If the #beforeifallasleep hashtag is anything to go by, many of us spend those crucial hours before bed watching “just one more” episode of Netflix instead of drifting off to the soothing mantras of a meditation app. But could the secret to a happier, healthier life and planet lie with our pre-sleep rituals?
Mira Manek certainly thinks so. In her new book Prajñā: Ayurvedic Rituals for Happiness, the writer, cook and yogi shows us how ancient Indian rituals can supercharge our wellbeing. “Adequate sleep is not only essential if we are to function properly throughout the day, but it is vital for our overall health. It is one of the key pillars of our wellbeing, according to all systems of medicine and healing, including Ayurveda.” she writes in her intro to the chapter on evening rituals. Here we outline our seven steps to an eco-friendly evening routine, including our favourite nuggets of wisdom from Manek and we hear from ethical bloggers about how they’re catching zzzs, the sustainable way.
Go au naturel in the bedroom According to Manek, mindfulness starts at home. Think decluttering, dim lighting and plants, lots of them. “You want your home to nurture mindfulness, with a sense of space and solace, with freshness and hints of memories, where everything tells a story, but there is also emptiness and room for thoughts to whisper and linger and reveal themselves.” Synthetic materials leave a bad taste in the environment and will only bring bad vibes into your home, so opt for bedding that’s super soft and organic certified, such as the duvet sets from Dip & Doze. If it’s time to upgrade your mattress (the usual lifespan of a mattress is between seven and ten years) consider investing in a woolen number from Green Fibres or a plastic-free one such as My Kind Mattress. As well as freshening the air, house plants can do wonders for our cortisol levels. Some studies have shown that looking at fractals (the geometric patterns found in nature) can reduce our stress levels as if you needed any more reason to hit Columbia Road Flower Market on a Sunday.
Time it right According to Ayurvedic teachings, sleep is just as important as diet and the optimal time to hit the hay is between 10pm and 6am. “These are the hours that are most rejuvenating and also our biorhythms are programmed to follow nature’s rhythms, so ideally we should sleep when it’s dark and wake with sunrise,” she writes. Besma Whayeb runs the ethical lifestyle blog Curiously Conscious. The slow fashion advocate has felt the benefits of becoming an early riser in the darker months. Her evening ritual begins with a cuppa: “I love taking my time getting ready for bed: getting into soft pyjamas and making a cup of nighttime tea (look for organic teas with valerian or ashwagandha, a common herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine). There is the occasional night where sleep is a little more difficult, so I’ll take a little organic CBD oil and do a breathing exercise to help. I’ve also recently adopted an earlier bedtime, and earlier rising time, which feels good as I get to enjoy more daylight during the winter months.”
Schedule in a digital detox The urge to scroll through our phones or binge watch our favourite shows before bed isn’t just disrupting our sleep, it’s also sending the climate into a spin. As reported by the Guardian, the data centres that power the world’s gadgets mostly rely on electricity from non-renewable sources. What’s worse, our device-heavy diet is said to be on its way to having a larger carbon footprint than the entire aviation industry. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of Holly Rose’s book. The eco blogger, soil advocate and rewilder has a no tech after 7pm policy: “I try to stay far away from my phone and laptop from 7PM onwards. I’ll do some restorative yoga, read a chapter by the fire or have a bath with a cup of herbal tea. I also do breathwork to ensure my mind has wound down by the time my head hits the pillow. When I do manage to follow this pre-sleep ritual, I sleep so peacefully and wake up rested, when I don’t, I wish I had!”
Invest in sustainable sleepwear Swap polyester pyjamas for loungewear made from organic cotton, hemp or tencel (a fabric made from wood pulp). This way you can put a stop to those nightmares about microfibres from your washing machine poisoning marine life (just us?). But there are other reasons you might want to seek out organic fabrics for everything from your sleepwear to your sheets. According to a recent report by the Soil Association organically grown cotton uses up to 91% less water than conventional cotton. Plus, conventional cotton is doused in insecticides and pesticides. Choosing an organic set (like this dreamy two-piece from Karu) means doing your bit for the soil and the insects without having to leave the comfort of your bed. Or if you’re looking for a set that’s as comfy as is ethical, we’re big fans of the handmade range from The General Sleep Store. Holly Rose spends all winter in her pesticide free PJs: “they’re made with organic cotton and come from a sustainable female-owned company back home in Canada called Azura Bay, I’ve had them for a few years and I adore them. I also sleep with a plant-dyed handmade sleep mask by Earthen Warrior on.”
Brush with bamboo It’s scary to think that the toothbrushes we used to clean our teeth as a child are probably stacked up in landfill somewhere. But, we don’t have to keep adding to that toxic pile thanks to the new bamboo brushes on the block. The Truthbrush is whittled from organically grown, sustainably sourced bamboo, comes in recyclable cardboard packaging and makes a rather stylish addition to your bathroom. When done, you can compost them or use the handles to label your plants (just remove the bristles and turn upside down). If you’re finding it hard to part ways with your electric toothbrush, consider switching to charcoal-infused toothbrush heads from LiveCoco, which you can return to the company for recycling. For extra plastic-free points we’d pair these brushes with natural mineral paste from Truthpaste or Georganics.
Remove make up the eco way Makeup removal was a simpler matter back in the days before we knew about fatbergs and wet wipe clogged-rubbish reefs along the Thames. Thankfully, there are earth and skin-friendly makeup removal methods that don’t involve disposable wipes. Besma has swapped single-use cotton wool for reusable rounds: “For the days when I’m wearing makeup, I’ll wipe this off using a washable cotton round, and a few dabs of Dr. Hauschka eye makeup remover.” Alex Nicolaou, founder of Nini Organics recommends using an oil based cleanser with a cold (morning) or warm (night) fluffy organic flannel, “I think people are now realizing that wipes are beyond redundant,” he says. We agree and suggest using the Cloud Cloth before bed as it has a textured side for exfoliation and a softer side for stubborn eye makeup. Our senior stylist Ash recommends pairing this with Evolve’s antioxidant-rich Gentle Cleansing Melt.
Mist your linen If your current night time ritual involves overthinking the day’s events until you fall asleep, consider injecting some calm into your chambers. As night falls Alex Nicolaou, begins an elaborate ritual of cleansing, moisturising and pillow misting. “I spritz my pillow with Therapie’s Slumber pillow mist which smells divine and instantly puts my mind into a deep state of relaxation,” Candles are another way to create a soothing evening atmosphere, as long as they’re made from wax which isn’t derived from petroleum. Honest has bedtimes sussed with its lavender-infused bath oil, handmade soaps and heavenly range of soy wax candles, (which are scented with organic essential oils). If the mists aren’t doing it for you, Nicolaou has another tip for those struggling to nod off: “While traveling I met a monk who taught me how to drift off naturally. You lie down with your palms facing upwards, then you focus all your attention on the center of your body until you start to feel your body melting into your bed. Before you know it you’re asleep.”
For more tips on how to practice sleep hygiene, take a look at the Sleep Foundation website - just try to resist browsing it while you’re in bed.
Words: Kyra Hanson
Feature image: General Sleep Store