Rest Ritual - Optimising Your Evening Routine
The same way an optimal Rise Ritual can set you up for tackling the day ahead, a solid evening routine, or Rest Ritual, can set you up for a good night's sleep. Sleep is, after all, the time in which our body is able to heal and neurons build strong connections. A core foundation in our mind-body health and longevity.
Rest rituals are needed to give you another important opportunity for self care but also to ensure that you have the best chance to sleep through the night, optimising your overall health and mood for the next day. After a busy day, it can be difficult to expect your body to suddenly relax into a deep and restorative sleep and, therefore, leaning into some restful rituals can prepare your body and mind for a restful night.
The main aim is to let go. Let go of the tensions and weight of the day layer by layer. Allow space to put your mental load to one side. Let go of stimulation and allow the body to truly rest in gratitude for all the hard work it has performed and will perform throughout the night and into the morning. A Rest Ritual is simply a series of activities you can perform which will lighten the load put upon you, allowing you to finally relax.
Allowing the mind to let go
How many times have you tucked yourself into bed only to have your mind racing through your to-do list for the next day or re-running through a conversation you had earlier on? Anxious thoughts and worries often peak in the evening without the distractions of the day. We’ve all been there, and often your brain needs to run though thoughts in order to help you process them.
Often the act of writing these down before bed can help. Research shows that specifically people who write a detailed to-do list, outlining tasks and planning the next day have been found to fall asleep faster.
Mindful practices and breathing exercises are another great tool to allow the stresses of the day to melt away. We love creating a mindful moment using the final drink before you hit the hay. Whether that’s taking 8 deep breaths whilst boiling the kettle, allowing yourself to be present whilst you sip your True Nightcap or snuggling down to write in your journal wrapped up with your Cacao + Reishi. Reishi and Ashwagandha in particular are adaptogens shown to support stress-resilience, allowing the body and mind to feel balanced in those evening hours. The key is to be present in your ritual. Notice what you are doing, tune into the tastes and aromas, use your favourite mug and create a small moment of luxury just for you.
Preparing the body for sleep
As well as your mind, your body also needs some support to switch from day to night. Light is one of the most important external factors determining good quality sleep. It plays a central role in regulating your circadian rhythm (LINK TO BIORHYTHMS BLOG), the body’s internal clock which signals the best time to be awake and when to rest. Light affects our production of melatonin, the ‘sleepy hormone’. Daylight plays a huge role, and ensuring daily sunlight exposure goes a long way in supporting your sleep. But artificial light also plays a crucial role too. Exposure to blue light in particular, with its shorter wavelength, has been shown to have a significant effect on melatonin and circadian rhythm, resulting in poor sleep. Many electronic devices, including phones, tablets, and laptops, emit blue light, and their ever increasing use in the evening is contributing to sleep problems. Ensuring you step away from electronics and screens at least one hour before you want to head to bed is a great healthy boundary to set. Dimming the lights in your house and choosing low lit lamps once the sun has set also allows the light receptors in your eyes to adjust to ‘night time mode’.
What you eat or drink and when can also have a huge impact on how well you sleep. It’s best to leave at least 3 hours from your evening meal until your head hits the pillow. Some nutrients are also essential for the normal functioning of cells that are related to sleep. Therefore getting enough of these nutrients such as iron (found in abundance in raw cacao) or magnesium, zinc and Vitamin C can have a profound effect on sleep patterns. The amino acid glycine (LINK TO TRUE NIGHT CAP), found in collagen, has also been shown to have sleep promoting effects. This is in part because glycine decreases our body temperature. When preparing our body to sleep, we are designed to experience a drop in core temperature at night. Therefore by encouraging this action, it may promote a restful bedtime.
Another great way of helping the body to do this is by having a hot bath or shower, ideally about 1 or 2 hours before bed. This stimulates your body’s thermoregulatory system, causing heat to go towards the hands and feet, allowing your core temperature to go down. When this happens, the pineal gland is signalled to create melatonin.
Adding in the ancient ayurvedic practice of ‘Abhyanga’ post bath, a slow self-oil massage performed in a healing, restorative way and often paired with the practice of dry brushing, can also support your holistic health, stimulating circulation and your lymphatic system as well as soothing the nervous system.
Creating the perfect sleep space
When thinking about your sleep space, it can be helpful to think about our ancestral selves. Think; Cave. You want your sleep space to be dark and cool. Try sleeping with your window slightly a-jar or using natural materials in your bedding and pyjamas. It has also been theorised that weighted blankets work particularly well to support good sleep and reduce stress as they loosely mimic the thick animal skins we once slept under for warmth and comfort. Tapping into your other senses, be that using a white noise machine or listening to gentle nature sounds or using essential oils such as lavender, chamomile or vetiver, can become part of a beautiful ritual you perform before settling in for a restorative, soul-quenching slumber.