OHH Intro: Sleep refuels and rejuvenates us, allowing us to keep on keepin’ on. This is the perfect tiny change with substantial lasting effects on all aspects of our health and happiness. Read on for Kale & Chocolate’s rundown of how to get a better night’s sleep, every night.
If you’re just joining us, this post is part of Kale & Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month we’re implementing one super small, super doable change—it really adds up over the course of a year! You can read about all the changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges.
We’ve turned our clocks back and the sun is setting on darkness earlier and earlier as we approach winter. Our internal clocks will be re-setting, gearing up for what feels like hibernation, while our lives remain full of plans, hectic schedules, and the upcoming holidays. So it makes sense that this month’s 12 Tiny Changes Challenge is all about sleep!
By now, you probably know that you should be getting more sleep. In fact, there is evidence that only 40% of Americans are getting the recommended amount of shuteye! We can do better. Our lives and our bodies deserve better.
Lack of sleep has a cumulative effect. It reduces our immunity and slows our metabolism. It makes us more prone to stress and raises our cortisol levels. It makes us grumpy, irritable, and more likely to make less-than-great decisions.
Waking up poorly-rested can trigger a domino effect that throws off your whole day. You hit the snooze button (three times), rush through your hair and makeup routine, and gulp down a less-than-healthy breakfast (if anything at all.) You then stumble into work with low blood sugar, a foul mood, and a messy ponytail. Is it a surprise that your meeting goes poorly, your lunch is a whole pizza, and you road rage on the way home? It may seem like a no-brainer, but when we’re well-rested, these things are a lot less likely to happen.
If you know you should be getting more sleep, you probably are familiar with the basics of how to do it. No caffeine after 2 pm. Put down the phone. Shut off the TV. Make sure your room is dark, cool, and relaxing.
Here’s another tool to your ‘more sleep toolbox’. I call it: the nighttime ritual. A nighttime ritual is any set of behaviors or activities that help you wind down and decompress before bed to get you ready for the eight hours of sleep you need. These are things that calm and center you, preparing you for that deep, restorative sleep that will make the next day easier…and more productive!
Here are some of my favorite nighttime rituals.
1. A soothing evening snack or drink.
We are all familiar with the wisdom to “eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch, and a pauper for dinner.” Although we do sleep better on a stomach that isn’t too full, we don’t want to wake up at 3 am starving. I like to keep my dinners light, so if I need a nighttime snack, I’ll munch on a handful of walnuts or cherries, both of which are natural sources of melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness).
If you like to wind down with something comforting & cozy, you can’t beat the extra TLC you feel with a healing turmeric latte or a warming cup of herbal tea. An apple with nut butter gives you a generous serving of fiber with a bit of healthy fat and protein, while bananas are filled with magnesium, potassium and tryptophan—minerals that relax your body to help you get a bit more shut eye. (A little nice cream, anyone?)
2. Get tomorrow out of your head and onto paper.
Do you do that thing where you lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, and mentally compile pages of to-do lists? Yeah, me too. Let’s stop. If you take five minutes each night to write down your next-day tasks, you won’t have to lie awake worrying that you forgot something.
For bonus points, write your to-do list on paper (so you won’t get sucked into your computer or phone) and do this somewhere other than your bedroom. Then leave it there – far, far away from your bed. Total game-changer!
3. Prepare for tomorrow so you can truly relax once you’re in bed.
Your future self will thank you for this! Spend 20 minutes laying out your clothes for the next day and making sure you have what you need (and enough time) for breakfast. When you prep ahead, you eliminate any thoughts about stressful mornings that could keep you up at night in addition to maximizing your sleep the following morning!
4. Try a little bit of stretching or gentle movement.
I like to move through a few yoga poses before bed, or even just sit on the floor and stretch. It helps me work out the kinks of the day and signal to my body that we’re slowing down. Even just a few conscious deep breaths may be enough to make that shift.
5. Make your preparations for bed as lovely and luxurious as possible.
I know it’s tempting to quickly wash your face and then pull on some old sweats, but it’s so much nicer to make bedtime into a sweet, relaxing ritual. What if you spent half an hour relaxing in the bathtub? Or found a pair of cozy pajamas you really liked? Or made your moisturizing process into a mini massage? What if you splurged on Egyptian cotton sheets and a few pillows that perfectly meet your fluffiness needs? You’re a lot more likely to get ready for bed in a timely matter if you actually enjoy the process!
6. Practice gratitude.
A gratitude practice can help put things in perspective, especially if you’re feeling a little low. It can be done by writing your thoughts down in a special journal, sharing the highlights of your day with your partner/roommate/pet, or just mentally thanking life for the good things it served up today. If you’re stuck, remember you can be grateful for anything. I’ve even written, “I’m thankful that my dogs are happy and healthy.” This is such a great practice to do, not only around Thanksgiving!
7. Feel good with soothing essential oils.
Essential oils are one of my favorite pantry staples, but I use them for more than salad dressing! Rose and lavender oils relieve stress and bergamot is said to alleviate mild anxiety. Of course, you can simply breathe in your essential oil of choice, but you can also add a few drops to a bath or to the floor of your shower. I love these recipes for calming essential oil face mists.
8. Cuddle someone who loves you.
Your cuddle buddy can be your kids, your partner, or your pet! Whomever you cuddle, the benefits are the same; cuddling has been shown to boost immunity, lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol levels. Plus, it’s a fun and calming and the perfect way to end your day.
This month, I’m doing the challenge right alongside you. Getting enough sleep is something that I really struggle with. So, I’m ready for more + better sleep!
To help get you excited for this month’s challenge, Kale & Chocolate will be giving away some awesome sleep-inducing prizes, including bath powders, essential oils, eye-masks, and more. To enter, simply share your nighttime rituals on instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges and tag (and follow!) @kaleandchocolate and @hamptonskiley. Show us your cup of tea, your meditation space, your fur babies, your nighttime snack…anything that helps you feel calm and centered before dosing off to sleep. So, tuck yourself in and sleep tight!
One Healthy Breakdown: in order to live life to the fullest, we must sleep in between!