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How I'm intentional about my day to make nights a bit more easeful

Morning, friends!

I recently battled a huge case of Imposter's Syndrome and offered up to lead a workshop at my yoga studio all about creating a soothing evening routine to achieve quality sleep.

I'd been wanting to lead this workshop for a long time, but kept thinking, "But my evening routine isn't perfect. I look at my phone before bed all the time." But after a while, I asked myself, what are my credentials? And I remembered that I've been teaching 6:30am yoga classes twice a week for over two years, during which I've only once had to cancel a class (food poisoning). I've never fallen asleep at my desk (should add that to my resume) and remain a pretty well-balanced person. Perhaps I know a thing or two.
Still, I want to stress that I don't think simply being able to force yourself to wake up at the crack of dawn means you're getting enough quality sleep. In fact it bothers me when I see studios glorifying the 6am workout crew who "hustled" and "worked 'til midnight but still made it to sunrise boot camp." It makes me think, man, I hope my students aren't doing that. It ain't healthy!

Furthermore I was nervous to peddle a routine because the current state of "Optimize Your Life With These 8 Life-Hack Routines Guaranteed to Make You More Productive and Reduce Stress While Saving You Money" industrial complex is getting a bit absurd. And exhausting. From Marikondo to Intermittent Fasting to Minimalism to Zero-Waste to Bullet Journaling...honestly what is supposed to happen when you master all of these techniques...Nirvana? Peak Happiness? Burnout? Unclear.

That's a long tirade to say this: sleep is super important. And I want to talk about it. But I don't want to complicate it. The last thing we need is to be stressed about having the just-right evening routine and then we're just laying awake in bed at night beating ourselves up about it. So I'm going to tell you five things that have worked for me over the years to make my evenings sleep-conducive, nearly all of them things that happen long before sleep is even on the table.

My squeaky clean sleep hygiene ☕

  1. Stimulants // I avoid caffeine after 2pm. (And I don't smoke.) Probably the single most important thing that I do to make sure I'm set up for an easy time falling asleep is cutting off caffeine about 8 hours before desired bedtime. I love a good iced coffee in the afternoon, but I know by experience that the days I indulge, it comes back to haunt me. And the science says that even if you don't think late in the day caffeine is wrecking your sleep, it really is.
  2. Digestion // Early dinnertime. My optimal dinnertime is 6-7pm. That three hours before bed gives me enough time to digest so that as I curl up, my body isn't focused on digesting my meal. It also isn't so early that I'm grumblin'. I aim to limit alcohol at least 3 hours before bed as well. Both 1 + 2 align a lot with what Ayurveda tells us about the cycles of the day and natural rhythm being that our "fire" (agni) to process larger meals and manage caffeine is optimal from about 10am-2pm. (Great resource from Gracy Obuchowicz if you're interested in more of this). Note: Lately, at work happy hours I've been asking myself, "is this glass of wine worth being a little sleepy tomorrow morning?" That reframes the choice for me.
  3. Light & Dark  // No TV in my bedroom. Never! Light disturbs the circadian rhythm. That's because it messes with the body's natural production of melatonin which is produced when we're exposed to darkness. I do use my phone and laptop at night. Though I try to limit it, and I always have night shift mode/f.lux working to limit the blue light. Sometimes I use a sleep mask, especially when I travel. For me, this is realistic and manageable.
  4. Distractions // I don't have to share a bed. Hey, there are some perks to being single. 🤷And trust if I ever do, we will upfront tackle any issues. Life is too short to not tell your partner they snore.
  5. My bedroom is a sacred little zone. It may be like 11 square feet total, but it's cozy. It's got plants, my bed is comfortable, and I like my sheets. Sometimes, it's as simple as creating a space you feel at ease resting in. Also, my roommate recently got a puppy, and I now own these ear plugs. Because sometimes, you have to evolve and be flexible.
So that's my hygiene and daily rhythm when it comes to sleep. I know it's not really a "routine." But what it does is optimize my chances that I'll settle down quickly when it's time for that. At the end of the day, I have a little nervous system calming treat. Sometimes it's folding laundry while listening to some chill tunes. Or reading a book. Or writing. Just something that tells my body, OK, we're winding down. I do my best to avoid the phone zone, but don't beat myself if I do. My exact evening routine feels fluid, rather than hyper-structured, because with a good foundation laid out, it can be. And that's just my jam for right now.

(And if you want to really hone in on some practices like breathing techniques and yoga poses to do before bed, in addition to structuring your day, come to my workshop. #hustling)

How is your current sleep hygiene? Any tips I can share with everyone? Reply back and let me know!

For now, be well and sleep well—but please don't fall asleep at your desk,

💖
Kelly

Journaling Prompt ✍

If you find your mind racing as you go to lay down at the end of your day, write down everything that you're stressed about doing in the day or week ahead. That way, you've got it down on paper and when you recall it as you fall asleep you can just tell yourself, "We already discussed this. We wrote it down." And you can move on to the next thought until hopefully eventually you run out of things.

Worth a read 📚

I'm currently reading (well, strategically examining like a text book) two reads about sleep that are quite good. One is called, "The Sleep Solution" by Dr. W. Chris Winter, and the other is called "Snooze: The Lost Art of Sleep" by Michael McGirr. On my list: The Twenty-Four Hour Mind. // On the less academic, more soul-enriching side of things, I just finished reading Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan and hoo-boy was it a tear-jerker. I would go ahead and add it to this Heartbreak Syllabus alongside the widely-appreciated Tiny Beautiful Things.

Tunes 🎶

This is a super calming playlist I made for my yin classes, if you're looking for a good one to have in the background at the end of the day. Main playlist link, as always, is here.
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