Sleep. One of the most important parts of our life and often also one of the most neglected.
How many hours do you usually sleep per night? Do you have a bedtime routine? If so, is it a "healthy" one or does it include 3 hours of sitting in front of the TV binge watching?
Not judging here - I understand, if that's what you choose doing to wind down. I used to do the same. But: Does it improve sleep quality? Probably not.
My (Former) Unhealthy Sleep Habits
To forget my often exhausting and sometimes plain shitty days at the office (you know, when your work doesn't really matter and your boss is a misogynist), trashy reality TV was THE BEST to numb my senses and to escape my life for a little while.
And trust me, there's a lot of trash TV in Germany. All kinds of talent shows, model casting shows, dating shows for farmers, dating shows for socially awkward people, spin-offs of the most awkward people of all the aforementioned shows and not to forget the German version of The Bachelor/ Bachelorette.
They all satisfy this weird human weakness for voyeurism. I hated it - and still kept watching.
At one point, I learned how reality TV is produced (traumatic experience, I swear - short version: it involves a lot of manipulation). This kind of "reality" was too much to handle and I switched to documentaries.
I instantly felt better, because now watching TV didn't feel like a huge waste of time anymore (at least I learned something lol).
But one problem remained: I still went to bed way past midnight and woke up feeling really exhausted.
A vicious circle that effed up my whole day.
Sleeping in the Office
I came in late, I was tired at my desk, staring into a screen all day long made me even more tired... Sometimes I was so tired that I took a short nap in the ladies straight after lunch. Yep. I'm not proud.
Something needed to change. Once you sleep in public (office) toilets it's kind of an alarming situation (that's what I thought at least).
I decided to do some research (something I deeply enjoy as you'll notice throughout my blog).
One of the first things I learned regarding healthy sleep habits was kind of obvious: "Go to bed earlier." No shit.
So I continued looking for more helpful answers to my question: "Which other no BS routines and habits could I implement into my life to improve my sleep quality?"
For me, a huge part was learning to be much more mindful about how much time I spend in front of the TV and what kind of content I was watching.
For example, I cannot watch a really gripping and thrilling movie in the evening and then go straight to bed afterwards. I'll dream about what I just saw and these dreams are almost always disturbing.
Also learning to create something called sleep hygiene was an absolute game changer for me.
In plain English that's: Doing the very same things every night before going to bed and establishing a routine for your body and mind so they know when it's time to go to sleep.
Other drastic changes I did? Read on my dear friend, read on!
11 Healthy Sleep Habits:
- Around 7 hours of sleep every night. At least, that's what I'm aiming for. I know that other people are doing great with only 6 hours, then again some won't function properly without having slept 8 hours. You need to find out how many hours of sleep you need to feel refreshed and happy.
Our bodies go through different states of sleep during the night and each cycle is about 90 to 120 minutes long. If your alarm wakes you while you're in a deep state of sleep, you'll feel absolutely horrible and will have a hard time beginning your day.
Read more about sleep cycles here: Natural Patterns of Sleep by Harvard Med School.
How did I find out about my 7 hours of sleep? By using the app "Sleep Cycle". The accelerometer of the smartphone reads your body movements while you're asleep (in flight mode to be on the safe side) and this is what the app does:
It'll tell you about your personal sleep pattern, and it'll try waking you up while you're most likely in a light sleeping cycle (within a time window which you've set prior). Try it, the app has a free version!
- Try being in bed by 10PM, dim the lights and do some stretching there. I would have never thought, that this would help me. But at the time I read about it, I was already doing yoga a couple of times a week, so stretching wasn't that big of a deal for me anymore.
Fun fact: Before doing yoga, I barely could touch my knee caps lol.
I was also obsessed with Tara Stiles at the time and she has this great and easy bedtime yoga stretching routine that I'm linking to here (only 3 minutes long in case you're short on time):
(Also, I can't believe this is living on youtube since 2008!!!)
- Reading some fiction (nothing too thrilling) for half an hour before turning the lights off. Being in bed by 10PM doesn't mean that I shut the lights immediately.
Most often I read a couple of pages or a complete chapter if it's not too long. This is kind of a signal that tells my body, that I'm ready to end the day. Often, I begin to feel tired while I'm reading.
- Listening to chilled music or an audiobook. I don't always feel like reading, so sometimes it's just nice to listen to an audiobook or to some chillhop together with the BF instead.
There are awesome playlists on Spotify and even complete audiobooks. Another app I frequently use is audible.
- Having a cup of tea! It helps me to wind down. Ginger Lemon Tea works great for me, it's soothing, really yummy, healthy and so easy to make:
Cut fresh ginger in thin slices (if you want to, you can remove the skin of the root beforehand, I usually only rinse it) and add one or two slices of lemon to your cup. Add boiling water and wait for 5 minutes for the tea to steep. Et voilà - you're done!
If you're really adventurous, add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and stir it. Honestly, that's not everyone's cup of tea (no pun intended lol). Turmeric has a very unique taste, I agree, so play a bit around with the amount you wanna add.
It's one of the most amazing spices out there! It's high in antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties and supports your immune system, all without any chemicals - there's one small obstacle though: You also need to add some black pepper, otherwise the body won't absorb the turmeric as good (check out the study here). Come on, give it a try!
- Wearing comfy and loose PJ's. When I was younger and did sleepovers, I usually was the only one of my friends NOT sleeping with her underwear. I was always amazed and so were my friends who thought I was kind of weird for not sleeping with underwear underneath my PJ's.
But, here's the thing: Our bodies want to relax in bed and there's nothing relaxing about wearing tight clothes, underwear or even a bra to sleep (come on people!). And almost more important: Apparently it's much better for vaginal hygiene to let the area "get some air" and prevent infections of all sorts.
Read more about it here: What you Should and Shouldn't Wear to Bed by Tuck.com
- Putting away my smartphone once in bed. There are so many studies out there proving that our eyes need to rest from being in front of a screen all day long.
Here's one from Harvard Med School: Blue Light has a Dark Side. In summary, the blue light of the screens messes with our brains.
Also, it's nice getting a break from social media. I try putting away my smartphone as soon as I start reading to relax my eyes. The best would probably be to ban it from the bedroom completely, but tbh I'm not there yet.
- No snoozing in the morning. I still do that from time to time BUT: whenever I hit that damn snooze button, I'm even more tired than when I woke up the first time. Yes, it requires so much willpower if you're not eve half awake and worst case scenario, it's cold and dark outside.
Something that helps me to overcome the snoozing habit is Mel Robbins 5-4-3-2-1 rule. Here's a one-sentence explainer by herself: “If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it.”.
Read more: Never Hit the Snooze Button by Psychology Today.
- Having my bedroom completely dark and noise-free (no freaking clock ticking anywhere at home lol). I know people that sleep with no curtains and no shutters.
I guess it's years of training that taught their bodies how to do that. Because from a scientific point of view it needs to be dark for us to get sleepy. Why? Super short explanation: Our bodies start producing the sleep hormone melatonin once it's dark.
Learn more about it here: Melatonin and Sleep by the National Sleep Foundation.
What also drives me crazy is having a TV in the bedroom. I know some people love watching TV in bed (sounds very comfy), but even the smallest LED light disturbs me (yeah I have tons of fun in hotel rooms unplugging all devices) - also a TV in the bedroom just doesn't feel right to me. I want my bedroom to be as tech-free as possible.
- Meditation. That's something I do EVERY night right before closing my eyes. Sometimes I'm still not tired or sleepy enough, these are the days where I use the sleep meditations in the Headspace app (I can't help it, it's my favorite meditation app 🙂). That always does the trick. I've never listened to the end of these meditations because I fall asleep before.
There are tons of other apps out there, play around a little, maybe listen to relaxing sounds (search youtube and spotify for that) and find whatever works for you.
Here's a super helpful in-depth guide about "Meditation and Sleep" by sleephelp.org with a plethora of resources and detailed explanations and even a guide on how to learn meditating by yourself, go and have a look!
- Taking a relaxing bath. Ok I must admit: That's not me, whatsoever. I believe there are people who LOVE taking baths and then there are the ones who HATE it. I'm the latter. I like showers. Period.
However, I have a few friends who swear that taking a bath is the most relaxing thing in their lives which is why they do that every night before going to bed. If that sounds like you, maybe that's something you could add to your daily bed routine.
(I probably could get used to baths, if my tub and view looked like that though.)
Weekly Nuggets of Wisdom
Here’s my list full of inspiration to read, listen to and watch about "getting enough of that precious zzz aka how to sleep better" - enjoy!
'Mindful Movement to Ease into Sleep' by mindful.org. This is a really great post about having a healthy bedtime routine and actionable advice for you to try out. You'll learn some easy stretching and breathing techniques. Those will help you to wind down, calm your mind and get you into sleep mode in no time.
While doing all those relaxing poses and breathing, you obviously need to listen to some chilled tunes. Try 'Quintana' by Slow Meadow, a beautiful piano and strings piece (it ended up playing on repeat in my music library for the last couple of weeks).
I looooove Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of The Huffington Post and now of wellbeing company 'Thrive'. She's such an inspirational (and funny) woman and a strong advocate for getting enough sleep - especially if you have a really stressful lifestyle.
If you have 5 minutes to spare, watch her hilarious TED Talk about the importance of sleep to be successful in life (although recorded in 2010, it's as relevant as ever).
What about you?
What's your bedtime routine? Do you have any special sleep rituals? Let me know in the comments section below 🙂
Are you looking for actionable ways on how to be more mindful in your daily routine? I’ve put together what I call ‘The ultimate beginner’s guide to a mindful lifestyle’ incl. a 30 day planner to keep track on your habits. You can even download it for free!