Problems with sleep are all too common, from trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning. Inadequate intake and eating disorder diagnoses have been linked with difficulty sleeping, although the answer as to why remains unclear.
Sleep is essential for our physical and mental health, and getting those 7-9 hours each night can really make or break how we feel, act, think, and perform. Especially as you navigate healing your relationship with food and body - there’s a lot of healing and repair that has to be done and it helps if you’re adequately rested.
There is one thing that has been shown to have success: creating a bedtime and morning routine. It may seem childish (who wants a bedtime as an adult?) and not very exciting, but these routines can really transform the way we sleep, and subsequently, the way we feel throughout the day. Getting enough sleep is important for recovery. Let’s dive deeper on ways to start building your own sleep routine to improve self care.
What to do at Night:
Make your bedroom a sleep oasis
Create your dream bed. Make sure you love your mattress, your pillows, and your sheets. You should feel soft and supported while you sleep! Then, invest in blackout shades, or at least a cozy eye mask. The darker the room at night, the more your body will recognize it’s time to go to bed. Keep the temperature around 65F - not too hot and not too cold. Lastly, stock up on your favorite candles. A warm, calming scent and that flicker of light will do wonders to make your room feel totally peaceful.
Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time
It may be hard at first, but our bodies like routine. It’s difficult for our bodies to know when to wind down if we’re always going to sleep and waking up at different times. However, don’t suddenly decide to go to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 6am if you’re more of a 2am to 10am person. Shift the time back gradually to where you want to be. The more you stick to it, the easier it’ll get to build a sleep routine to improve self care.
Craft a pre-bedtime routine
Unlike the movies, most people can’t just lay down in bed and go to sleep immediately. Tell your body it’s time to relax by engaging in activities that calm you. Our brains can need up to two hours to decompress after a long day, so plan accordingly. If you’re aiming to be asleep by 10, take a bath around 8:30, followed by a cup of chamomile tea. Light your candles, and start to disconnect from the day. Maybe you lower the lights, do a few restorative stretches, or get cozy with your favorite book. Try to repeat similar habits each night to train your mind to let go.
Leave your phone outside
This one is the toughest, we know, but if you’re really struggling with sleep, it’s important. Your phone/computer/iPad keeps your brain wired, and the blue light they emit actually prevents melatonin (a sleep chemical) from getting produced.
Grab a bedtime snack
Don’t believe us? Thank diet culture for that. Remember that your body doesn’t have an “open” and “close” time - it’s okay to eat past 8 PM, we promise. It’s not easy to go to bed hungry, and research has actually shown that a small balanced snack before bed can raise serotonin and melatonin, which help us sleep.
What to do in the morning:
Sometimes, no matter how well you sleep, waking up often feels impossible. Creating a routine around those morning hours can change your entire day, and help you wake up easier without that foggy “5 more minutes” feeling.
Though it may feel like the right thing at the time, snoozing your alarm actually makes you even groggier. Try to set your alarm for a reasonable time (per your bedtime schedule) so you’re not trying to wake up at an unreasonable hour. Place your alarm somewhere across the room, so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Then, you’re up!
Open the curtains
Sunshine really does cure all, doesn’t it? Natural morning light is shown to brighten your spirits AND help you wake up more naturally and quickly.
Don’t open your phone first
Yes, it’s tempting to see what everyone posted on Instagram last night, but it definitely won’t help you wake up, and depending on what you see, it may start your day off on a down note. If you can, try to start your day with some movement. Stretch for 5 minutes, walk the dog around the block, or do a few jumping jacks to get your blood pumping. Joyful movement can be a great way to start the morning!
Drink a full glass of water
After 8 hours of no hydration, your body is likely dehydrated. Instead of jumping head first into coffee, down a big glass of water. It’ll help start up your digestive system and re-hydrate you. Then, of course, feel free to grab that cup of coffee!
Take a few minutes for yourself
This might be meditation, mindful movement (shake it out!), journaling, or even writing your to-do list. Before you jump into your busy day, focus on YOU for a few minutes, in whatever way feels best.
While we believe all meals and snacks are equally important to keep you fueled throughout the day, breakfast really does help with energy and allows you to function and focus! Especially as you navigate healing your relationship with food, hunger and fullness cues may not be an accurate signal for meal times yet. Starting your day with some structure can be helpful to ensure that you are eating consistently throughout the day and providing your body with adequate fuel.
Remember, building a sleep routine to improve self care will help in any step of eating disorder recovery. You deserve adequate rest and recovery and establishing a routine may help you fall into a helpful pattern that feels good for you. Sleep as self care is a basic essential you need to make sure you can function properly and live your fullest life (very similar to adequate intake daily).
If you’re finding it difficult to meet these needs, we encourage you to ask yourself why. Let us know how we can support you in adding more self care into your life by contacting our office or by exploring our services.