My New Lifesaving Sleep Routine
Sleeping. There's almost nothing better than crawling into bed after a long, taxing day of work or school. Honestly, the sight of my bed and being able to just fall into that big, white, fluffy comforter is basically the best and most incredible feeling in the world. I usually sigh in relief, I've made it...I've made it through the day, when I tuck myself in and take a deep breath.
This year was the first year that I started having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. I think it's pretty normal for college students to experience some amount of stress (if not a lot!). That's pretty usual for me. But this year, for some reason, because of the stress, it was hard for me to slow my brain down and just turn it off. It was as if when my head hit the pillow, at 10:30 PM, my brain decided to go on a trip down anxiety and worry lane. Anxiety is never fun, but it's particularly aggravating when you’re meant to be sleeping.
Ever since spending a couple weeks with (on average) three hours of sleep per night, I've been trying to solve this case: how can I let myself relax and fall asleep at night, and how can I keep myself asleep for at least seven hours?
I've come up with several ways that have made the whole process a lot more manageable.
Throughout high school and now college, I've really fallen in love with yoga. Yoga has the ability to stabilize, balance and sooth my mind and body. It's fantastic when I can just forget what's going on in the outside world; I can solely focus on the yoga and what's happening in the now.
Since being away at school, I had been doing my practices either in the morning or after I finished all my classes for the day. I wasn't used to doing yoga before bed; usually before I hit the sheets I would've just finished studying.
I decided to give it a trial run and had very pleasant results. I did different kinds of practices, but the best one I could find, that was easy for me to do right before falling asleep, was this nighttime practice from Yoga with Adriene.
The session puts me in a different spot than if I were to go straight to bed after studying. It calms some of the stresses that can come from school. It makes me less anxious. The slow movements, breathing and stretching helps my heart beat a little steadier and eases my spiraling, zigzagging, chaotic brain from running rampant.
After I finish this simple yet intense practice (along with the other things I'll mention) I’m usually able to stumble right into my bed and start my deep slumber.
Incorporating tea into my routine before bed was such a struggle. Not really. I've always been a pretty big tea drinker. Tea in the morning, tea in the early afternoon, after supper and you guessed it, later in the evening. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. That being said, having tea along with my ideal nighttime routine brings a lot of benefits, I think.
I switch the kind of tea I drink before bed a lot. The two teas I gravitate towards are by Celestial Seasonings.
A cup of their Sleepytime Extra always makes me a bit calmer. Sometimes just smelling the steaming, hot cup of goodness makes me a little more relaxed and sleepy. It has a lovely spearmint/vanilla/chamomile kind of taste.
The other tea I drink (maybe a little less than the Sleepytime) is their Tension Tamer. Even though I drink this tea less, I still love this one very much. These two teas have similar results for me: they're both very relaxing and help me get into that sleepy mindset before bed. I would say the major difference is in their taste and immediate effects.
The Sleepytime Extra makes a more long lasting difference and the taste, in my opinion, is more vanilla-y. I find myself being able to stay in a "stress-free" state for a longer period than with the Tension Tamer.
With the Tension Tamer I have a quick response and the taste is strong and has a very spearmint-y flavor and aftertaste. I've used the Tension Tamer before going to bed, and it works well, too, but I prefer having this tea when I'm studying and need to calm my anxiety, whereas I have the Sleepytime right before I am about to snooze
These teas satisfy my daily tea cravings and also help with my anxiety and sleep predicaments.
Essential Oil Diffuser
For me, one of the ways I sleep much better is by using an essential oil diffuser (this is the one I use and love).
I put the diffuser on a couple of hours before I hit the sheets, when I'm finishing up my homework and doing my usual routine of washing my face, doing yoga, etc. Right when I put the magic machine on, I feel a sense of relief and I start to unwind.
To put it in perspective, when I first received this diffuser in the mail, of course I tested it out right away, to see if everything worked and functioned well. I used this essential oil (which is specifically made for sleep) and within minutes I was yawning and wanted to curl up in my bed and take a nap (but naturally, as a college student, I couldn't because I had class).
Using essential oils along with this diffuser has helped ease my body into the mindset of getting ready for a sleep cycle which it needs to get into after a busy day working. My brain begins to slow down and my anxiety calms.
I've always had a love-hate relationship with sleep masks. I have received them with different gifts, on airplanes, at hotels, etc. They were nice in that they somewhat blocked out light and helped my eyes stay shut, but they always ended up being uncomfortable and bothersome, unwieldy and slipping all over the place.
I've consistently been a "tummy sleeper" who moves around a lot. That's the only way I've been able to get to sleep. Because of this, when I’ve used a sleep mask, it would fall off and not stay on my eyes, which defeats the purpose. Thus, my relationship with sleep masks began to diminish after a couple of dates.
When I was having this sleeping problem this year, I thought I would give the relationship just one more shot. I looked up various sleeping masks on Amazon and found this one which I thought could have some potential.
I received the mask in the mail a couple of days later and was ecstatic with the results. The structure of the mask is a little different than the usual. The padding and the mask itself goes all around my head and velcros in the back, as tightly as I would like it to be. The fabrication is silky and smooth and molds around my face and nose nicely and comfortably.
Honest-to-God, this mask is wonderful. I was shocked. It blocks out all the light, and keeps my eyelids shut. I can adjust the velcro so that it can fit snuggly and not slide around my face. I'm able to sleep on my stomach without having it slip off my face. It's pure bliss and has made the process of falling asleep and staying asleep so much easier.
This might be silly and maybe it's just a college student living in dorm room thing, but earplugs have come in really handy for my quality of sleep.
It's kind of a given that living in a dorm, neighbors might be talking loudly or blasting music till the wee hours of the night (despite posted “quiet times”). That's not how I roll, so on the daily, I use earplugs to cancel those noises out. As unglamorous as I may look, I can get to sleep faster and don't have to throw the pillow on the ground with annoyance over the people chatter and loud music sneaking through the walls of my dorm room every night.
Leave the Window Open
Especially now that it's getting warmer, I've found leaving my window open at night somewhat helps my sleep process. Obviously, I keep the windows closed if there are high winds, rain, snow etc. But on a perfectly obedient and calm spring night, I leave those windows open.
It's probably breathing the fresh air and feeling the crisp night breeze on my face that helps me feel less claustrophobic and anxious. Some people like to be really warm and cozy when they sleep. I like to be cozy and what-not, but I don't like to wake-up in the middle of the night because of overheating and sweating. Opening the window helps prevent this occurrence.
Doing all that I've discussed in this post has helped my sleep cycle/process literally so much! It's awful not getting enough sleep (especially while being in school). Classes and studying are just that much more difficult. Now it’s literally aromatherapy while I clean up my studying, wash my face and make my tea; do my bedtime yoga, open my window, climb in my bed with my cup of tea, in a few minutes, lights off, mask and earplugs on, a few gratitude thoughts and goodnight world!
Since getting enough sleep, I feel like I'm a new person. Honestly, I was beyond the point of being a walking zombie. I was dead and now I am human. And what a pleasure that truly is! Hopefully these tips will help you to have a similarly relieving sleep experience!