Put yourself to bed kindly, lovingly, as you would put to bed a beloved child.
Would you put a child to bed hissing in their ear about what’s wrong with their face, how scary the world is, why they won’t amount to much? Just a guess, but you might instead go with a lullaby, maybe a good story, sweet murmurs of love—anything kind, gentle, and comforting. I invite you to put yourself to bed that way too. As someone who used to struggle with insomnia and take all my woes to bed with me, I’ve loved coaching others in making bedtime truly kind and likely to promote the rest we all deserve. Five easy steps follow, including in step 2 the ABC’s of addressing what needs addressing so you can put it all down for the night!
1. Sleep is the best reset button: make conscious, intentional use of its power.
Take sleep very seriously as the most fabulous (and free!) reset button at hand. Part of what sleep does is pause your current sense of identity and your preoccupations with your life’s conditions to date. If you let it, it can clear the slate every day, allowing you to come back to the truth of who you are—which has nothing to do with these current conditions. By not taking today’s batch of woes, fears, critiques to sleep with you, you allow a new opening each new day, upon waking, to the truth of who you are, and all that this can translate to in the realities of everyday life.
Go to bed with the intention to release, rest, and rejuvenate—intention is powerful. So don’t stumble to bed in a cloud of whatever’s-on-your-mind when you’re ready to drop. Be conscious about what you put down and let go, and what you take to bed with you.
2. Do not admit worries or to-do lists into the bedroom: Easy as ABC.
It’s typical to lie in bed reviewing the worst of today and fretting over tomorrow. Maybe throw in a slo-mo replay of that awkward misstep at the dog park, flash to your favorite childhood humiliation, then take another spin around the globe as bleakly highlighted by the news industry. Ready for something kinder? Make it a rule (or a grand experiment) to take none of that to bed—not admitted.
Here come the ABC’s for minding before bedtime what actually needs your attention. Ideally, consciously give these your time earlier in the evening, then let what occupies you for an hour or two before bed be what you enjoy, what nourishes you, what you love to do and think about. However, if five minutes at the tail-end of the day is all you’ve got sometimes, take five before bedtime grooming. Just sit with paper and perhaps a calming beverage to give a nod to today’s completion and jot down a few notes for tomorrow.
Address practical matters.
If it serves you, glance at tomorrow and write down to-do lists and priorities. Put the thing thrice remembered and forgotten on the calendar so you trust you’ll get to it. (Now forget about that oil change or IRS call in good conscience.) Dash off the text that’s really not so hard to write—but does crack the ice that keeps you stuck. In other words, if you can do one quick thing to begin or complete a task (rather than make a note about it), do that. Now you’ve done what you’ve done for this day: it’s enough, and it’s all good enough.
Be with emotional stuff.
If something emotional from the day needs processing, journal it, talk it out, or take it to a bubble bath. Set up future bolstering by sending the scheduling email to the right support professional or making a date with a friend. Since you’re (absolutely) not going to take it to bed with you, do make it worth your while in the evening (your heart is worth your own time and attention). Set yourself up to let tender matters go during sleep hours by letting yourself know they’re being tended to.
Consciously be done with today and open to tomorrow’s total potentiality.
Go to bed with nothing in tow about today or tomorrow: you’re done. You can reinforce this on the physical level by moving slowly and deliberately as you groom and change for bed. When thoughts of this day or the next offer themselves (and you know thoughts—they will), don’t engage. Just say, “I release you” or “Done!” or “Shop is closed.” There’s nothing more to do, fix, or figure out. Things in flux? Feeling like a work in progress? Of course. That’s how a human life goes. Your day is still complete; your mind has no more job to do beyond aligning with rest.
I like to start watching my breath as I head bed-ward so I’m already cultivating a meditative mindset. This, too, supports treating sleep as a full reset, entered into consciously. As you step into your bedroom, make it a ritual by saying out loud, “This day is complete. Tomorrow, all things new, all things possible.” As you say this (or your own phrase that sings to you), believe it as much as you can. Feel it, as much as you can. (It’s enough.)
3. Only good thoughts allowed in bed, and only briefly.
Lying in bed, if you must think at all, only review what you love about your life, what feels good, what went right in your day. (Remember, you’re putting yourself to bed as you would a beloved child.) Flash to moments of loving the beauty and brilliance of people, plants, and critters in your daily world—your own bright, shiny moments included. Honor your completions and notice what was satisfying or glorious. Review hugs and hilarity, easy connections. Whatever nice things you pull out to polish mentally, please keep even this kind of thought to a minimum. Some people love a good gratitude list, so reel off a few gems, if you will, but get in and get out.
4. Drop into love, and let love drop you into sleep.
For whatever conscious time you’ve got left (whether seconds or hours, depending on your tendencies or the day), give your full weight to the mattress and to gravity, releasing every muscle to all that supports you. You are held. Give yourself to love.
Think in terms of lying in the arms of love. You are a child of the Universe: see yourself as Source sees you as you drop into the unconscious realm. Call on whatever you know of love right now and let everything else go. Love is ever-available, as it’s the essence of who you are. (If this trips you up on a bad day or through a hard era, create spaciousness here by looking away from being loved or receiving love—hard pass on a life review of love, please. Just hold the feeling of love in the easiest, most innocent way—even your love for an animal, if that creates no resistance, or for your favorite painting, tattoo, or tree—and allow that to be enough.)
5. Use the breath to support your intentional letting go.
Make a lying-down meditation of your last conscious moments by watching the breath. Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. I call the breath the only balm you can apply from within: feel it as a healing salve moving through you, easing you into sleep, or simply supporting your rest. (Don’t worry about how much or what kind of sleep you’ll get—breathe into full rest.) Following the breath will help you keep out of your head, too. Remember that the mind does what it does, so it’s not about staying with the breath or staying out of thoughts—just come back to breath right now, one more time, now, and now, and now. It’s working if you’re willing to find the breath one more time in this moment, as many times as it takes.
Sometimes if there’s something compelling or tricky in my world and I catch myself thinking about it in bed, I just remind myself it’s not time to think: it’s time to lie in the arms of love; it’s time to follow the breath and appreciate how it calmly ushers me into rest and sleep. I often then notice that I haven’t even felt the mattress yet, so I tune in to the physical sensations of giving myself to gravity, and this allows my return to these reliable and nurturing bedtime tactics.
Rest well, dear one.
Love & blessings, Jaya