Like most mums, my days are chock a block full of stuff. I run multiple businesses, I have a husband who works full time and travels a lot for work, as well as doing volunteer work outside of work hours, there’s kid stuff, work stuff, cleaning the house stuff, ‘what are we having for dinner’ stuff, ‘what do you mean you forgot to hand the permission form in and I have to make a special trip to school’ stuff?
So by the time it rolls around to the (embarrassingly early) hour that I like to retire to my bed, my brain is overloaded. While my husband likes to wind down by watching TV, I’m not a fan. I end up feeling wired and too tired to sleep. Or I’m so tired that I drop off to sleep quickly, but then all the things going around in my head wake me up and keep me awake for hours through the night. I’ve tried writing my thoughts down, getting up again and working, drinking warm milk, stretching exercises, counting backwards from 1,000, not eating any later than 7.00 pm – you name it, I’ve tried it.
Over the years, I’ve developed a winding down for bed routine that gets me to sleep and gives me a better night’s sleep. My bedside table is the hub of all this:
Here’s what works for me.
1. Wash the day off
Maybe this is a sign of finally being a grown up, because I never used to worry about taking my makeup off. These days, however, I can’t sleep if I don’t clean my face properly. I’ve got to the point now where even if I do go to bed without taking my makeup off (too tired, too many wines, etc), I can’t sleep. So I end up getting up anyway and cleaning my face.
I switch between oil cleansing and a mild face wash to remove my makeup. This Melbourne spring weather of 30 degrees one day and 16 the next is killing my skin, so right now I’m using apricot kernel oil, especially for eye makeup, and then washing the rest of my face with Acure’s sensitive facial cleanser or a Dr Hauschka one that I’ve been testing for work.
Then I follow up with a little extra apricot kernel oil (I also love sweet almond oil) and generously layer on my all time favourite moisturiser, Weleda’s White Mallow Face Cream.
2. Wash my feet
This is a bit of a weird one, I know, but I can’t sleep if I have dirty feet. Not so bad in winter when my feet are in shoes or boots all day, but in summer when I’ve been wearing thongs … euwww. I can’t stand the feel of dirty feet against the bedsheets. My youngest son is the same with dirty hands. Even from a toddler, he hated having dirty hands. He could be covered in mud from top to toe and not care, but if those hands were dirty there was trouble.
Needless to say, we make a great pair when we go camping!
3. Brush my hair
I have fine wavy/curly hair with lots of bounce and body. I also have a very dry scalp and dry ends, but bizarrely, oily roots. No, I don’t get it either. I do find that brushing my hair at least 20 times a night helps to distribute the oil through my hair and keep it healthier and shinier, and it seems to stimulate my scalp.
Last year, I switched to sleeping on a silk pillowcase. It must be silk, not satin, and boy does it make a difference. My hair doesn’t look like it’s been attacked by a gorilla every morning, and I don’t have anything like the tangles that I used to. As a bonus, my face isn’t as dry. Somehow the silk seems to suck less moisture out of my skin than cotton pillowcases. Anyway, I’m a complete convert and am seriously thinking about buying a second one so that I don’t have to get mine washed and dried the same day!
3. Make a hot chocolate
For years, I’ve had a hot drink before bed. In the last couple of months, I’ve been cutting down my caffeine intake (I’ll be posting a blog about the reasons for this soon). I used to have a cup of tea, English style, with milk and usually something sweet like a square of dark chocolate.
For the last few months I’ve been having hot milk with raw cacao powder. No sweetener, and nothing else sweet along with it. While the jury may be out on whether hot milk makes you sleep better, the magnesium in the cacao certainly contributes to a better night’s sleep. I also think that the ritual of it sends me to sleep. I don’t drink hot chocolate at any other time, so to my brain hot chocolate = sleep time.
I have to read to wind my brain down at night. I’ve done this ever since I was a child, and I do this even if I’ve had a few drinks. I’ve always been a big reader and I’ve usually got at least 5 books on the go. Right now I’m reading Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast by Josh Kaufman, and Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (which actually belongs to my eldest son, and he highly recommended it. I can, too!). I’ve usually got a couple on the go on my iPad’s library app as well.
I also listen to talking books to wind down. This one is a tip from my 88 year old Nana, who has trouble sleeping these days. I find that listening to a talking book can help switch off the thoughts swirling around in your brain. Right now I’m listening to I Shall Wear Midnight by the late and much lamented Terry Pratchett. This is another children’s book, and I’ve probably listened to it at least half a dozen times already, but I love it.
I’m trying meditation, too, and have been using the Headspace app, which I really like. It’s certainly making meditation easier (I didn’t say easy, though) but I find that meditation works better for me in the morning or during the day than in the evening.
5. Add some magnesium
Some time last year, I started using a spray on magnesium oil. I was going through a really bad phase of waking up 3 or 4 times a night and not being able to get back to sleep. It was completely exhausting and I was at the end of my tether. (Yes, new mummas – I feel for you!) I read somewhere that magnesium improves your sleep quality, so I bought a bottle to try.
It made a huge difference. Within a month, I was sleeping through the night. Now I apply it around 5 times a week, and if I skip a week, I’m back to square one with my sleep patterns. There’s a blog on magnesium coming up, but in the meantime, I’ll just say that I spray it on to my legs either before going to bed or after having a shower in the morning. I even travel with a small bottle these days.
While I’m reading or listening to a talking book, I slather moisturiser on. On my hands, I love Weleda’s Pomegranate Hand Cream. On my (freshly washed) feet and elbows, I use Weleda’s Skin Food. There is a bit of a theme here with the Weleda stuff – it’s my all time favourite brand. Their ingredients are amazing, and the stuff seriously works. Sometimes I mix it up and use a home made magnesium balm on my heels.
On my lips I switch between another Weleda product, the Everon Lip Balm, and some DIY lipbalms that I mixed up earlier this year.
Under my eyes I use Egyptian Magic. I brought home a tester of this from work, and I absolutely swear by it under my eyes at night. It really does make a difference.
You may wonder how my husband and I have any kind of relationship at all given that I go to bed coated in grease every night, but I think I’ve shared enough. That will have to remain my secret 😉
7. Electronics and blue light
I don’t usually have a problem falling asleep, I have problems staying asleep. My eldest son, however, can’t get to sleep in the first place. He started high school this year and has a very full schedule. Aside from the schoolwork, exams, and the pressure of football games, music and dance performances, he’s also dealing with the emotional highs and lows that come with being a teenager.
He seems to have problems winding down of an evening, and I think it’s just because his brain is processing so much. He does sport every day, so he’s physically tired. Magnesium didn’t seem to help him, and he doesn’t watch TV or use electronics before bed. What we have discovered, though, is that blocking blue light and reading for half an hour before lights out really helps.
We’ve only worked this out in the last couple of weeks, so at the moment we’re covering his bedside light with orange fabric. It’s an LED light so that’s safe enough, but I’m trying to source some orange lensed glasses for him to see if they help. Occasionally he’d like to be able to watch some TV before bed, but right now that means that although it’s lights out at 8.30, he’ll still be sleeplessly wandering the house at 10.30. With the orange light he’s asleep within 10 minutes.
I’ll be doing some more research into orange light vs blue lights, so you can expect a blog post on this, too!
8. Waking up to go to the toilet
And a final one for me – not drinking too much water before I go to bed. I drink most of my water in the morning, and this seems to work for me.
I’ll leave you with one last tip that my nurse mother told me a while back. If you wake up in the night needing to pee, roll over. Apparently, rolling over makes your body think your bladder isn’t full, and it takes a while to catch up and feed the message to your brain, by which time you’re asleep again.
So that’s my weird and wonderful bedtime routine to guarantee me a solid night’s sleep.
What’s your bedtime routine? Do you have any tips to share?
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