Utilizing Your Senses to Develop a Personal Sleep Routine

Utilizing Your Senses to Develop a Personal Sleep Routine
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Wait?! What is a sleep routine and why do adults need one? In my practice, I hear this a lot. It is easier to implement a structured time frame of when to go to bed or wake up, avoiding caffeine by a certain time, exercising during the day, and implement stimulus control than it is to know where to begin with a sleep routine. A sleep routine is where adults struggle the most. Think of a sleep routine as a time for you that you have earned for the day. It could very well be the only time you were able to do self-care or allow yourself a moment to breathe.

Think back to when you were a kid or if you have kids. A routine is usually happening most nights. The child usually gets a warm bath before bed and gets into soft, comfy pj’s. The parent is probably reading a story or singing a lullaby while the child is holding onto their favorite stuffed animal. Then the parent may turn on a white noise machine and lavender diffuser to help the child sleep.

A routine is important as it triggers the brain to sleep. As an adult, a routine promotes calming or quieting of the mind and body for quality sleep.

A sleep routine should start at least 30-60 minutes before your scheduled bedtime.

When creating your routine, think about the order in which you do your selected activities and try to stick with that order every night. This takes time to develop. Our bodies like consistency and after doing it for a while, your brain and body will start to recognize what activity comes next. For example, say you do 4 activities at night then sleep. In time doing this nighttime ritual consistently, your body will start to remember “oh, three comes after two. Four comes after three. And then sleep comes next.” When creating your sleep routine, think about what calms you and brings you peace. It will be easier to stick with than trying to implement someone else’s idea of a calming routine.

A great way to get the creative juices flowing is learning the mindfulness exercise called 5-senses. Mindfulness just means we are being present and grounded in the moment, being an observer in a non-judgmental way. 5-senses is done in the following way: What are 5 things you can see; What are 4 things you can touch; What are 3 things you can hear; What are 2 things you can smell; and What is 1 thing you can taste? Not only is this exercise great for calming anxious thoughts before bed (and during the daytime) but it is a good segue into developing a personal sleep routine.

Think about each one of your senses and incorporate them into your sleep routine –

Sight. What is a calming, peaceful sight for you? Perhaps its reading a book or journaling. Maybe it is a visualization exercise.

Touch. What is a calming touch for you? Maybe it’s getting in comfy pajamas or under a weighted blanket. Maybe it’s cuddling with a loved one or your fur-baby. Doing restorative yoga feeling the breath within our body.

Sound. What is a calming sound for you? It could be listening to light classical music or nature sounds like rain, wind, or the ocean.

Smell. What is a calming scent to you? Incorporating aromatherapy into your routine with a diffuser, linen spray, scented eye mask, or lotion after a hot bath/shower at night.

Taste. What is a calming bite or sip before bed to you? A few ideas are sleepy time tea, cherry chamomile smoothie, handful of almonds, bowl of cottage cheese, or a piece of turkey, just to name a few.

Make it fun.

Customize a routine for yourself. The more personal it is to you, the easier it is to stick with every night and work. This may be the only time you get to yourself for the day. Make it count. You deserve to focus on you and have a restful night’s sleep. Remember to allow yourself grace throughout the process. It takes time to develop a routine. Stick with it and see how you feel in 30 days. I bet you will be feeling better and sleeping better.

Written by Amber Simpson, LCSW, CCATP, CMHIMP, PMH-C

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