For some, turning your mind off to sleep can be a real challenge, especially when you’re stressed or anxious. To overcome this, adopting a few simple bedtime rituals can help you relax, fall asleep more easily, beat insomnia and be more prepared for the next day. These rituals don’t have to be complicated, either. Something as simple as writing in a gratitude journal or diffusing an essential oil can do the trick.
At Bed Threads, sleep is our number one priority, which is why we’re sharing our 11 favourite research-backed nighttime rituals we swear by. An hour before you get some decent shut-eye, try one or a few of these to help lull you to sleep and prep you for success when you rise.
10 nighttime rituals to help you wind down before bed
1. Take a warm shower or bath
According to several studies, a 20-minute hot shower or warm bath is all that’s needed to help induce sleep. This is because body temperature plays an important part in regulating the circadian rhythm, which signals the body when to feel sleepy or alert. Going from hot to cold again is a way of slowing down the body and helps usher you into your sleep cycle.
Plus, if you’re opting for a relaxing bath, your physical stressors will be eliminated, too. Baths soothe muscle tension and soreness in the body and once those stressors are taken away, your body is in the perfect state to have the best night’s sleep.
Go one step further and turn your bath into a luxurious spa by investing in some quality and comforting towels you can wrap yourself in afterwards. You’ll thank us later.
2. Slip into linen
A comfortable mattress, fluffy pillows and soft sheets will make it easier to doze off each night. As for your sheets, sleeping in 100 per cent flax linen sheets is an experience you have to try for yourself in order to completely understand why the material has gained a loyal following.
Beyond its Pinterest-worthy look and buttery-soft feel, linen is temperature-regulating, anti-static, anti-bacterial and acts as a natural insulator. This means it has temperature-regulating qualities, which keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter, without causing you to overheat. As we know already, a cool and calm body signals to the body that it’s ready to hit the hay.
Moreover, linen can literally hold up to 20 times its weight in moisture and gets a tick of approval for those with sensitive skin, making it the ideal material for an uninterrupted, clean sleep.
3. Write down your to-do list for the next day
If stress is keeping you up at night, you might want to try jotting down your to-do list to help free your thoughts.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found those who wrote to-do lists before bed fell asleep nine minutes faster compared to those who only wrote about already-accomplished tasks.
“We live in a 24/7 culture in which our to-do lists seem to be constantly growing and causing us to worry about unfinished tasks at bedtime,” said the study’s lead author Michael K. Scullin, in a statement.
“Most people just cycle through their to-do lists in their heads.” So, letting them go via a ‘brain dump’ can help your mind relax throughout the night.
4. Keep a gratitude journal
It’s true - grateful thoughts equate to a great night’s sleep. Gratitude is linked to greater happiness, satisfaction with life, less stress and a clearer outlook of the future, which in turn promotes healthy sleep behaviours.
University of California psychology professor and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology Robert Emmons, analysed the results of several studies of more than 2,000 people to examine the value of keeping a gratitude journal. He concluded: “People are 25 per cent happier and more energetic if they keep gratitude journals, have 20 per cent less envy and resentment, sleep 10 per cent longer each night and wake up 15 per cent more refreshed, exercise 33 per cent more, and show a 10 per cent drop in blood pressure.”
To reap the benefits, find a journal and set aside 5-minutes every night to write down three things you’re most grateful for that day. They don’t have to be extravagant - they can be as simple as being grateful for having a warm, cosy bed to sleep in or could be gratitude towards having your morning coffee earlier that day.
5. Do a quick 5-minute yoga stretch
The benefits of yoga go above and beyond - it can transform your mental and physical health, increase your flexibility, boost muscle strength, enhance vitality, balance your hormones and improve your mood. But one of the most overlooked benefits of yoga is its impact on sleep.
A 2016 review of studies, found a link between meditative movements - such as yoga and tai chi - and improved sleep quality and better quality of life. One reason behind this is because it forces you to focus on your body and breath, as opposed to the stressors of the day.
Just ensure your gentle and slow stretches don’t turn into a heart-rate-inducing workout as this will have adverse effects on your sleep.
Suffer from insomnia? You might want to try meditating before bed. According to a 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, meditation has the ability to trigger changes that occur during the early stages of sleep - increase melatonin (the hormone that regulates the sleep–wake cycle), increase serotonin (a precursor of melatonin), reduce your heart rate, decrease blood pressure and activate parts of the brain that control sleep.
7. Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary
Your bedroom might double as a dumping ground for your clothes or second office, but did you know your environment has a huge impact on your quality of sleep? In fact, various studies have shown people simply sleep better when all aspects of their bedroom have been carefully optimised with light, colour, temperature and comfort in mind.
Moreover, as one Harvard University School of Medicine study even pointed out, poor quality of sleep can lead to a 15 per cent decrease in life expectancy, giving you a good reason to reconsider your bedroom’s setup. So, how do you create a sleep-promoting bedroom? Use colours that promote ease and calmness like green and blue hues, find an artwork that sparks joy, add some greenery (specific plants also double as air purifiers), ensure the fabrics you sleep in are cooling and breathable and last but not least, wash your sheets at least once a week on a cold temperature setting to ensure you’re saying goodbye to bacteria.
8. Swap your phone for a book
Watching your favourite movie or scrolling through Instagram right before bed sounds like a nice way to relax, right? Wrong. Things like TV, phones and tablets all emit light that can affect your sleep.
Electronics emit a particular type of blue light that can trigger your brain to stop making melatonin. So, even if you start to close your eyes or droop your eyelids whilst watching TV, your sleep will still be adversely affected.
Ban any electronics or screens in the bedroom, as these can be the biggest culprits for getting a bad night’s sleep, and instead pick up a good book. Reading has been proven to relieve stress and allow your body to relax (goodbye, insomnia).
If you absolutely must use your phone or electronics, try adjusting the hue on your device to a warm tone. This can help in preventing you to become alert and awakened just as your brain starts to unwind for bed.
9. Diffuse essential oils
Essential oils have long been applauded as a natural alternative to sleep medications (and their associated side effects). They've been proven to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress while also lowering blood pressure.
Chamomile, Bergamot and Sandalwood are some of the best scents that will lull you to sleep, and Lavender has even been tested for relaxing properties. A 2013 study on the efficacy of Lavender on neurological disorders found that its host of therapeutic properties improved patients’ experiences of sleep disruption and restlessness.
10. Try a breathing exercise
Deep breathing is a simple yet powerful technique, which activates your vagus nerve and in turn tells your brain to relax. It also engages the parasympathetic system, which is our ‘rest and digest’ system.
Box breathing is a simple technique to bring into your sleep routine. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Slowly exhale.
Step 2: Slowly inhale through your nose for four seconds.
Step 3: Hold your breath for another slow four seconds.
Step 4: Exhale through your mouth for four seconds.
As you exhale, visualise letting go of any negative thoughts, stressors or worries.
You can also try the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
Step 1: Breathe in quietly through your nose for four seconds.
Step 2: Hold your breath for seven seconds.
Step 3: Making a “whoosh” sound, purse your lips together and exhale forcefully through the mouth for eight seconds.
Step 4: Repeat the cycle up to four times.