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If you are reading this it is assumable that you have sleeping problems and are looking for ways to improve it. First of all, we’re sorry to hear that you’re not getting the rest you want. Secondly, don't worry because there is plenty of research out there that thoroughly analyses practical solutions that will help you improve your sleeping rhythm. Currently, 30% of all Americans highlight that on a regular basis they do not get the sleep they want. One of the reasons for this is the current lifestyle that society (read we) creates that often results in us constantly experiencing an overloaded mind, social pressure and stress. To get you back into a healthy sleeping mode we created a toolbox that you can use to craft your very own bedtime ritual. The various methods will help you relax, reflect and fall asleep more easily so you are better rested for the successes of the next day.
Why is a bedtime ritual important?
Before we dive into different techniques and methods to help you improve your sleep we must cover the importance of the act of the ritual itself. The ritual consists of a set of routines you perform in a similar order, each night before you hit the sheets. These
routines come in all shapes and sizes but often include calming activities such as reading, journaling, meditating and bathing (only for the blessed souls with a bathtub). By performing the same activities in the same order every night, the brain comes to see those activities as a precursor to sleep and stimulates the calmness of the mind.
One of the main goals of a bedtime ritual is to reduce late-night stress and anxiety, the worrisome thoughts. These are often conjured from a buzzing brain that has constantly been triggered right until you turn off your bed light. This causes anxious thoughts and rumination that activate your sympathetic nervous system and prevent your mind from properly winding down. Left unchecked, these thoughts can intensify and develop into insomnia. By following a bedtime routine, you can keep your mind focused on winding down, reflecting on your day and slowly transitioning it into a relaxed and ready-for-bed state.
Crafting your bedtime ritual
Below you will find a toolkit filled with methods that you can use to turn into your very own bedtime ritual. We recommend you experiment with these different methods and combine the ones that you feel comfortable with. Over time you can add and drop several methods until you find the golden formula that will elevate your sleeping rhythm and have you waking up as fresh as a bird on a daily basis. We recommend starting this ritual between 30 minutes to 2 hours before going to bed, again to each their own.
Before diving into the actual activities you can add to your ritual there are 2 main pillars that are crucial for the success of your sleep.
Decide on a set bedtime
As part of your natural sleep-wake cycle, your brain starts winding down to prepare for sleep a few hours before your natural bedtime. As mentioned before, we are creatures of habit and therefore you can use your bedtime routine to make that process more effective. First, decide on your bed- and wake-up times, and stick to them every day. Following a consistent sleep routine significantly helps to train your brain to naturally feel tired when it’s bedtime. Of course, you will find yourself at a party or late-night dinner from time to time but you also need to live a little, so do not take it too hard on yourself.
Once you get this biological clock under control it is time to move into the second phase of crafting the toolbox. Scheduling a time to begin your bedtime routine every night, anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed depending on your agenda and amount of steps in your ritual. Set an alarm if you need to remind yourself at the beginning and before you know it will become second nature.
Leave your electronics alone.
Despite how much you may like binging in bed, your favourite Netflix show does not help you relax, nor does scrolling on Instagram. Electronic devices, including computers, televisions, smartphones, and tablets all emit strong blue light. When you use these devices, that blue light floods your brain, tricking it into thinking it’s daytime. As a result, your brain suppresses melatonin production and puts in the work to keep you awake.
Don’t play tricks on your brain. Say goodnight to your electronics at the beginning of your bedtime routine. If you can, avoid using electronics in the evening as much as possible.
Pro tip: Schedule your phone’s red-light filter off at 6:00 pm daily, this way you can be sure if you happen to look at your phone during the evening it won’t be as disruptive.
Bedtime worry, including worrying about incomplete future tasks, is a significant contributor to difficulty falling asleep. Previous research showed that writing about one’s worries can help people fall asleep.
Reflecting on your day, writing down random thoughts or even preparing a to-do list for the next day will help you offset this load from the brain and help it wind down. Besides, that is also a perfect method to better understand your emotional state and its relation to your day-to-day activities.
If the idea of journaling overwhelms you, consider starting with a simple to-do list. One study found that taking 5 minutes before bed to jot down a quick to-do list of tasks that needed to be done in the following days significantly sped up sleep onset.
Aromatherapy & candle therapy
Our internal clocks are heavily influenced by light and schedule. Creating healthy habits around rituals and lighting is vital to keeping our circadian rhythms healthy. By utilizing certain scents and candlelight before going to bed we can significantly enhance a restful and relaxed state, which results in better sleep.
In case you might wonder what the circadian rhythm is, well according to Dr Satchin Panda, a circadian biologist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:
"The bottom line is that almost every hormone, every brain chemical, every digestive enzyme and so on is pre-programmed to peak at a certain time of the day and then tap out at another time of the day. It’s an in-built schedule for different programs to do different things at the optimal time, and these timing mechanisms are the circadian rhythm[s]."
In other words, our circadian rhythms are vital to telling our bodies when to feel sleepy and when to feel awake. So how do candles and scents come into play?
Candlelight reduces the fuss, excitement and stimulation of electronics and bright light that causes the suppression of melatonin, which causes difficulty to fall asleep.. Essential oils or aromas are also known to work through the olfactory system to cause the brain to secrete neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which can elevate mood.
Not only are these neurotransmitters needed to make you feel calm and relaxed, but serotonin is also needed to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you feel sleepy at bedtime.
Our Serena candle jar is made for this purpose. It is a calming, warming and relaxing scent. Among others, it has Italian bergamot, lavender, sandalwood and patchouli. Research has shown that Sandalwood can have sedative effects which promote non-REM sleep and reduce wakefulness making it a great essential oil for insomnia.
As you might have expected, meditation is an excellent tool to improve the quality of your sleep. Meditation helps reduce psychological distress and improve acceptance and awareness which stimulates rumination and emotion regulation.
Several researchers theorised that mindfulness improves sleep quality by supplying insomnia patients with the mental resources to calm down the nervous system in preparation for sleep. At a biological level, meditation slows the heart rate and breathing and lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
There are several types of meditation and every individual will have their favourite type. If you are not certain which one fits you you can do some exploring: Anapana (breathing), body scan, guided, Yoga Nidra or deep breathing meditation
Our favourite activity to close our ritual with is reading in bed. It has been proved by several studies that reading before hitting the sheets improves the quality of sleep. Besides that, we experience that by closing down the day by reading an immersive story - especially by some of our favourite storytellers such as Haruki Murakami, Paulo Coelo, and Isaac Asimov - we feel ourselves drifting into our dreams through alternative worlds. World in which we can dive deep into our imaginations which helps in releasing stress.
White & Pink Noise
Your brain continues to process sounds during your sleep. Living in a modern society brings along a lot of noises, even at night. Those variations in noises can significantly disturb the depth of sleep you can get in. In the ideal world, or if you live in a very remote area, you would have an equal distribution of all frequencies. This has the lowest amount of impact on your rest. Great tools to still achieve this state are white & pink noise and binary beats.
White noise contains all frequencies at equal intensity, it can mask loud sounds that stimulate your brain. That’s why it’s often recommended for sleeping difficulties and sleep disorders like insomnia.
Pink noise consists of all frequencies we can hear, but the energy isn’t equally distributed across them. It’s more intense at lower frequencies, which creates a deep sound. Pink noise is also created by nature: Rustling leaves, steady rain, howling wind and a heartbeat. In a small 2012 study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, researchers found that steady pink noise reduces brain waves, which increases stable sleep.
We hope that with this sleep ritual toolbox you can craft a bedtime routine that will elevate your rest. Bookmark this tab so you can come back to this page when you have mastered your routine and are looking for more inspiration.
If you have any questions, suggestions or remarks please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.