Nighttime Rituals That Help Me Sleep

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Sometime around my sixth month of pregnancy, I stopped sleeping through the night. I had always had a pretty solid evening routine and after getting into bed, I'd usually be asleep within a matter of minutes. But now that I'm caring for a newborn, everything has gotten a little out of whack. Here are the five tips that I've been relying on to help me get a better night's sleep.

1.Shut off early. I used to be much more connected to technology right before bed. We'd watch TV until I started to drift off then I'd stumble into bed, where I'd then scroll through my phone until I'd fall asleep. I soon realized being in front of so many devices before going to bed really contributed to my interrupted sleep patterns. If we're watching TV now, I try to turn it off before I start getting really tired, at which point I'll also charge my phone so I'm not tempted to look at it until morning. Also a rule I abide by: no visible clocks in the bedroom. As tempting as it is to check the time, it's never worth it. If the time is too close to when you're supposed to get up, you'll question whether it's even worth attempting to fall back asleep. And if it's still on the early side, you'll worry about how much time there is left until morning.

2.Take a bath. I used to be into a morning shower, but now I like to take a bath at night instead. I dim the lights, use a calming body wash (this one's meant for babies, but I love it) and turn on some soothing music. It feels nice getting clean and slipping into a freshly made bed. Plus, there's something about the heat of the bath that tires me out almost immediately.

3.Don't eat 2 hours before sleep and avoid caffeine late in the day. I cut out caffeine a while back, leaving room only for the occasional cup of coffee when I really need it, but never after a certain point. I try not to have anything that's stimulating after 1pm since it makes me jittery and largely contributes to my anxiety levels. We try to have dinner on the early side, sometime before 7:30pm so that I don't go to bed feeling too full. 

4.The bed is for sleeping. A friend taught me this trick a few years ago and while I had a hard time embracing it at first, it's made a huge difference in how I sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night and are awake for more than 15 minutes, get out of bed. If you lie there for an extended period of time, you may start to associate your bed as a place of being unsettled and sleep-deprived. As painful and somewhat counterintuitive as it is, I now get up and change the scenery, even if just for a little while. I'll make some tea, read a book on the couch or just meditate in another room and once I start feeling sleepy again, I'll return to the bedroom.

5.Move at least 30-60 minutes a day. There are some days when I realize I haven't left the house at all. And while it's sometimes nice to nest and not change out of your pajamas on the weekends, I never sleep as well when that's the case. Even if I just go for a walk around the block or go to the grocery store, I now make an effort to move between 30-60 minutes a day so that I'm not restless at night.