Here we cover the infamous bedtime routine — infamous for anyone living with too many stress hormones, that is, because when stress hormones are a plenty, nighttime routines don’t usually involve easy or early bedtimes.
Why? Because of cortisol, that’s why.
Melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep, rises through the evening but begins tapering off by midnight. That’s when cortisol starts picking up, so if you’re one to stay up much past midnight, you may have noticed how it becomes easier and easier to stay up the later it gets.
Cortisol is the hormone that’s responsible for giving us energy to ENJOY rising in the morning, but as the pattern of late-nights steadies, the more we may rely on downers to fall asleep and uppers (including sugar and carbs) for energy in the morning and throughout the day. In short, our hormones have gotten a little out of whack, or maybe a lot out of whack depending on what’s been involved in the stress cycle.
This may just mean that more steps are involved in helping your body (and mind) restore hormonal balance. It’s doable, and no matter the starting point, growth requires commitment, perseverance, and being gentle with yourself. You’ve made it this far, and your patterns have given you wins along with the losses, so to speak, so give yourself some credit and love!
Take it easy on yourself. Start with what is easiest—you’ll get more dopamine that way (the happy and oh so helpful hormone). Maybe starting with Yin Yoga at night, or self-massage, or cutting out blue-light on screens will be your first step. Maybe, if your stress levels are through the roof, you’ll start the healing process by building your morning routine or by simply making sure you get sunlight during the day.
Always start with practices that require the least amount of effort and build up from there.
Again, you’ll release more happy hormones that way, by setting yourself up to win, feeling how you’re on the track you want to be, working your way into the growth that you desire. Consciously reward yourself along the way, by taking moments to recognize your growth, step by step.
Do note, though, that if you’ve been struggling with chronic stress for a good while, developing habits that allow you to chip away at falling asleep earlier will help the body and brain heal in ways they simply cannot access without an earlier bedtime.
Don’t stress yourself out more by trying to sleep earlier (key word here is TRYING — lying in bed, not sleeping, stressing because you’re not falling asleep), but do remember that sleeping by 10-11pm is medicine unlike any other, especially for zapped adrenals.
Take it easy on yourself: Soften, release, relax, start skipping the chemical sleep aids and/or the caffeine — especially after noon, and if your hormones don’t allow sleep at anytime, get into meditation and/or Yin Yoga. Both are incredibly restorative.
1. Sunset (& Sunrise) Exposure & Protect from Blue Light at Night
👉🏾 Direct sunset light exposure for at least 10-15 minutes aids the release of melatonin, ultimately helping you fall asleep earlier by 15-30 minutes per week if possible to make for an easier transition.
👉🏾 You’ll also want to rise earlier by 15-30 minutes to match your earlier bedtime, to help restore hormonal balance. When you’re able, getting direct sunrise exposure, even just for ten minutes, tells your brain that you need cortisol in the morning, making rising for a new day more enjoyable and effortless.
Blue light from screens increases cortisol, alerting the brain and body into an awake state, while suppressing the sleep hormone, melatonin, for up to three hours. The eyes have no filter from blue light, meaning that it penetrates directly to the retina, straining the eyes more than any other light exposure, even UV light.
There are easy and effective ways to protect yourself from blue light at night to maintain the (re)balance of your hormonal system:
👉🏾 Turn night shift on your devices or install an app that does this, so the blue light shuts off after sundown and turns back on after sunrise.
👉🏾 Buy cheap (or more fashionable) blue light glasses to use in the case you’re unable to access night shift mode.
👉🏾 Avoid use of any unnatural light two hours before you sleep or at the very latest 11pm. Taking this into consideration, practice the self-massage, Yin Yoga, and/or meditation and breathwork described below either in the dark or by candlelight.
2. End Screen-Time Two Hours Before Sleep and All Unnatural Light by 11pm
👉🏾 Any unnatural light between 11pm – 4am suppresses dopamine and destabilizes blood sugar. This means that light in the middle of the night actually increases risk of depression and demotivates living in ways that are healthy, rewarding, and feel good while enhancing the stress cycle’s blood sugar, energy-level, harmful self-medicating, mood and emotional roller-coaster… Ouch.
👉🏾 It stimulates your senses and infects your conscious AND subconscious mind. Consuming any screen time just before sleep, even for a few minutes, can trigger thoughts, daydreams, fantasies, and their emotional counterparts, activating the brain and hormonal system.
👉🏾 When you get off of the screen earlier, you create space and time for other healthy, healing, and grounding bedtime practices to make falling asleep and staying asleep through the night not only easier, but enjoyable.
3. Clean Sinuses, Mouth and Face
👉🏾 If blocked sinuses induce snoring, sleep apnea, or mouth-breathing that disrupt your sleep, using a Neti Pot to clean the sinuses in the evening (as well as the morning) will help you breathe easier to enable restful sleep through the night.
👉🏾 Your face will appreciate some extra love at this time, cleaning it with water, or if you wear make-up or it’s particularly dirty from the day, a dab of gentle, non-toxic cleanser. Be sure of the ingredients in your make-up and any cleansers that touch your skin since toxic ingredients — that are all too common in topical products — not only harm your skin but all bodily systems and the environment!
👉🏾 If you don’t brush your teeth and tongue any other time than in the morning, doing so before sleep is definitely necessary since bacteria, toxins, phlegm, plaque, and any stains from that day’s ingestion will only pack in more through a night’s sleep. Clean your tongue and mouth as well as your teeth — avoid toxic toothpaste, rinse, and spit it out to cleanse your body of the bacteria and toxins. Your entire digestive system and all bodily systems will thank you (because it’s all connected)!
4. Today’s Reflection & Tomorrow’s Intention
👉🏾 If you want to write your reflections and/or intentions by unnatural light, definitely make sure you do so a couple hours before you sleep. Otherwise, you can write by candlelight, think it, or speak it:
When we give time to reflection, we see our strengths that we appreciate and wish to enhance. We learn about our weaknesses and how we can embrace them while giving ourselves ways to learn and improve.
We continually discover more nuance in humility and ability to approach ourselves and world with non-judgmental curiosity in our relationships, how we communicate, carry and extend ourselves into the world, and for all of this, we feel gratitude. We give thanks for the experiences of our day, how we navigate our world, and how we share our gifts.
In reflection of the day, we see and feel what we intend for our tomorrow, whether it’s a feeling, an action, or words that need to be said. This way we’re prepared for our tomorrow, so we can awaken clear on a new day’s journey.
Self-massage is an easy way to get into your body, out of your head, and consciously relieve physical and psychological tension while creating new patterns in the body-mind and showing your skin extra love by massaging with a quality oil (as long as it isn’t processed cooking oil it’ll do—use oil that you most enjoy and feels best for your skin).
Massage wherever and however you’re called to massage! If you hit a sweet spot, take your time with it. Let yourself relax into it. Give yourself time to enjoy.
You can also massage specific points to aid deeper relaxation as a sleep aid:
👉🏾 Massage the kidney point on the feet to relieve stress, anxiety, and release into the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) that stimulates rest and digest functions. Also realize that the foot is full of pressure points, so exploring the feet always feels good!
👉🏾 Tap or massage EFT eyebrow point at the inside of the eyebrows any way that feels good. You can also simply drop the weight of your head into your index and middle fingers at the inside of the eyebrows while pressing the fingers back into this point.
Feel a release through the head, down the back of the neck and shoulders, and through the back line of connective tissue, that calms the central nervous system. You can also circle the fingertips into this point, massaging the area. Feel an instantaneous calm.
The face is full of pressure points as well, so explore points around the eyes, temples, eyebrows, cheeks, jaw and jawline, and the scalp.
👉🏾 Give your belly a rub, especially if you have digestive difficulties, so your digestion won’t interrupt your sleep. Be sure to massage clockwise to aid movement through the colon.
6. Yin Yoga
Anyone who practices Yin knows how it’s so relaxing that it’s almost like a drug. Taking you straight into the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), Yin is the perfect physical, and mental, preparation for sleep. You can practice Yin anytime of day, too, instead of taking a nap, in the case you need deep restoration but are unable to fall asleep for a natural boost of energy.
If you find yourself lying in bed, unable to fall asleep at night, there are easy positions to take while lying under the covers, even utilizing your pillows or wall, that reduce cortisol to slow the body-mind into sleep. You may need to learn some of these positions first, but once they’re in your body, you can access them when without use of a screen.
👉🏾 This 15-minute Yin practice is designed specifically as a daily practice to relieve stress and anxiety by opening the back line of connective tissue, and the psoas muscle group through the pelvis that store stress and trauma. This Yin focus is particularly relaxing, soothing, restorative, calms the nervous system, and aids a good sleep.
👉🏾 You’ll discover deep release as well with this 15-minute Yin practice that opens through the connective tissue through the upper back, shoulders, chest, arms, and the lung, heart, and intestine meridians with their correlating mental-emotional patterns, to release grief and create space for more love and joy.
👉🏾 Simply meditating (remaining present and mindful of your breath, sensations in the body, and unattached to thoughts that pass through the mind) while lying with your legs up against the wall in Viparita Karani, as seen below, for ten minutes equals an hour of deep sleep by restoring the kidneys and nervous system, relaxing into the PNS, drains lymph and fluids from the legs and detoxes the blood, and is an easy preparation for sleep or when you’re unable to sleep.
Remember that keeping backbends to a minimum in the evening, especially if you have difficulty sleeping at night, is crucial. Opening the front of the body is stimulating, whereas opening the back of the body is relaxing. Keep this in mind for your self-practice and evening classes that you may drop into.
7. Meditation & Simple Breathwork
You can practice meditation and simple breathing techniques as you practice Yin, or you can sit or lie flat on your back as you remain present with your breath, or what you feel in your body, as thoughts pass through your mind.
Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing is a highly effective way to release into the PNS—rest and digest functions—as means to rock you to sleep. Smoothing out the breath, slowing the breath down, and extending the length of exhales, all without any force but rather consciously allowing this to occur, can all act as a lullaby to ease you into sleep.
👉🏾 Use this ten-minute meditation to guide you through conscious breathing and meditation techniques to get you started with these practices.
Meditation, and tools that ease us into a meditative state, clear the conscious mind to discover what lies beneath in our subconscious, and there we tap into our interconnection with this universe, our role in it, inspiring aligned action that feeds our soul.
All of this aids sleep by 10-11pm for medicine unlike any other.
Our bodies kick into repair-mode after 10pm. This healing only happens when we sleep. If we’re awake, our energy isn’t used to repair damaged cells and clear free radicals.
Sleeping earlier is the key to not only living longer but better, as this deeply restorative and healing medicine of earlier sleep reduces risk for disease in general and gives us grounded and stable energy, vitality, clarity, and ease.
Stress hormones can be addictive in themselves, creating physical, mental, and emotional cravings to continue in a stress-cycle, with sleep (or lack thereof), consumption, thinking, feeling, and relationships.
The easiest and most effective means out of these stressful patterns is one small step at a time, recognizing and rewarding our progress along the way, and keeping at it, because it gets easier, and every aspect of life changes with perseverance and commitment to self-care and love.
If you need one-on-one guidance and support to liberate you from chronic stress patterns, the Holistic Liberation Program provides exactly that.
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Jyllin is an integrative health coach and creator of the Holistic Liberation Method that repatterns chronic stress in the body, mind, beliefs, emotions, and lifestyle. Learn more about Jyllin and The Holistic Liberation Programs.