The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
In a perfect world, I’d be proud to admit all of the healthy habits that I practice before bed each night. Ideally, I’d be able to preach to my fellow young females about the importance of always washing the day’s worth of makeup off your face, or cleaning the dirty dishes piled in your sink before going to sleep.
But as I’m sure you’ve realized by now, life isn’t perfect.
As much as I’d love to unwind by lighting a lavender-scented candle and drawing a bubble bath, the truth is that my apartment doesn’t allow me to burn candles, and it’s likely that my shower hasn’t been deep cleaned in at least two weeks. For several months out of the year, it’s a challenge to juggle being a full-time student with maintaining a social life, a sufficient workout routine, and other grown-up responsibilities. Unfortunately, my quality of sleep suffers from time to time as a result.
Despite the late-night study sessions, and even the all-nighters that I’ve willingly pulled with my friends, I know that my physical and mental well-being largely depends on sleep. Stressing about school will become much worse if I prioritize cramming for a test for several hours instead of resting my eyes. If I sense that I overtrained in the gym last week, it’s no wonder that I’m feeling more sore than usual after a few nights of restless sleep.
So, how do I even begin to balance it all?
More than anything, that’s exactly what I aim for when it comes to managing all aspects of my health: a balance. This starts with not being too harsh on myself if I’ve fallen short on my workouts lately or have chosen to sacrifice a Friday night out to catch up on some sleep instead. At this point in my life, I improvise a nightly routine that often changes from day to day or on a weekly basis.
It may not come as a surprise to hear that I wasn’t previously aware of World Sleep Day and the awareness that it raises each year for the health benefits that sleep provides. In celebrating its 14th year, the promotional slogan for World Sleep Day 2021 is “Regular Sleep, Healthy Future.” Working toward a healthy future is something that I think can currently resonate with a lot of people after the chaos that 2020 was. Who would’ve thought we can take matters into our own hands by prioritizing those seven to nine hours each night, as recommended by the CDC?
In honor of this holiday, I’d like to share a bedtime routine — as imperfect as it may be — that's realistic yet effective.
Let's get comfortable
Amid virtual classes, I hardly ever dress up for the day to begin with, but in the rare event that I’m still sporting leggings and a sweater around 9 p.m., this is my cue to change into baggy sweats and an oversized t-shirt.
Sometimes I’ll go all-out with a matching pajama set, but even in this case, it’s likely that I’m wearing ones with snowmen all over them even though Christmas has been over for months now. Whether I’m wearing the set in December or March, something about wearing actual pajamas makes me feel slightly more put together.
I’m also the type of person who's constantly cold, so another nighttime essential (or a must-have throughout the entire day if we’re being honest) is a pair of fuzzy socks. As if this outfit isn’t cozy enough, an equally fuzzy and thick blanket always accompanies my spot on the couch as I prepare for a relaxing night.
Stock up on supplements
While I try to limit how much caffeine I consume later in the day, all bets are off in the mornings where I like to enjoy a few cups of coffee. Occasionally I’ll still need an afternoon pick-me-up to boost my energy, though — as you may have guessed — it makes it harder to fall asleep at night.
In these instances, I’ve found that it’s helpful to have sleep aids on hand. Depending on how the day has gone, I like incorporating supplements into my nightly routine. Bedtime teas might do the trick for others, but I much prefer the taste of gummies instead. Around 30 minutes before heading to bed, I’ll either reach for Stressballs’ De-Stress + Snooze or OLLY’s Sleep vitamins. I’ve also been a big fan of Natural Vitality’s CALM line of drink mix, with my favorite being the raspberry lemon flavor.
Prepare tomorrow’s to-do list
If I’ve learned anything about staying focused over the past four years of college, it’s that this is a much easier thing to accomplish when you plan ahead of time. What do I mean exactly, and how do I do it?
Well, if you would’ve asked me this same question years ago, I’d describe my process of transferring my class syllabi, homework assignments, and important exam dates into an artsy planner that I purchased at either Target or from Amazon. Now as a senior, my motivation for maintaining the aesthetic of a nice planner has diminished, if not disappeared altogether, and I’ve begun to just place sticky notes around my apartment as reminders.
In all seriousness, before I call it quits for the night, I’ll glance at my Google calendar to see what’s in store for the next day. It doesn’t take more than five minutes to set myself up for success; I’ll sketch out a quick checklist of things that either must get done or that I’d like to get done throughout the following day. This helps ease my racing thoughts before bed, usually induced by school-related stress, and saves me from tossing and turning until the late hours of the night.
Doze off to sound
When I was younger, it would irritate my parents that I liked to watch TV right before bed. Maybe they didn’t believe me when I’d say that there was something about the sound that helped me fall asleep, and they began enforcing a rule that I had to enforce a sleep timer. As I’ve gotten older, I noticed that background noise still makes me drowsy at night.
Even though the Sleep Foundation warns against using screens too close to bedtime, scrolling on TikTok or watching the YouTube videos in my subscription box are both habits that are common and enjoyable parts of my night. If I’m being frank, eliminating phone use before bed feels a bit ambitious for me.
Instead of expecting myself to change this behavior so drastically, I’ve recently developed a new and perhaps healthier habit. If I notice that I’m dozing off, instead of continuing to stare at my phone or computer screen, I’ll change gears and put a podcast on instead. This way while I’m in bed, I can break the silence without staring at a screen that’ll sacrifice the quality of my sleep.
Regardless of what you choose to do before bed, World Sleep Day highlights the value of good sleep, and establishing a routine that makes you excited to rest your head on your pillow each night is just one way to improve the quality of your rest.