How To Switch Your Brain Off At Night

Roughly 10 years ago, I was having the best time of my life and sleeping for endless hours of the day. Fast forward to my reality of working what feels like a 10 hour shift as a Registered Nurse and coming home to my other full-time job as a mama and with a new bébé on the way…. you can gather my once co-ordinated and luxurious sleep pattern has gone out the door and has changed completely.

On days where I feel like the only way to overcome those hurdles in motherhood and life, a good dose of daily grind in the form of liquid encouragement (coffee) and a somewhat enthusiastic approach to crashing for a few hours on the couch when Blake has his nap, puts a little spark into my day routine. However, there are many a day where I have a craving for fresh, salty beach air and Blake and I often head down to the beach for a few minutes of relief before I undertake the guessing game (which most parents indulge in, FYI) of ‘how long will my child sleep for his/her nap, today?’

This post is excluding those few days a week where I am working my permanent shifts and focuses on days where I am purely a stay at home mama.

When Blake goes down for the evening and I have that first breath of ‘Eliza time’, I have recently discovered the benefits of maintaining a regular sleep pattern and evening routine. As a result, this is something I rely upon to keep my insanity at bay and these two things are something I try to not sacrifice at all. Even if it means there is a load of washing waiting to be hung out at nine o’clock in the evening! For me, the thought of what I do to decompress from my forever stressful job and those moments spent analysing if I’m starting to become a horrible parent (because every parent has this reoccurring thought!) often begins with a few semi-rigid steps I take when encouraging my brain to not only relax, but to also unwind. Not to mention, go into sleep mode ASAP. So, if you are like me and struggling with not being able to switch your brain off at night and hours are ticking past, this post might be of use to you.

Phone-Free Environment

Most of my day is spent carrying around a mobile phone, whether it be for my own personal use or my work phone. But one of the most guiltiest pleasures I have is putting my phone down for the evening. After clocking up 4 hours a day on my phone and realising how bad this was, I made a decision to put my phone down for the evening and spend 30-45 minutes before I go to bed, unwinding. For those days where I don’t work, I have also made the decision to not check the 756633 work emails that are waiting in my inbox because 1.) I don’t get paid on my days off to read emails, 2.) it’s family time and that’s very important for me and 3.) I spend enough time at work as it is, without having to bring it home.

No Work In Bed

During my Nursing university days, I was highly guilty of bringing my work into bed with me and would wake up with keyboard imprints in my cheek from having fall asleep. When graduating and moving in with Mr. Darcy, I promised myself that I would never bring my work into bed with me and there were purely some places that were simply reserved for me and me alone.

While I understand wholeheartedly some jobs don’t have a typical end time of 5pm (like nursing) and there will be often times where you’ll have to bring your work home to complete it. Or, if you’re anything like me and wake up in a cold sweat because a VIP (very important progress note) on Joe Blogs wasn’t typed and a care plan was due for review 3 days ago…. it can be really hard to establish a line and tell yourself when it’s time to wrap it all up for the day. 

If you find yourself having to bring work home for the evening is to either do whatever needs to be completed in your office or if you don’t have one, your kitchen or dining room table is the next best thing. I often tend to write a majority of my posts at the kitchen table as there is plenty of ample space to stretch out and light, both during the day and night. As for your bed, this is an environment that should make you instantly feel calm, relaxed and wanting to immediately crawl in and doze off. By taking your work into bed with you, it is not only creating a new habit but it’s encouraging your brain to not turn off when you’re curled up and waiting to sleep.

Sticking To A Regular Night Time Routine

There is one thing I will always admit to and that is: my evening bedtime routine is never the same for every night of the week. There will always be hiccups or I’m contemplating making brownies for dessert at 9pm at night and that’s okay because I’m human at the end of the day. But there are a couple of things I like to do when it comes to getting my mind and body ready for a great night of sleep and trying to do the same routine helps me prepare. 

My routine has changed slightly since becoming a wife and mama. Nevertheless, I often try to do most of these evening routine steps every single night:

  • Refill my diffuser and let it do its magic – more on this in the next tip! I love the idea of this being an element of my routine and it feels so relaxing. 
  • Remove any makeup worn that day and go through my skincare routine.
  • Have a luxurious shower. Since becoming a mama and discovering everything runs on a minute-to-minute basis, it’s the rare moments of being able to properly wash shampoo out of your hair and letting the warm/hot water run over your body… this is truly perfection. My ideal shower features double shampooing my hair, taking a few moments to simply be enwrapped in water and applying some sort of scented exfoliation gel. 
  • Moisturise. Being in the healthcare sector and with Covid-19 precautions, my skin has become increasingly drier than normal. Guaranteed my hands were dry-ish before everything having happened in the world and our sense of safety and wellbeing in healthcare has really been amped up. As a result, my hands have started peeling from the constant washing and use of hand sanitiser! It’s gotten so bad I’ve resorted to applying a rather generous amount of hand cream, rubbing it in circular motions (helps with blood circulation) and popping some old socks over the top. When I wake up the next morning, I’ve got silky smooth hands!
  • Hydration, hydration and more hydration. I seriously believe I’ve got the best husband in the entire universe because Mr. Darcy will always collect my drink bottle and refills it for the evening and those early-morning drinking sessions. I don’t know if it stems from currently being pregnant and feeling as if I’ve got dry mouth (I often sleep with my mouth open) or my body is gearing up to breastfeed the next bébé and is going into hyperdrive. But man, I am so bloody thirsty! Hence why I find it so refreshing to have a bottle of water on my bedhead for those times where I wake up really parched and often find myself chugging at least half a litre of water. 
  • Comfortable clothing/sleep wear. Speaking of being pregnant, I often tend to struggle when it comes to clothing/sleepwear choices as my body is continuously changing and adapting as my little one grows. Not to mention the varying temperatures here in Australia as it can be mildly warm one moment, blistering hot the next and then ending on a freezing night. While it may not be sexually appealing, I find wearing loose clothing like an old borrowed t-shirt of my brothers’ or incredibly comfortable pyjamas to be the best things for an ever-expanding body.

Diffusing With Bedtime Oils

When I want to unwind from my day and start preparing my brain to switch off for the evening, I often put on my diffuser containing essential oils and let it flow freely into the air. I love having my diffuser puffing away deliciously scented little fluffy white clouds and using the time it takes to fill our bedroom with calming smells to get ready for bed.

By introducing this step into my loosely-based routine since winter 2018, I’ve noticed a drastic difference. Whether it be psychological or a placebo effect, I have become a lot calmer in my mind at night. Now, I’m able to fall asleep quicker and are able to get into my REM cycle easier. I also tend to wake up less stuffy in the nose, whether it be winter or any other season, as compared to mornings where I have forgotten to turn on my diffuser the night before and have promptly hit the sack after a busy and tiring day. 

There is something therapeutic about having a diffuser as I often view the refilling process as a mini science experiment because some days you get the right consistency and others, it’s a hit and miss. But, definitely worth the experience of guessing I reckon. Now when it comes to refilling the diffuser, I reuse an old water bottle that has regular old tap water in it and to this, I add a few drops of Bosisto’s Aromatherapy oils in Breathe and Sleep. It’s the perfect concoction I’ve found that helps me settle for the evening.

Read A Few Pages Or A Chapter Of A Book

My goal at the beginning of the year is to read 30 books again like last year and while I am yet to surpass that number, I have yet to pick up a physical book. With everything that has happened this past year, I turned to reading books on my phone (hence the increased hours on my phone!) and with bookstores slowly opening for business, I’ve recently purchased a few books. 

Having struggled in the past as a child with reading because of my dyslexia, I find reading to not only have a calming and soothing affect upon my mind as I am decompressing from the day. With each turning of the page, I further educate myself on different topics and ways of writing. As any good books should have a way of being able to transport your mind into another universe or time and encourage you to step away from everyday stressors of life for a few moments. By the end of a few chapters, I am ready to hit the hay.

Reflecting / Brain Dumping

For those days where my head is overwhelmed with a million and one thoughts, a tool I turn to the most is reflecting and brain dumping. Although I had tried journaling my thoughts in the past before quickly coming to the realisation that I’m paranoid about it falling into the wrong hands or I stop journaling after a few entries, I often tend to mentally reflect and wipe the slate clean. It’s during this time of reflecting, I let go of anything that has been mentally and emotionally weighing me down. I practice my mindfulness and I envision those stressors falling away. As for brain dumping, I metaphorically imagine loading all of the weekly stressors that’ve accumulated and dump them into a bin; while others might write them down in a journal/bullet journal or on a piece a paper as it helps with increasing anxiety. As for me, I find it incredibly therapeutic as it often means that I start a new week off with a brand new outlook on life and don’t let the bad sh*t that happened the week prior, stalk me into new beginnings and possibilities.

Hopefully this post has helped with encouraging you to gather a few moments to yourself, refocus your energy on positive things rather than the negative and trying to achieve a more peaceful and relaxful way as to how you can turn your brain off. If you’ve got any more suggestions or tips I should implement before the newest bébé arrives and my sanity truly goes out the door than leave me a comment down below. As always, I look forward to reading and responding to them.

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