Recently I had the privilege of watching my friend’s bedtime ritual with his young daughter. It inspired me to think about how we all can ease ourselves into a good night’s rest.
Like with most children, my friend’s daughter’s time for bed was firmly set. As adults, some of us keep a strict bedtime out of necessity or choice, but many of us distract ourselves and stay awake past the point when our bodies have had enough. For myself, a wave of fatigue hits me by ten pm, yet if I’m heedless and stay up past eleven, my energy rises and next thing I know it’s one in the morning–and, boy, do I pay the next day. Just as we know it’s important for a child to get a full night’s rest, we can also respectfully listen to our bodily rhythms and reward our body’s desire for sleep (even if our mind has other inclinations!).
My friend had a “three bedtime stories only” rule. If his daughter wanted more, he promised that they would read them in the morning. Just as we would urge a child that it’s time to sleep, we can likewise gently say good night to our tv shows, internet, books and conversations.
Give yourself your very own bedtime story starring you. I delighted in watching and listening to my friend narrate his daughter’s day: all the things she did and places she had gone until she was at last in her bed, ready to sleep. It was such a wonderful way of honoring her day. The only trick as an adult would be not to get wrapped up in thoughts or worries as you review your day. Try seeing your day as a picture book. You can even include saying goodnight to the different emotional aspects yourselves that took part in your day. For instance, I could say good night to part of me that was stressed cooking in the morning and anxious to catch the train in time, the part of me that enjoyed teaching and talking with my clients, and the part of me that felt relief in coming back home.
You can also say goodnight to your body. My mother used to guide me into breathing into my different parts of my body, starting at my toes and working upwards. It is a wonderful way to relax and downshift from the day.
I would love to hear from you: how do you healthfully guide yourself into a good night’s rest?
Wishing you a good night and sweet dreams!
This was originally posted on June 12th, 2013.