I know a lot of you have questions about how we get our two kids to sleep—for the LOVE OF GOD—in a tiny apartment. More on that one day soon, I promise. But in the meantime, I wanted to write about my very favorite subject, which is, of course, myself. (Heh.) And specifically about my very own bedtime routine.
It took me most of my adult life to get turned onto the magic of even having a bedtime routine. Sure, I’ve always brushed my teeth. When I was feeling particularly diligent, I would splash some cold water on my face and call it washed. But when I saw women in movies doing things like sitting up in bed putting lotion on their hands while prattling on to their dozing husbands, first I’d get sad about their general state of affairs, but second I would imagine that people only paid special attention to their bedtime toilette in movies. Surely, I thought, elaborate pre-sleep routines were an indulgent fantasy created by Hollywood. No one actually spent whole minutes just getting in tune with their body before flopping into bed, did they?
In a moment when there’s no shortage of lifestyle advice about the right way to direct yourself on the road to self-care, I never imagined I’d have much to add to the conversation. But I’ve shifted my own habits over the past few years—especially as related to bedtime rituals—and come to feel that far from overly indulgent fantasy, spending a few minutes caring for yourself at the end of a busy day of work or childcare or braving an existential crisis, is, actually, a pretty great idea. Your bedtime routine might include fancy lotions and potions designed to make you feel better. Or it might mean drinking a tall glass of water and adding a drop of lavender oil to your pillow. Maybe it includes measures from both ends of the spectrum. Mine does.
In case you’re thinking about hopping on the bandwagon and caring for yourself a little more tenderly in the evenings (or anytime), here are some of the favorite tools in my toolbox:
Essential oils: I love a good dab of lavender oil applied directly to the corner of my white cotton sheets. That application process is probably not one that would be recommended by linen experts or oil gurus, but it’s what’s very easy and works for me. (I’ve never found it to mark up the sheets.) Once I’ve dabbed my lavender, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, just the smell of it gets me feeling like it’s time to wind down and head toward sleep. (I get a lot of questions about what kind of essential oils I use. I typically buy Aura Cacia oils from my local grocery store. And if you haven’t read it, this piece on the the multi-level marketing essential oil biz is fascinating.)
Face masks: Doesn’t matter if it’s yogurt and oats, or smashed up avocado, or clay, or a very fancy mask filled with science-backed ingredients to get your skin looking refreshed. Spending a few minutes puttering around the kitchen or bathroom and mixing up a mask for my face feels calming and centering and it makes my skin feel great, too. Lately I’ve been using this Resurfacing Moisture Mask, a gift from True Botanicals. No, I never thought about resurfacing anything but a road either, but this stuff seems to work like actual magic. Recommend!
Face oils, and serums, and other holy grails: I’ve talked about my face oil habits before. To be very honest, I’ve rarely met a face oil I didn’t like. I think they’re terrific and I use them every morning and every night on my face and neck and chest. Right this minute, I’m using up the last of a great one given to me by Nectar & Moon, but since writing my last post about them I’ve also used and loved oils from Marble & Milkweed, True Botanicals, Plant Apothecary, and, yes, even the hallowed Olio Lusso from Rodin. What can I say? Love. I’ve also tried a few Vitamin C heavy serums because, yes, I’m 33, no, I haven’t been always terrific about wearing sunscreen. It’s very fancy, but the hype about this Renew Serum is deserved. It’s been a really lovely thing to have the chance to try. Another terrific one I’ve tried at a lower price point is the Brighten Up Vitamin C Serum from Ursa Major.
Floss: My dentist made the small but pointed observation that he can’t get his patients to spend two minutes flossing, but they come to him wanting to know if they should practice oil pulling for fifteen minutes a day. No shade to oil pullers, of course, but the reference point definitely worked its way into my brain and I’ve been trying to build flossing into my nightly routine with a bit more…regularity. Not the most glamorous bedtime ritual, but maybe among the more healthful? If you’re looking into zero-waste floss options, Dental Lace sounds promising.
Hair brushing: If you’re picturing a demoiselle sitting on her tuffet brushing her long locks, well, then, yes. That’s more or less me. Minus the tuffet. This isn’t anything new, but I started really making sure I’d thoroughly brushed my hair before bed, and now I can hardly fall asleep if it’s not brushed out. Maybe it’s just the pregnancy related hormonal swings which have generally changed my hair quite a bit, but I think the nightly brushing habit has made my hair paradoxically less greasy and less dry. Moving all those good oils around, etc. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. (I got my first new hair brush in about eight years a month or so ago and I love it.)
Teas: Contrary to what SEO searches might have you believe, this is not a blog about tea. But I do quite enjoy a cup of herbal tea in the evening before bed. James gave me a special calming blend he had made locally at Fettle, filled with rosepetals, peppermint, skullcap and other calming herbs. It’s very lovely. (And so is having a husband who goes to herb shops to make you calming tea blends.)
Timing: It’s true what they say, but something as simple as going to sleep at around the same time every night makes mornings so much better. (No, I’m not a morning person.) If you have trouble doing this, try setting an alarm on your phone. Sometimes grownups need a reminder that it’s bedtime, too.
Tonics and tinctures and magic potions: I love herbal tinctures and tonics. I love the notion of plant medicine and the people who make it their work to brew helpful tonics to offer a bit of comfort to someone in need. I’ve sometimes dabbled in making things myself, and more often relied on the expertise of others. People ask me sometimes whether these measures “work.” I think yes. But to go full woo-woo on you, I do think you need to approach this stuff with an open heart. I have tried a lot of lovely tinctures from my dear friend Olivia and I’ve loved them. I especially love stirring her Restore & Calm Superfood into a cup of warm milk before bed. I’ve not yet tried Sunpotion, but I know a lot of folks who love it. My general feelings about this stuff? If you think it might make you feel good, go for it. If you’re skeptical, drink another glass of water and live (and eventually die) happily ever after. We’re all mere mortals after all.
Vitamins: I took Vitamin D like it was my job this winter, and I have no intention of letting up. Ditto a B-Complex vitamin. They’re both really important for general health, but also for your mood. Wintertime is HARD for me. These guys really helped. I forget what brands I have, because of course I covered up the labels. Check in with your local health food store for advice. (Vegan trigger warning: Yes, those golden Vitamin D capsules are made from gelatin because it was the only oil-based Vitamin D capsule I could find and the oil helps with absorption. I do typically avoid gelatin, but occasionally I crave Sour Patch Kids and this winter I took Vitamin D capsules. I contain multitudes. Those are just the facts.)
Water: I was never really a bedside water person. Or, let’s be real, an anytime water person. But blame frequent nighttime wakings due to small humans, and a general effort on my part to do things to make myself feel better, but I’ve gotten so much better about this since having kids. Turns out, it’s awfully helpful to be properly hydrated.
Okay. Enough about me. What sorts of things do any of you do to reset before bed?