and G.Nite soaks.
- Rebounding: A light bounce on the rebounder at the end of the day is another great way to shed any tension I might be holding and shake out any toxic energy.
I love a good evening ritual: When I get home, the first thing I do is cook dinner with our mini mermaids, Cameron and Jamie. I really try to engage in an office hours policy by putting my phone in airplane mode after 8 p.m. so I can start to unplug from the communications barrage. We eat a fairly light dinner, and I’ll often sip a cup of bone broth to wind down and fill up with collagen. A valerian tea before bed, a glass of water with magnesium, five minutes of rolling and rebounding, a salt bath, a meditation/body scan/visualization combo, and then I’ll finally climb into bed with my hubs for a snuggle. Heaven.
Lauren Roxburgh is a body-alignment, fascia, and movement specialist with a private practice in LA. She is the author of Taller, Slimmer, Younger and The Power Source. For more foam rolling routines, visit her virtual studio.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.