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Perri following yoga video at nighttime

The Bedtime Ritual That’s Getting Me Through The Coronavirus Pandemic

As it has for many of us, the coronavirus pandemic has completely upended my daily routines—and, honestly, I’ve struggled to stay focused amidst the chaos. Here in New York City, gone are the little life luxuries—like saying hello to Rebecca at the front desk of my yoga studio, YoYoga! (which, thankfully, is streaming classes on Zoom), returning a library book days early just to get in some extra steps and assuage my Fitbit neuroses, and riverfront-gazing sessions at Sutton Place Park.

My routines at home have shifted, too. Before the pandemic, sleep typically came easy and fast for me. In fact, most nights, my boyfriend had to drag me from the couch to our bedroom because I’d dozed off in the middle of an episode of Married at First Sight. Occasionally, I’d turn to Headspace‘s sleep meditation tracks to wind down after a particularly trying day—but that was the exception, not the norm.

Now, my brain is a constant ticker tape of anxiety. Days seem to both drag on slowly and speed by at a rapid-fire pace.

Within the first week of hunkering down at home, I noticed disruptions in my sleep. It took me upwards of 90 minutes (!) to doze off once I got into bed, and I was waking up later but feeling less rested.

My energy levels throughout the day felt the impact. My regular cup of green tea became five, and five became “I should probably not be drinking this much green tea.”

Enter: Lavender Oil And Melatonin

By week two of staying home, I was reading endless sleep-help articles and downloading meditation apps like a squirrel hoarding nuts. Still, my sleep (and energy levels) hadn’t improved much.

Read More: All The Health Problems Poor Sleep Habits Can Lead To

That’s when I came across an Instagram post from Married at First Sight cast-member Danielle DeGroot about an Essential Oils 101 webinar she’d be leading. (Hey, who said an obsession with guilty pleasure reality TV never pays off?) Though I didn’t take the course, it reminded me of a long-neglected bottle of lavender oil I had sitting on my bathroom vanity.

Some studies suggest lavender is truly helpful in promoting relaxation—and it smells incredibly zen and calming, which absolutely counts for something.

My nonstop research about natural ways to sleep better also lead me to melatonin, the hormone your brain produces to regulate its sleep-wake cycles.

Desperate for sleep, I decided to add a melatonin supplement and lavender oil to my routine.

Starting a New Bedtime Ritual for Sounder Sleep

I began my new nighttime ritual by lighting some candles and doing a 12-minute Yoga With Adriene bedtime yoga video on YouTube. Then, I applied some lavender oil to my wrists and behind my ears, took my melatonin, and grabbed a book (Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon, if you’re curious) and read for about 20 minutes. Finally, I cued up a Headspace sleep track, turned off my lights, and prepared for dreamland.

I guess I was onto something because, a month later, I’m happy to report that I have stuck to this routine and am sleeping better than ever.

Some nights, I skip the melatonin. As time goes on and my new unwinding ritual has embedded itself into my fibers, I’ve come to need it less than less. Other nights, I’ll swap the bedtime yoga video for a hot bath.

Read More: 7 Ways To Practice Self-Care That Don’t Cost A Dime

But my main takeaway? Creating a formal daily practice that promotes relaxation and signals my brain that it’s time to get into rest mode has been key for me. I also think it helps that my routine feels more ritualistic than just popping melatonin and applying lavender oil in front of my bathroom vanity. Yeah, it may take a half-hour or so from start to finish, but I believe it’s this half-hour that has made all the difference in my sleep health.

Like everyone, I’m looking forward to the day when restrictions are lifted and the rhythm of life—the library books, the yoga studio hellos, the park moments—returns. However, even when some sense of normalcy returns, I have a feeling I’ll still choose to wind down at night in the exact same way.

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