We need sleep. They say we spend about ⅔ of our lives in bed—26 years, 9,490 days, 227,760 hours. But, in some seasons we have to work for it a little more. When life gets busy, stressful, full of change, the thing we need most to restore our body and minds often evades us most. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion provides a whole list of sleep benefits: lower chance of sickness, healthy weight maintenance, decreased risk for serious chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, reduced stress, improved mood, clearer thinking, and better decision making. In case that wasn’t enough, good sleep can also improve relationships!
Most of that we know, or at least understand on a theoretical level. But how do we actually improve our sleep—without stressing ourselves out even more. We talked to the women around us to glean their wisdom on rest in different stages of life and circumstances. Here are some of their top tips, tricks, and stories.
Jolinka, 60’s. Retired Nurse, Mother & Grandmother, Volunteer, Gardener.
I had an issue—I was around 50—where my feet were SO hot and it would keep me awake. I needed to sit at the edge of my sink and soak my feet throughout the night to cool off. At first I thought these issues were related to menopause, then I found out it was actually related to neuropathy in my feet, a nerve deficit. I tried cold socks, less blankets. Now I take medicine for the neuropathy, but I also have a few other tricks that have improved my sleep overall.
- I start trying to remember all the details about a specific event from ages ago. For example, when I went on my honeymoon to Spain, what were the different spots we went to? What did we see? Where did I stop for a photo? What was that hotel’s name? Dissect a memory from way back, just repetition and chronology. Nothing stress inducing, just historical. It’s random enough to make me tired and fall asleep.
- Milk with magnesium and calcium.
- Sometimes I putter around the house: wipe a counter, tidy a little, then return to bed. Tedious little tasks help to wind down.
- White noise!
- Pick up a light book, something warm and easy.
- Listen to myself breathing. (Here’s a free 10-minute soothing breath practice with Trilby to help you start).
- If I’m stressed about something that’s keeping me awake, I bring to mind a picture of a blank whiteboard. It’s white. It’s clean. There’s nothing else I can add to it right now. I say to myself, ‘Jolinka, you cannot solve that now, at this hour of the night’.
Chantal, 30’s. Marketing & Communications Manager, Writer, Designer, Auntie.
It’s interesting because I almost always get at least 8 hours of sleep a night (perks of having a work day that starts at 10 am) but I don’t feel as rested if I go to bed at midnight and sleep 8 hours vs going to bed earlier and starting my day earlier. My biggest goal this season is to improve the quality of my sleep by incorporating small changes in my day to help me wind down and fall asleep earlier.
- Not drinking caffeine after 2pm.
- Not eating dinner too late.
- Resisting the urge to start a movie at 10 pm.
- Trying to move in the evening, even just stretching.
- Staying off my phone in bed. Social media really messes with the quality of my sleep. That much stimulation is exhausting and I’ve learned I can only do it in small doses. Sometimes I leave my phone in another room just so it’s not close by while I sleep, which does really make a difference.
- Write for five minutes before bed. Even just like ‘I am sitting here. It’s dark out. I ate pasta for dinner. I’m feeling… blah blah blah.’ Writing things down even if they seem mundane helps to clear the mind.
- I’m also a big fan of the Calm app nature sounds, or those YouTube videos that are like ‘Oldies playing in the other room and it’s also raining or the fireplace is crackling’. (We know—tempting. Here’s a link to try).
Karen, 50’s. Retired Teacher, Mother, Daughter & Caregiver, Host.
I was waking up at 5 am or earlier for so long and my sleep quality was terrible. Some things that I have tried:
- In bed by 9 o’clock. I set my alarm for 15 minutes before that actually, since that time can slip so easily away and then it’s way later than I wanted.
- Washing my face, and taking my makeup off, then putting some moisturizer on as a little treat. I know it should be standard, but for me it isn’t always.
- Diffuser on, with lavender. Just a nice, happy sensory thing to add to my routine.
- Magnesium! Taking those has made the biggest difference to my sleep, and even noticed within days. It’s great for a multitude of things. I did notice more dreams as a side effect, so I cut my daily amount in half and am still noticing better sleep quality. (You’ve heard this one twice now—more on magnesium and sleep quality from the Sleep Foundation here).
- Oh, and a cozy cup of rooibos in bed.
Rachel, 30’s. Teacher, Mother & Auntie, Athlete.
My sleep routine isn’t anything very regimented, but I would like it to be. My honest opinion—a glass of wine! But seriously, my goal would be:
- A good book and no screens.
- A warm bath before bed is also a favourite to get calm. (Feeling extra stiff? Read up on the benefits of an epsom salt soak from WebMD).
- No bedtime snacking, though it’s hard to stick to.
- Exercise definitely helps, but not right away before bed. Stretching right before bed is great for improving my sleep quality, or more of a workout during the day.
Johanna, 20’s. Work-from-home Operations Manager, Auntie, Casual Artist.
My general sleep routine is nothing special (I’m a chronic late-night movie watcher), but when I am sick or start to feel the beginning of a seasonal bug, I have a lovely routine. Feeling sick can make it impossible to get comfortable or get that much-needed quality rest, so I try to address every possible concern right from the start.
- I go to bed early, between 9-10 am.
- Floor stretches or foam rolling in the evening—my hips and back get super tight so it’s an everyday essential so that I can sleep comfortably! (Learn how and why to foam roll with Adrian on our online studio).
- Vitamins, and maybe a hot lemon with honey in the evening.
- Soothing face wash and aloe vera, or putting on a favourite moisturizer. I love aloe vera. It just feels natural, cooling, and fresh.
- Super hot, steamy shower with a little eucalyptus dropped in (oil works, or a fresh bouquet!).
- Lip balm on, and at my bedside table. My lips get so chapped! Actually, everything feels dry.
- Popping the window open a bit (don’t forget an extra blanket!) also helps circulate clear air and feel fresh.
- Water bottle with a straw on my night table. Stay hydrated as an extra step—it’ll improve your day tomorrow!
Gab, 70’s. Executive Producer, Mother & Grandmother, Artist.
I know that sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our brains and our bodies. But I’ve always been the worst sleeper; I don’t like to sleep, and always fight it. I guess I don’t want to miss out on anything. However, I’m very good at power naps—the kind where you’re not even really asleep, just a 15-20 minute zone-out, on my back on the floor in an alpha state where I’m still aware of what’s going on around me but I’m perfectly relaxed. Thank goodness for naps! But you still need to get a good amount of nighttime sleep, so I’m working on better sleep hygiene. My two main goals:
- Take 10 minutes to stretch slowly and slow down my breathing before getting in bed.
- Refrain from reading on any electronic device an hour before bed. Books and magazines are ok, in fact reading from a book is a good way to get drowsy. (Need inspo? This book and podcast comes highly recommended: Nothing Much Happens)
Mya, 9. Elementary School Student, Sister, Soccer Player, Fan of Dogs.
[Giggles] I just fall asleep. Close my eyes and wait.
- I lay on my side. It’s the most comfy.
- I also talk to myself. Just about stuff, anything I think about.
- If I have a bad dream… I would think of puppies. Things that make me happy.
Your body needs sleep, and craves deep rest every single day. Find what works for you in this season, and of course, that will change just as your daily routines do over time. Whether it’s a trip to the kitchen to physically clear your plate before bed, or a personal, step-by-step wind-down checklist, there are options to develop healthy sleep habits. The key is consistency, which is just as important at two as it is at fifty-two! Maybe, like Gab, you finish the day with 10 minutes of slow stretches to relax your mind, body, and breath. Or, like Mya, you close our eyes and return to childlike simplicity, drifting away to the delightful image of puppies frolicking in a daisy-covered field.