A Bedtime Ritual for Better Sleep
A soothing evening ritual for deep, nourishing sleep featuring intentional bathing, gentle movement, calming breath work, and relaxing oils.
Sleep. It can feel elusive at times, can’t it?
Whether it’s waking in the small hours of the night or taking an age to drop off, the effects of poor quality sleep can affect every area of our waking hours and our overall sense of wellbeing.
I have a history of bad sleep that goes all the way back to my early teens. It used to take me such a long time to fall asleep.
I often lay awake for what felt like hours until my eyelids felt heavy enough to blanket me in darkness and let my weary mind and body rest, recharge and heal. That, coupled with being woken by even the lightest of sounds after the birth of my daughters, has made for some pretty sleep-deprived periods!
While I don't all the answers, I’ve picked up some sleep hacks that I’d love to share with you. That’s why I’ve prepared this lovely bedtime ritual that'll help you wind down in the evening.
Feel free to perform it in its entirety or choose the parts that resonate with you depending on your mood and timeframe. If you're interested in learning about how to cultivate healthy 'sleep habits', there's a wealth of information out there.
1. A Sanctuary for Sleep
The first step to a good nights sleep is to make sure you prepare your bedroom in a way that makes it feel like a sanctuary for rest.
Once I’ve settled for the evening, and as my bath is running, I make my sleep space as welcoming and relaxing as possible.
Here are some of the steps I take to make my bedroom lovely and inviting:
Turn off or dim the overhead lights and change to more soothing light sources (like a bedside lamp or even candles)
Draw the curtains
Tidy any mess away so the space is clear and clutter-free
Remove or at least switch off any screens (phone, computer, tablet, television)
Get a book ready and waiting on the bedside table for later
Spritz pillow spray sparingly around the room and over your cushions to create a wonderfully relaxing aroma
2. Intentional Bathing
Evening is the perfect time to relax and soak weary bones and minds in warm, soothing water. Nothing creates the right atmosphere for rest and sleep like a warm bath.
The bath is one of the few places for me that I can really let myself relax and start to guide myself towards a place of rest.
Making this time feel sacred can add to its potency. So here are some ideas on how to set up an intentional bath time experience.
Create a calm environment
I always make the effort to create a calm environment by cleaning the space of unnecessary clutter and lighting candles.
I also keep a couple of rose quartz crystals dotted alongside my bath. Bathing in the vicinity of their nurturing energy adds an additional soothing quality to the experience.
Add soothing scent
Scent is hugely evocative so considering lighting scented candles or adding essential oils to your way water. This is a beautiful way to tap into the healing properties of the oils. In terms of aromatherapy, I recommend the following relaxing aromas:
I regularly add a few drops each of lavender, chamomile and rose into the bath once its run. Just make sure to dilute the oils in a carrier oil (fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil or a little milk in a pinch). That way, the oils can disperse safely and won’t sit on the surface of the water.
Supercharge your bathwater
To supercharge your bathwater, you can also add magnesium salts or epsom salts to your bath. Magnesium is well documented for helping to relax tired muscles. Its also thought to promote melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone.
Choose a relaxing bathtime activity
I know how tempting it is to reach for your phone once you’re in the bath but if you can resist the social media rabbit warren and occupy yourself some other way, I promise you’ll reap the restorative rewards.
So instead how about the following:
pick up that book you’re always too tired or busy to read
play some calming music or a favourite podcast
listen to a guided meditation (one of my favourites is Sarah Blondin on Insight Timer)
Or simply let yourself sink into the stillness. Be mindful of the sensations of your body in the warm water. Notice how your body responds to the weightlessness, how your muscles soften, how tension begins to melt and your mind become a little quieter and clearer.
Cocoon your skin
When your skin is warm and nearly dry after your bath, this is the perfect time to cocoon yourself in a beautifully scented body oil or a rich nourishing body lotion. My personal favourite is The Ritual of Ayurveda Dry Body Oil by Rituals. It’s absolutely beautiful and wonderful for Vata constitutions!
Pay particular attention to your feet and spend time massaging your body oil or butter into your skin. Finally, wrap your feet in cotton socks so the nourishing oil can continue to work its magic.
Bonus tip: If you keep the socks on through the night, I promise you’ll wake up with perfectly soft tootsies!
3. Calming Breath
Either before or after your yoga practice, a calming pranayama can really help to shift the focus of your mind and energy to bring both towards a more introspective state. This particular pranayama is suitable for all and is easy to perform.
Chandra Bedha is a pranayama technique that translates to ‘piercing the moon’. It has yin qualities that are cooling, soothing, feminine and passive. You don’t need ratios or to count the breath. All that’s required is that you breathe slowly, steadily and softly at a rate that’s comfortable for you.
Sit comfortably or even lie dow in bed
Inhale through both nostrils, and exhale through both
Bring your right hand towards your face, thumb sealing the right nostril, and ring finger hovering over the left
Inhale softly through your left nostril, then exhale fully through your right
Repeat for anywhere between 1 to 5 minutes or as long as you wish
4. Yoga For Sleep
A short, restorative yoga practice is the perfect way to dissolve muscular tension and nudge our nervous system towards the parasympathetic state of ‘rest and digest’. This prepares our bodies and minds for sleep.
Here is my go-to evening practice before climbing into bed. You can even practice this from the comfort of your bed, which feels even more delicious!
Wrap yourself up in your comfiest pj’s and socks. Then make sure you have blankets, cushions or even a bolster to hand. I’ve even made a suggested playlist for you to listen to if you find music soothing >
Balasana: Child’s Pose (arms down by your side, forehead resting on mat or cushion)
Kapotasana: Pigeon Pose on each side
Janu Sirsasana on each side
Supta Baddha Konasana: Reclining Butterfly
Supta Matsyendrasana: Reclining twist (feet/legs hip width apart both directions)
Viparita Karani: Legs up wall or hips under bolster
Feel free to hold each pose for as long as you like although I would aim to hold all but the seated twist for anywhere between 2 and 5 minutes each. Hold the twists for up to a minute focusing on keeping your breath soft, steady and slow.
Let your body feel totally held and supported here in each posture. No ‘trying’, no end goal other than to relax fully.
5. Essential Oils For Sleep
On climbing into bed, one of the last things I will do is apply my Rest Well Sleep Deep Intentional Blend. This is a beautiful blend of chamomile, vetiver, mandarin and lavender. I apply it to my pulse points and the soles of my feet.
It's been transformative in helping me drift off to sleep soundly. Even my husband who doesn’t share my love of yoga or oils has been swayed by it (trust me, that's saying something!).
You’ll soon be able to buy some blends and this oil will feature in my first collection. There will also be a pillow mist that you can spritz around the room to create calm.
6. Bedtime Stories
If all that's not enough to make you sleepy, there's one more trick you can try.
The meditation app, Calm, has an extensive range of Sleep Stories that are designed to help you drift into dreamland.
Some are even narrated by famous voices including Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, and Matthew McConaughey.
Or there are plenty of free resources on this page: calm.com/together