I was in an online community recently where someone was asking for advice on how to implement a routine to promote good sleep hygiene and I surprised myself by having a novel’s worth of information to share. I figured, maybe this should become a blog post, so here we are. Buckle up, because this is a long one.
I know that I don’t need to cite scientific journals and literature to convince you that sleeping is important – anyone who has ever experienced a restless night in bed knows firsthand the impacts that sleep has on your mind, body, and mood. Sleep plays a critical role in your body’s ability to regulate biorhythms for all kinds of physiological processes, and going through prolonged periods of poor sleep will have a cascading effect on pretty much all areas of health. If you struggle with your mood, cognitive performance, immune system, metabolism, and operating heavy machinery or automobiles then investing in sleep hygiene might be something you want to consider.
I once was a moderate insomniac – I used to take 1-2hrs to actually fall asleep once my head hit my pillow, and I would wake up every other hour throughout the night. I have also in the past struggled with recurring panic attacks related to the fear of sleeping. I’ve dabbled with just about everything from prescription sleeping pills and marijuana to acupressure mats to heal my sleeping patterns and eventually cultivated a reliable routine for myself to promote consistent, restful sleep. It is not perfect, I still tend to wake up at least once a night, but it is way better than it used to be. Through my experience I’ve come to believe that people who suffer from insomnia that is not able to be accounted for by an existing neurological or other medical condition are more often than not, engaging in lifestyle practices that are incompatible with their body. Your daily habits form a critical foundation for your overall health and wellness, which of course includes sleeping. It became apparent to me about 10 years ago that I needed to prioritize and protect my sleep routine if I wanted to be able to cope with the everyday stressors and challenges that meet us all in life, and now I am here to share what has worked for me.
Just about every single thing you do has the ability to impact your sleep, more or less – therefore, cultivating a reliable sleep hygiene practice is a holistic endeavor that must take into consideration the entire ecology of your life. The strategies I offer are able to be broken down into the following categories:
- Stress Management/Mental Health
- Sleeping Equipment/Bedroom Setup
- Diet/nutrition and herbal sleep aids
- Fitness/Body work
A lot of the strategies that I will be sharing can fall under multiple categories – in fact, all of these areas are interconnected and support each other when implemented together. That was the key I learned about trying to fix my sleep over the years – you can try one or two things like meditating or a sleep tea and get a decent night’s rest once in a while, but they won’t really fix the problem if you drink 3 cups of coffee every day and work a job that you despise. Likewise, you can have very minimal external stressors in your life, never drink caffeine, and still experience difficulties sleeping because you never exercise. I understand the desire to seek relief of insomnia and there is nothing wrong with doing that. However, if you want this pattern to resolve, you will have to take an honest inventory of your habits that act against your sleep health.
A whole lifestyle review is necessary to support a permanent improvement to sleep quality, and that lifestyle review is really about just building a better relationship with yourself and learning to pay attention to your needs in all areas of life. This is a big commitment that will change your life for the better, and it is understandable that many people do not feel that they have the means to make such a commitment to themselves. Some of you also may not be able to afford the resources to acquire items or implement certain suggestions right now. That’s okay. You can start small with what you’re able to do right now and work your way up. After all, it did take me 10 years to get to where I am now.
Stress Management/Mental Health
This is going to be the shortest section but it is the one with the most important tips. These are also often the ones that are the hardest for people to put into practice, yet they form the foundation for everything else that follows in this list. If you focus on just these four tips, you may end up finding your way to everything else I have on this list. Or you may not, but it won’t matter because you’ll be identifying what you need to feel good in your life and that will naturally lead to better sleep.
1. Start a journaling practice
If anxiety and emotional distress keep you awake at night, I strongly urge you to start a journaling habit. Journaling doesn’t need to be something intricate – the purpose in this instance is to express your experience on paper so it has an outlet. This isn’t meant to be something you go back and read, this is pump-and-dump, “just get it out” journaling. Just write down what you notice you are feeling: “I’m so anxious tonight, my heart is racing. I keep having thoughts about work tomorrow. I hate my boss.” Write down whatever comes up and notice how you feel afterwards. This is the one thing that dramatically changed my sleep quality. If there is one thing on this list you try, make it this.
2. Start a meditation practice
Meditating gives you a break from being in flux. Instead, you get to just be. You don’t have to control or eliminate your thoughts, you just have to notice them and return your focus to your breathing. This teaches your mind that there are other options to constant stimulus. It also helps you become aware of your inner environment – your bodily sensations, your emotions, your perception. I recommend the channel Great Meditation on YouTube for guided meditations, or you can use Insight Timer to customize a meditation experience or access their community. I like to listen to gratitude meditations as I fall asleep.
3. Set boundaries
Boundaries are important for your overall well-being. You can set boundaries with people and with yourself and your behaviors. Here are some examples of boundaries:
- You set your work phone to have an automatic “do not disturb” schedule during your off-hours
- You set a time limit for how long you spend on social media or reading the news
- You say no when someone asks you to do something you’re not comfortable doing
- When someone calls and you have other things to do, you tell them you can only talk for 10 minutes
- You choose not to eat foods that upset your stomach, even if they taste good
- You do not take your mobile device with you to the dinner table or bathroom
- You set a bedtime and adhere to it 😉
Setting boundaries (and more importantly, following through with them) is how you communicate to yourself and the world how much you value yourself. Boundaries reinforce your sense of Self so that you do not dissolve away into the sea of other people’s desires and agendas. If you are not very good at setting boundaries, then start small, such as with avoiding dairy if you are lactose-intolerant, or shutting off your work phone when you clock out for the day. Eventually you can work up to the scarier boundaries, like telling someone that they hurt your feelings when they yelled at you over the phone and that if it happens again, you will hang up. Protecting your boundaries will restore a sense of agency in your life, and therefore reduce stress. You’ll also experience greater agency over your emotional states, which leads to reduced anxiety and therefore restful sleep. Yay boundaries!
4. Listen to your needs and act on them
This goes hand-in-hand with setting boundaries – because to set boundaries, you must know what your needs are. You can have a need to feel safe in a relationship, or a need to slow down and rest amidst the week’s hectic work demands. It can be difficult to identify what your needs are, especially if you experience dissociation. You can refer to my previous posts about identifying and releasing stuck emotions (pt 1, pt 2) for some guidance on identifying your emotional needs. Physical needs can be different but are often also related to emotional experiences. A lot of this is about growing awareness for your inner experience, which can be as deep as profound grief for a childhood event you avoid thinking about, or as simple as “I think I’m feeling oatmeal for breakfast, instead of the usual waffles.”
Often in my own experience, I sit and ground into my body to identify what emotion I am feeling, and that emotion will be tied in to an unmet physical need. Example: I sit and identify that I feel angry and frustrated that I am so busy with work, I continue to sit with that feeling and realize the reason it makes me angry is because I am tired and don’t feel like I have enough time to cook the food I would like to eat, which leaves my body feeling stressed and uncomfortable. After identifying that I need more rest and time to cook, I reach out to my partner or a friend and ask if they can help me with some chores so that I have more time available to do these things. Or, I ask my boss to help me arrange my schedule so I can take a vacation day to recover.
It can be hard to act on your needs, but the more you do it the easier it gets – especially if you are protecting your boundaries while doing so. You’ll gain strength with each little success, until you are so strong that asking for help or taking action to start a new habit feels effortless or routine.
Sleeping Equipment/Bedroom Setup
It’s important to feel safe and comfortable in your sleeping environment. Sleeping is one of the most vulnerable things we can do, so it makes sense to make sure your bedroom is as comfortable and inviting as possible. This is the category that takes the most material investment, but will certainly feel very, very pleasurable when done well.
5. Invest in your mattress
One way to alleviate resistance to sleeping is to make your bed the most comfortable and desirable place to be. Of course, this starts with your mattress! The average person spends a third of their life sleeping, so why wouldn’t you invest in a comfortable mattress? I personally use a Purple mattress and have for several years now. When I first bought it, I was amazed that I could lay on it without feeling any pain or tension, just pure relaxation. Of course, over several years it’s sunken in the areas I lay on, but it’s still an incredibly comfortable mattress. There are many online guides available on choosing a mattress that is best for your preferred sleeping position and budget.
6. Invest in your linens
If your sheets are rough or not very breathable, your sleeping experience won’t be as comfortable. Nothing compares to the experience of crawling into bed and feeling buttery soft linens on your skin – it just puts you in a good mood for sleeping. I use a humble set of bamboo sheets that I acquired from a clearance sale, after spending years of using hand-me-down or tattered bedding. You don’t need to spend a fortune on thread counts or Egyptian cotton, just make sure the fabric you buy is what you’d like to rub against your skin all night. Also, if you share a bed with a partner, consider using separate blankets. My husband and I gave up trying to share a single comforter a long time ago. Now we both stay warm and comfortably wrapped in our separate blankets through the night without disturbing each other when we get up, toss and turn, or engage in blanket warfare.
7. Consider a weighted blanket
I know weighted blankets have been hyped to death, but I absolutely love mine. Your mileage may vary if feeling swaddled provokes anxiety in you. Otherwise, the weighted feeling is very yummy and can also be achieved with a dense comforter or multiple heavy blankets. The advantage of using a weighted blanket is that they tend to be more breathable than a heap of heavy blankets. The one I use has held up over the last few years without any stitching coming loose. I wouldn’t wash it in a normal washing machine, though. I take mine to the laundromat and use their heavy duty washer and dryer for just my weighted blanket, and I keep an eye on it while it is in there. I also very much enjoy the cover that can bought separately; it is a plush material that isn’t too thick, but keeps me warm in the winter.
8. Staying cool in hot climates
There is nothing more miserable than trying to sleep on a hot summer night and being unable to find relief in spite of your oscillating fan and wide-open windows. When I was younger, I wrapped frozen peas in a towel and slept on them. Now I am an adult woman with an Amazon Prime membership, and last year I bought and fell in love with this cooling blanket. During the hottest parts of the year I trade in my weighted blanket for this. It’s so hard for me to sleep without the sensation of a blanket with some weight over me and this cooling blanket provides that experience while staying pleasantly temperate. I must also confess that I use a cooling pad I bought from Grocery Outlet for my dog (he doesn’t use it, so I am not depriving him) in my bed on hot nights; it’s another significant contributor to how I sleep restfully during the summer. They make cooling pads for humans, too.
9. Pillows and sleeping posture
Everyone has their favorite sleeping position, and it’s a good idea to do some research on how to best support your body in your favorite sleeping position. When you have bad sleeping posture, you’re more prone to waking up during the night because of pain and tension. There are many different pillows available for supporting your favorite sleeping position. A good cervical pillow like this one will keep your neck properly aligned during the night whether sleeping on your back or your side. I enjoy sleeping on my side, so I use a body pillow that goes between my thighs and up to my shoulders. I stack an additional throw pillow onto it for my arm to rest on so my shoulders do not slump inwards while I sleep. I also sleep on my back occasionally, and am able to put the body pillow beneath my knees to keep them supported. P.S. Try and make sure your wrists aren’t folded inwards when you sleep. I used to do this and often woke up with numb, lifeless arms that needed to be shaken back to life.
10. Sleeping mask/blackout curtains for light sensitivity
I am very sensitive to light and struggled with that for a long time until I discovered sleep masks. You can find a sleep mask for under $10 easily at any drug store or online. Like with other linens, you want to make sure a sleeping mask is made of material that you would enjoy to have rubbing on your face all night. I am also a big fan of sleeping masks with Bluetooth headphones embedded in them. This is a pair I recommend because they do not make any sort of noise when the battery runs out. This is another pair I recommend because it comes with eye cushions that you can move and position directly over your eyes, relieving them of any pressure during the night – however, these DO make a noise when the battery runs low (after about 10-12hrs of use), so I make sure to charge mine every day.
As for blackout curtains, these are particularly helpful if you sleep during the daytime and for during the summer when the sun rises earlier and sets later. Where I live, during peak summer it can stay light out until as late as 10pm, and the sun rise as early as 4am. This is the brand I use, and it can be found at Walmart and most box stores, too.
11. Sound management for sound sensitivity
Sensitivity to sound is another one of my big challenges that Bluetooth headphones do not resolve for me. This was a huge point of contention in my childhood household – my parents snored and slept with their TVs on and I could hear it through the vents. To this day, I require something in the background to generate white noise so the sound of my husband and dog gently breathing doesn’t keep me awake at night. For now, this is achieved with a small fan that I run at night, but I am looking into replacing this method with a white noise machine. I just don’t like the sensation of the fan blowing on my legs when I get up to go potty at night.
I also keep a jar of earplugs on hand for nights when neighbors are partying or holidays that include fireworks, which you can find at any local drugstore. If you use earplugs I strongly recommend you do not use them every night. I used to do this and it lead to wax buildup and ear aches. Use them as a last resort for situations where the environment is just too loud to sleep in.
12. Keep screen use/mental stimulus in the bedroom to a minimum
There have been times when my husband and I could only afford to live in a single room, and so our TV room was also our bedroom. Honestly, this was not the biggest contributing factor to my insomnia during those days, so if you are in a similar situation just do your best and focus on your basic needs. If you are in a more secure position, I recommend you keep TVs out of the bedroom. Some people do not even allow their phones in the bedroom – great for them. I rely on my phone to listen to sleeping meditations and music at night, but I do use an app blocker so that I do not use distracting apps around bedtime. The light from these screens can disrupt your natural sleep-wake cycle and make it more challenging to fall asleep.
There is another part to this tip however, and it’s about mental stimulation overall. The reason limiting screen time is recommended is because they are highly stimulating for the brain, which is something you want to avoid when going to bed. There are lots of other things we sometimes do in bed that are mentally stimulating, such as reading books with exciting content or journaling about intense emotions or arguing with our spouses. I used to journal in bed every night and it transformed my sleep quality for the better, so I definitely think journaling in bed is better than not journaling at all. The key takeaway here is make sure the content you are consuming in and keeping around your bed is in alignment with promoting calm and rest. P.S. No eating in bed!
13. Use soft lights in the evening
Artificial lighting can really mess with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. You have a little bundle of nerves in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which governs all your circadian rhythms (this was my favorite topic in neuroscience class). The SCN sits in the hypothalamus and receives information from your eyes about the amount of light present in the environment. It uses this information to communicate with the rest of your body about when it is time to go to sleep or wake up. This is part of why using harsh, bright lights or sitting in front of a computer screen well into the evening can lead to insomnia. Dimming your screens at night and swapping out lamps and light fixtures for soft string lights can be a huge help. My husband and I both avoid using bright lights as much as possible and have string lights throughout our entire living space. It’s a lot more soothing, and it looks very aesthetically pleasing!
14. Vibe check/bedroom decor
The last tip in this category is more about interior decorating and isn’t as critical as the previous ones, but it still makes a difference. You want to enjoy being in your bedroom, and your bedroom should give off good vibes. If your bedroom is cluttered or full of trash, it’ll impact your mood. The colors and shapes you use in your decorating will have an impact on your perception of your bedroom as well. Recently, I felt inspired to completely update and redecorate my bedroom and the first thing I did was replace my black-colored blackout curtains with another blackout set that was a slate blue. Just this one, $20 upgrade dramatically shifted the overall vibe of our room from dark and heavy to open and uplifting. Avoid too much black or saturated, vibrant hues in your bedroom. Also avoid shapes that are jagged and “aggressive” (you’ll know it when you see it); generally square shapes can be grounding, and rounded shapes are soft and comforting. Looking into feng shui is also a fun way to get creative with your bedroom decor.
Also avoid keeping anything in the bedroom that carries bad vibes. I used to keep my old journals in my nightstand. My journals were filled with incredibly intense emotions though, especially negative ones, and over time I have felt called to move my journaling to a different room and to not store old journals in my bedroom. I am also getting rid of my dresser; I’ve had it since I was a child and painted it to go in my first apartment, but it holds a lot of bad memories. One of the reasons I painted it instead of re-staining it is because I inflicted deep, heavy gouges into the wood when I was distressed in childhood. I have also removed mirrors and any crystals that are not grounding in nature from my room for similar reasons – it just felt too stimulating. Some of you will find this to be woowoo malarky, and that’s fine. Take what resonates and leave the rest.
Diet/Nutrition and Herbal Sleep Aids
Before I continue I have to impose a precursory disclaimer: I am not a licensed physician, therefore nothing in this section is meant to be taken as medical advice. You should always consult with a licensed physician before trying any new supplements or major dietary changes, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions or take prescription medications. This section focuses on your internal health and the things you consume that can influence it.
15. Rule out any nutritional deficiencies
If you’re able to see a doctor and get bloodwork done, do it. I tend to prefer naturopaths for this; in my experience they are more attentive to gut health and dietary needs than the general MD’s I’ve been to. You can have a pretty decent diet and it still just be missing things that your unique body has a difficult time absorbing or metabolizing. In my mid-20’s I got bloodwork done that showed that I have a significant intolerance to dairy and gluten, as well as pretty much all cereal grains except oats, rice, and corn. After cutting these things out of my diet, it took me a long time to realize that I was missing nearly all the fortified minerals and vitamins that you get from commercial cereal products and dairy. It’s very important to make sure you are making up for that somehow in your diet or through supplementation guided by a medical professional. Some nutrients to pay particular attention to are magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, iodine (particularly if you do not consume iodized salt), trace minerals, and B-complex vitamins.
Women and vegans/vegetarians should especially get their ferritin levels checked – this is iron that your body stores. You can have healthy serum levels of iron and still be iron deficient if your ferritin is low. I had an undiagnosed, severe iron deficiency for years before I got fed up with doctors telling me my iron was fine and saw an endocrinologist. Yes, my ferritin technically tested within the “healthy” range (11mcg-307mcg per litre of blood in women), but my endocrinologist explained to me that symptoms of iron deficiency are known to appear when your ferritin falls below 50mcg per litre of blood. An iron deficiency will leave you feeling like you can never get enough sleep.
16. Avoid or limit your caffeine intake
I know this is really hard for a lot of people to accept, but caffeine really does screw with your ability to fall asleep at night – especially if you are consuming it throughout the day. If you are prone to anxiety, it will often exacerbate your symptoms. I never was huge on coffee to begin with for this reason, but I do enjoy the taste a lot and treat myself to decaf once in a while. If you absolutely will not give up caffeine, at the very least consider limiting the quantity and timeframe in which you consume it. Back when I used to consume caffeine regularly, I set boundaries with it to help manage my anxiety and insomnia. I do not consume caffeine if I am already having a bad day or notice myself overthinking, and I do not consume caffeine after 2pm. I also limit myself to one serving of it per day, and try to avoid consuming it multiple days in a row. Listen, you won’t even feel like you need caffeine if you are getting quality sleep after implementing healthful habits.
17. Avoid fried, spicy, and otherwise large/heavy meals in the evenings
As you head into the evening, the body begins to prepare for sleep by slowing down. This includes your digestive system; they call it “rest and digest” mode. When you eat rich foods in the evening, you overload your digestive system when it is at its slowest. I’ve experienced night sweats, acid reflux, weird dreams/nightmares, and indigestion after eating heavily right before bed. Try to avoid eating at least 2 hours before you go to bed, and make your last meal of the day your lightest meal. In our busy, on-the-go world, people often eat their lightest meal for breakfast in the morning and their heaviest meal at night; this is completely out of sync with how the body rhythmically operates.
In my experience, it’s also better to go light on the meat and focus more on whole grains for the last meal of the day. Your body needs complex carbs to metabolize glucose and keep your blood sugar stable during the night; neglecting to get enough carbs before bed can have you waking up in the middle of the night when your body secretes adrenaline to prompt your liver to release its glycogen stores in response to low blood sugar.
18. Avoid alcohol (and nicotine) close to bedtime
I used to drink hot toddies in college thinking they would help me get to sleep but it just never worked out that way. These days it is a rare occurrence if I drink at all, but I typically reserve it for my dinner. My father was a bad alcoholic, so I don’t exactly feel drawn to alcohol in the first place. I don’t think it is a bad thing if people like to drink and keep it within moderation, but there are a few reasons why you’d want to avoid it right before bed. In short, alcohol may be a sedative that makes you sleepy, but it ultimately disturbs your sleep cycles and prevents your body from getting needed rest and can worsen sleep apnea if you are prone to it. P.S. I have never been a smoker, but a lot of this goes for smoking too.
19. Herbal sleep aids and supplements
This is mostly about teas and a couple herbal supplements. I’m pretty sure everyone is familiar with the calming benefits of chamomile-lavender tea. Celestial’s Sleepytime tea mixes are also a great option. In the past I have used Valerian root when I needed “insurance” that I would fall asleep, but it can make dreams more vivid so avoid this if you are prone to nightmares. If you are going to go with Valerian, please consult with a physician first as it can have a strong sedative effect and interact with medications. You can buy Valerian capsules or teabags, but I only have experience with straight Valerian root which I steeped as a tea. I used to steep 1tsp for acute anxiety and 2tsp to go to sleep. Be prepared, it is incredibly pungent and tastes exactly how it smells. It is an acquired taste, and you can add honey to make it more palatable until you get used to it. Now that my lifestyle is in sync with my needs, I have not had to rely on Valerian to get to sleep for a few years.
There are a couple herbal supplements I still keep around, like ashwagandha and l-theanine. I use ashwagandha daily because I have an extensive history of chronic stress and had diagnostic work done that revealed abnormalities in my cortisol production. L-theanine is something I keep in my nightstand for nights when my nervous system is particularly activated and not responding to my usual interventions – literally three or four times a year. I can’t make blanket statements like “ashwagandha will help you relax and sleep at night when taken regularly” – everyone’s needs and situations are different, so I strongly encourage asking your physician about whether these supplements can be helpful to you and to gather more information before diving into them.
I know melatonin is another one people love, but it just never worked for me. My understanding is that melatonin is what tells your brain it is time to get sleepy in response to the sun going down and the environment becoming dark. Artificial lights and screen use can interfere with this process. I don’t have a problem with feeling sleepy in the absence of light, it’s the getting to sleep and staying asleep that was always a challenge for me.
20. Drink enough water, but don’t drink a tall glass within 2hrs of bedtime
As if you haven’t heard enough about the benefits of hydration. Here is a convenient article by the Sleep Foundation on how hydration can impact your sleep. Basically, drink your water, but if you don’t want to be up all night running to the bathroom, try not to drink a lot of it in the evening.
This section focuses on tuning in to your musculoskeletal needs as a corporeal being. In an increasingly sedentary world, sleep problems often arise due to the body not being thoroughly used. Muscles become atrophied and tight, energy within the body becomes stagnant, and you lie awake in bed wondering why you can’t get comfortable or stop wiggling your feet. If this sounds like you, check out these tips.
21. Aim for at least 30min of daily physical activity
An hour of exercise is even better. This can be gentle like walking or taking a leisurely bike ride around your neighborhood. Strength training and cardio are obviously wonderful habits to include as well. Sometimes, it’s difficult to fall asleep because a sedentary job or lifestyle leaves us cognitively fatigued but not physically. You might want to keep the vigorous exercise for the early part of the day though; it has a very heating effect on the body that can make you feel energized or too hot to sleep comfortably. If I do workout in the evenings, I try and make sure it’s not closer than 2hrs to bedtime.
22. Consider acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient practice from Traditional Chinese Medicine. From an energetic perspective, the needles are used to assist your body in regulating its flow of qi to promote health and natural rhythms. If that is too woo for you, then you may want to read this review and see if it is something you’d like to try. I have a lot of positive experience with acupuncture and started including it in my life as a way to grow more connected to my body and inner perception. The fact that it has also helped me sleep better is an added bonus.
23. Consider an acupressure mat
Acupressure mats look like medieval torture devices, but they aren’t as scary as they look. These mats have plastic spikes on them that activate the same acupoints that are targeted by acupuncture needles, and so the benefits are very similar to acupuncture. They are especially recommended to people who suffer from chronic back pain, which can disturb sleep. I own this particular mat, and for a while was using it when I suffered from nighttime panic attacks. My experience with these is that initially laying down on one produces a “hurts so good” type of sensation, and after a couple minutes, it transforms into relaxation. When I use my mat, I prefer to use it on my bare skin to get the most benefit – but you can ease yourself into it by wearing clothes or placing down a thin sheet. I have often drifted off to sleep while on my mat, which should go to show how relaxing the experience can be. I try not to spend longer than 15 minutes on my mat.
24. Consider massage therapy
Massage therapy is another regular practice I started including into my life to help me connect with my body. If you’re like me and struggle with dissociation due to trauma, when you first start going to massage therapy it can feel like the hour passes by in a blink of the eye. It’s an opportunity to sharpen your mindfulness skills, and over time you can surrender over to the yummy experience of healing touch. Insurance providers are increasingly offering coverage for massage therapy – and everyone should take advantage! Yes, it promotes relaxation and helps soothe tight and sore muscles, and this is good for sleep. Massage also fulfills a need for touch and intimacy that western culture is often bereft of. It just plain feels good to be touched and cared for by someone who isn’t trying to hurt you, and allowing yourself to receive such an experience can do wonders for your well-being (and therefore sleep).
25. Stretch before bed
I’ve had many nights where I could not fall asleep because of inflammation in my hips that could only be alleviated by stretching. The inflammation generally arose because I had spent way too many days in a row being immobile. Taking 10-20 minutes to stretch before bed can be just what you need to encourage your body to rest. Butterfly stretches are my favorite for the hips. Gentle yoga sequences designed for bedtime are abundant on YouTube.
26. Try an epsom salt soak
A hot bath with epsom salt will help alleviate tension in muscles – that’s because epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which dissolves into magnesium and sulfate ions in water. It is believed our body is able to absorb some of that magnesium from the water, explaining its therapeutic effects on muscles. A bath is also just plain relaxing.
This section touches upon metaphysical practices one can use to support their sleep routine. If you do not believe in energetics or the metaphysical properties of crystals, you can keep scrolling and I won’t be offended. That is why I saved this section for last. It’s here for the people that are open to this information.
27. Practice energetic hygiene
This is a big topic on its own, and I’d like to keep it relatively brief. Energetic hygiene feels good and can help you sleep better. Making a daily practice out of cleansing and grounding your energy through meditative visualization and rituals can support your health and sleep. Grounding your energy before bed is especially helpful for achieving restful sleep by keeping you in your body through the night (excessive dreaming/astral travel deprives your body of needed rest). There are many ways to cleanse your energy: I enjoy spiritual baths and smoke cleansing using sage or palo santo. I mix my own bath salts and milk powders to use for spiritual baths. Just using sea salt or epsom salt is beneficial for this purpose as well.
28. Protect your energy
When I know I will be spending a lot of time around other people – such as a long day of running errands, or meeting with people who challenge me – I take 15 minutes before leaving the house to sit and shield my energy. I start by visualizing roots growing from the soles of my feet and going deep into the earth. Then, I visualize my roots absorbing healing energy that travels through my feet and into my entire body. Then, I feel this energy exhale through every pore of my body and form a bubble/shield around me. I do this for three rounds, each round the energy represents a quality I want to call into my day. Example: the first round, I absorb love into my roots and exhale it out, forming a shield of love around me. Second round, I do the same thing but for acceptance, and then that acceptance forms a second shield layered on top of the previous one. Third round, this is repeated again but for grace. Finally, I close the practice by imagining orange light painting two more layers onto my shield and hardening into a protective shell. I set an intention that this shield will only allow in love, acceptance, and grace, and that it will only allow out love, acceptance, and grace. Play around with it and adjust to what feels right for you.
29. Keep grounding crystals under your pillow
As I mentioned before, when you dream excessively or astral travel, this deprives your body of deep, restorative sleep. Those who are prone to dissociating I’ve noticed are prone to leaving their bodies in their sleep as well. You can use grounding, protective stones such as hematite, obsidian, or black tourmaline to encourage your astral body to stay grounded through the night. Additionally, avoid keeping crystals in your bedroom like amethyst or ones that are said to be in alignment with upper chakras or connecting to spiritual sources – these will bring you the same problems that I am talking about with astral travel/dreams. You want crystals that represent yin energy, which is dense, dark, and still.
30. Practice yoga or tai chi/qigong to balance your energy
Activities like yoga, tai chi, or qigong are beneficial for supporting the energy flow in your body. I am not a professional instructor in any of these, so I recommend you seek out a qualified teacher or instructor. Generally, I find it is better to do tai chi or qigong in-person to get the most out of the instruction, compared to yoga. Yoga is insanely popular and it is easy to find a yoga studio or an online instructional video on YouTube, which is what I do. My favorite yoga instructors on YouTube for my regular practice are Cole Chance (I especially watch her work with YogaTX), and Echo Flow Yoga. When I want to focus more on yin flow and working with my meridians, I choose Aprille of The Yoga Ranger Studio.
This concludes my exhaustive list of tips and habits that have helped me sleep better at night. I know I probably sound like a grandma by now, I just love the way my body feels when I live like one. I hope that these are helpful to you. Thank you for taking the time to read!
I leave you all with one of my favorite songs: