Guide to Sleeping Well + Waking Up Better

Last week, I asked my Instagram followers what type of post they wanted to see next on the blog. Overwhelmingly, they chose a post about how I sleep and wake up well. Sleep is often an overlooked part of wellness-- especially for students. No matter how much bulletproof coffee you drink, kale salads you eat, or vitamins you swallow, if you are not sleeping enough you won't feel healthy. If your busy mind and a restless body is keeping you up at night, read my tips on how I calm down for a night of sound sleep. 

About 30 minutes to an hour before bed, I start my essential oil diffuser (I use this one) with lavender oil and dim the lights in my room. By having lower lighting your brain releases melotonin (shoutout to my AP Psych class) which will start to slowly put you to sleep. I've also found that lavender oil is a very effective form of aromatherapy for relaxation, and by using it consistently it will signal your brain and body that it is time for bed.

For the next 15 minutes or so I'll get to a good stopping point in whatever I am doing. I'll pack up my backpack and set out my clothes for the next day. Then I'll take my time going through my skincare routine and brushing my teeth. This step has definitely been a game changer in how I relax at night, by not rushing through getting ready for bed my mind and body calm down, too. Our unconscious mind picks up on all relaxation cues, even things that seem small.

Then I'll get into bed and journal for a little bit if I feel like my mind is cluttered. A good practice if you find yourself drained or sad at the end of your day is to write down some specific things you were grateful for during the day-- however small. Most importantly, I try not to check my phone as it undoes all of the relaxing I have already done by exposing me to blue light and starting my brain's thinking processes back up.

Then I start my Sleep Cycle app. By tracking my sleep, I've been able to be more in tune with my body and notice what makes me sleep better or worse, as well as keep tabs on how much sleep I'm actually getting. The competitiveness within me also really wants to reach 100% for sleep quality, which motivates me to get to bed earlier. It also wakes you up at the point closest to your set alarm when your sleep is at its lightest. I use this as my only alarm clock and I do not have a clock in my room to avoid putting pressure on myself to fall asleep.
An example of what the Sleep Cycle app looks like after a night of sleep
Lastly, I do a breathing exercise or a guided meditation. My breathing tactic goes like this: take a deep breath into your abdomen so that your stomach swells with air. Then, breath into your lungs and puff out your chest with air while still retaining the breath in your stomach. Hold it for a few seconds then release the breath in reverse order: emptying your lungs then your stomach. I like this in particular because it is complicated enough that it distracts your mind, but is simple enough to still be relaxing. The guided meditations I use are from an app called Meditation Studio (it's free and so good). My favorites are the shorter ones (5ish minutes): Finding Stillness, Let Go of Muscle Tension, and Relax Before Bed. I usually fall asleep during the meditation or shortly after, but if I can't fall asleep for over 30 minutes I take half a packet of Emergen-z (a melotonin drink mix).

Then after sleeping it's time to rise & shine!

My best tip for waking up in the morning is making the first thing you do something you enjoy. That will give you the motivation to get out of bed, because no one wants to get up just to have to get dressed or wash their face. For me, I like to go downstairs, get a cup of coffee, and sit down with a blanket and drink it. It could be something as simple as getting out of bed to go watch a little bit Netflix or to pet your dog, but the most important part is getting out of bed.

My second tip is something that I did for Lent but have decided to keep doing-- not checking my phone while I'm in bed. By checking social media right away in the morning, it reinforces the notion that we need to constantly be plugged in-- something that can cause anxiety and stress. Although it can be hard, starting off screen free sets the tone for a peaceful day.

Lastly, if you have a really tough time getting out of bed, I encourage you to trick yourself. This is how I transitioned into being more of a morning person last year, and for me it worked really well. When you wake up, go ahead and hit snooze-- but force yourself to get out of bed. Tell yourself that you only have to stay out of bed for the 8 minutes of "snooze" time. Do something to help yourself wake up, such as drinking a glass of water or stretching. When the 8 minutes are up, you can go ahead and sleep for a little bit longer-- but chances are you won't want to. If you do stay out of bed, reward yourself with a good breakfast or something else fun.

That's all I have! Sleep can be tricky-- the best thing to do is cultivate good sleeping habits, because good sleeps lets you invest in yourself for the next day. Above all, try not to stress out about it. I don't follow these guidelines every night myself, things happen, and you'll be okay!

stay sunny (& sleep tight),

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