There were a beautiful 1.5 years of my life, when I spent about 20 hours a week with twin infants. They were about 7 months old when I started caring for them, and a little over 2 years old when they began daycare. I learned a whole lot from my time with these precious beings, but I'm going to speak about one especially profound thing here.
When it was nap-time (or bed time), I would put the babies in their cozy sleep sacks, lay them on their backs on the bed, fit myself between them, and read two books- raising them above our heads so they could see. I read some of the sweetest baby books that I still gift to friends when they become new parents, now. Two of my favorites were Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey and (my all time favorite) Hello Sacred Life . After reading books, I carried them into their dark bedroom (blackout curtains!), turn on both a sound machine and a very calm music cd, put a bit of lavender oil on their temples, and caress their heads/tummies while I sang them a few bed-time songs. Then I would give them each a kiss on their forehead, tell them I loved them, and leave them in their dark soundscape of a room to sleep.
One day, my partner was hanging out with us, and joined in on the bed-time ritual. When the kids were asleep, he just looked at me with big eyes and said "why don't we all get that?!"
And that's when I realized, that even if we have some sort of routine around bed-time, were we as consciously such a dreamy/positive ritual around slowing down and relaxing? Not really. Would consciously creating a dreamy/positive ritual at bed-time help those of us who just can't shut our brains off and relax? Probably.
Please note that I don't live in a vacuum with endless possibility to make my bed-time routine perfect. I'm full aware that those of you who are parenting and in partnerships don't necessarily have the luxury of doing all the things I suggest. But maybe one or several of these things can be incorporated into your routine, and be helpful!
Here are some tips I have for doing that:
During the day: notice when you are drinking coffee, matcha, and caffeinated teas. A good rule of thumb is not to drink anything caffeinated for about 8-9 hours before bed-time. I try and stop all caffeine at about noon.
1 hour before bed-time: set yourself up for success. If you're the kind of person who hates leaving dirty dishes in the sink, or the pile of clothes on the floor of your bedroom, tidy up in whatever way you can. The less clutter that is weighing on your mind, the less your subconscious will sabotage your sleep.
- Likewise, if you're the kind of person who likes having to-do lists and schedules in planners, maybe review your lists and plans for the next day before you get into bed so that they don't start spinning around in your mind when you're trying to fall asleep.
1/2 hour before bed-time: avoid all screens- especially phone screens that are in full daytime settings. They are stimulating and have been known to cause sleep troubles (especially if you look at it in the middle of the night!).
- Make yourself a small cup of tea. Herbs like chamomile, lavender, catnip, linden, oat straw, lemon balm are all calming ones that can set the tone for relaxing and rest-time. I have a blend of Rest Well Tea available that is lovely- for falling asleep, staying asleep, and encouraging happy dreams.
- On the topic of tea, try and avoid drinking too much in the hour or so before bed-time, because one of the biggest villains to sleep, is having to get up to pee. Keep your tea ritual to 8 oz. and under.
- Brush and floss your teeth before you even get into bed in the first place.
- Lock all doors, draw all curtains, turn on whatever night lights sounds you may prefer in your house and bedroom. We call this "putting our house to bed."
In bed: we keep our Gratitude diaries beside our beds, and do some free writing and/or gratitude lists from the day when we are in bed. This helps process lingering parts of my day, anything unresolved might show up, and I get to be in a state of gratitude before going to sleep.
- I keep my Rest Well Pillow Mist and a bottle of Lavender Essential Oil on my bedside table. Adam keeps Rest Well Bitters on his. The mist is pretty darn sedative and lovely! And the Rest Well Bitters are great to take if you wake up in middle of the night and want to go right back to sleep. 5-10 drops should do the trick.
- While in bed, I find that reading a book is a lot more conducive to falling asleep, than watching T.V. But I totally like watching T.V., so if I do I make sure to stay away from anything that's too scary, riveting, or anxiety-inducing. I need my mindset to be light and funny at this time.
- Snuggle! Whether it's with a lover, pet, or that cozy blanket that's your favorite. Cuddles are so good for the spirit. (Sometimes I beg Adam to give me chills on my arms, or he asks me to rub his shoulders).