Insomnia affects thousands of people each night, preventing them from getting restful sleep. Whether caused by medication, anxiety, stress, a medical condition or something else entirely, insomnia has the potential to affect your mental and physical health—not to mention your concentration and mood day to day. Improving your sleep health and getting good sleep night after night will ultimately lead to a happier and healthier you.
Although there are lots of natural and synthetic sleep aids available on the market, sometimes all you need to improve your sleep is to develop good bedtime routines. If you’re having trouble sleeping, follow these six easy steps to create your ideal sleep ritual.
Why a sleep ritual?
By definition, a ritual is “an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.” It is similar to a routine, but it’s typically much more precise and, in a way, “sacred” to you.
In developing a sleep ritual, you will create a set of acts that you’ll follow every night that are personalized to you, your needs and your desires. By creating your own ritual to conduct before bed, you’ll be prioritizing your own comfort and relaxation and ensure you do things that help you shed stress and fall into a peaceful slumber—whether that includes journaling, meditating, taking a bath or reading.
A sleep ritual serves a greater purpose than to relax you, though. Our bodies follow 24-hour circadian rhythms, which control a wide range of bodily processes, including sleep. When you conduct your ritual at the same time every night, you’re helping to train your body and mind to get ready for sleep, so you fall and stay asleep more easily when you’re supposed to.
The main point of a sleep ritual is to follow it exactly, doing the same things in the same order at the same time of day. By being strict with your sleep ritual, you’ll fall into your sleep pattern much sooner and make it a daily habit that will soon become second nature—leading to a more rested you!
Starting your sleep ritual
It can be challenging to start your sleep ritual if you’re not used to following a strict bedtime routine. Fortunately, with a few easy steps, you’ll be able to work into your ritual and ultimately fall into the pattern in just a few weeks.
Here’s what you should do:
- Decide on your ideal bedtime: Determine what time you want to go to bed to ensure you get adequate sleep each night. Start your first week by getting to bed at that time every day, being as consistent as you can.
- Consider other sleep ritual elements: Once you’re going to bed consistently, identify a few things you want to add into your sleep ritual. There will obviously be some essentials, like brushing your teeth, but you should also incorporate relaxing activities that you enjoy, such as yoga, a bath, journaling or meditating. Choose things that will help you shed stress and calm your body and mind down.
- Time it out: Figure out how much time each of your desired activities will take to determine the time you’ll need to start your sleep ritual every night. Consider whether this is realistic for your lifestyle. If your ritual is coming to two hours but you can’t reasonably begin heading to bed at 8 p.m., try reducing the time for each activity or replacing some activities with shorter ones. Most good sleep rituals last between 30 and 60 minutes. Additionally, plan to turn off your electronics before you begin your ritual to ensure blue light does not disrupt your natural melatonin production.
- Determine your ritual order: The order of your activities will ultimately be up to your lifestyle and preferences. Perhaps it is easiest for you to do yoga, then take a calming shower or bath and finish your evening with personal hygiene and skincare. Or, maybe a shower will be better done first, followed by quiet reading or journaling. Once you determine this order, you’ll want to stick to it every night.
- Put it into action: Slowly start adding activities to your nightly ritual, starting with the essential items and gradually expanding the ritual to include the full “line up.” This allows you to give just a few activities a try to see what really works for you and what doesn’t. If you find that journaling isn’t effective, swap it out for making tomorrow’s to-do list or reading, instead.
- Commit fully: Once you’ve added in all your ritual activities, stay committed! Do the same activities in the same order each night, ending with you getting to bed at your desired bedtime. Doing so every single night will help solidify your ritual and make it easier to complete every day, resulting in better sleep.
By establishing a series of relaxing activities to get your body and mind ready for peaceful sleep, you’ll allow yourself some “me time” every night and improve your sleep quality (and likely duration, too!). Once you find the right combination of activities and timing, stick to your sleep ritual every single day for easier and deeper sleep.