What can my new, solo bedtime ritual be?
July 4, 2012 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I need a new bedtime ritual. My partner and I separated last week. He used to come sit with me for a few minutes when I went to bed, or I would call him to say good night if he wasn't home. What can I do now instead?

I need a short and simple ritual for when I go to bed now that I'm solo. The only thing I've thought of so far that is sort of appealing is a sleep playlist. I'm not sure that it would do the trick, but I wouldn't mind suggestions for what could be on it.

Friends have suggested masturbation which is a no go for this particular problem. Reading or physical activity will wake me up. I'm not interested in any sort of beauty/cleansing ritual. I'm not religious and have no interest in prayer.

What haven't I thought of? Throwaway email: bedtimeritual7@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What about learning how to meditate or deep breathing exercises?

As far as a playlist is concerned, I use the Pzizz app for iphone/ipad and it puts me right out most nights.
posted by honeybee413 at 8:43 PM on July 4, 2012

Would letter/journal-writing or a few minutes of crafting (quilt-tying, etc.) wake you up? I've used both as a sort of meditative ritual to relax before bed when the power or my internet connection is out. You could also consider trying some progressive relaxation exercises.
posted by SMPA at 8:46 PM on July 4, 2012

What I do is lay there and go through the alphabet one letter at a time slowly listing all the animals that start with that letter. If I catch myself struggling for more than a few seconds to think of another one, I simply move on to the next letter. I rarely make it to O.

Also it helps me to put on a soothing movie that I don't mind falling asleep during, with the volume turned down rather low. I keep the remote control right next to me so that I can turn it off easily even if I'm half-awake. Usually I either shut it off in my sleep with no memory of it later, or else the DVD menu is playing on a loop in the morning when I wake up.
posted by hermitosis at 8:48 PM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Listen to a podcast.
posted by John Cohen at 8:49 PM on July 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

My how awesome was I today thing was really helpful for me to stay positive and forward-focused at a pretty rough time in my life. Something like that might help to keep you from chewing over your breakup.

(And if it's just been a week, sobbing yourself to sleep is still pretty normal and not necessarily unhealthy. Good on you for looking to replace some structure, but don't be too hard on yourself if nothing takes for a while.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:51 PM on July 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

posted by k8t at 8:53 PM on July 4, 2012

When I can't sleep, I usually listen to a podcast at a low volume. Not too loud, otherwise I become too engaged with it to sleep, but low enough that I can hear the voices. BBC R4 has a good selection.
posted by arcticseal at 8:54 PM on July 4, 2012

How about an audiobook, maybe of short stories, which you can put on a timer so it doesn't play too long after you fall asleep? I actually prefer to do this with a book I've heard/read before so I don't stay up to hear what happens; my priority is for a top-notch narrator with a great voice. To that end, I recommend:

Harry Potter (either UK or US recording)
Neil Gaiman (a little extra difficulty as they tend to be a little scary, but Coraline and The Graveyard Book are only YA-scary and he narrates in an especially soothing singsongy way)
Jim Herriot's All Creatures Great And Small series (bonus, the stories are all pretty short)

I also keep a couple of old This American Lifes on my work laptop for when I travel. They're not all good for this, but it's pretty easy to identify the ones with fairly light content.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:54 PM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Podcasts or audiobooks put me out. I find my brain engages too much with music, but the talking voices are easy-zzzzzs.
posted by marylynn at 9:02 PM on July 4, 2012

You could play a particular album - once on a business trip I went to bed with Pink Floyd's The Division Bell every night.
posted by Occula at 9:06 PM on July 4, 2012

I have a collection of audiobooks which I've heard many times and know well. I find they offer a good mix of something to interrupt cyclical thoughts so I might sleep, but aren't novel enough to keep me up.
posted by mce at 9:19 PM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I use a hypnosis mp3 for weight loss. They come in all kinds of topics: self confidence, positive thinking, stopping smoking, healing, etc. The one I use is narrated by a soothing Englishman accompanied by quiet music. It puts me right out.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:22 PM on July 4, 2012

Guided meditations are great for this kind of situation. Or a soothing piece of music with no words to follow along with.
posted by pised at 9:30 PM on July 4, 2012

I'm also a fan of podcasts. I have certain podcasts that are for winding down in bed, if I'm too tired for reading, and others that are automatic zzzzzzzzzzzz initiators.

The sad thing, though, is that now that it's routine I will fall asleep listening to the winding down "still definitely awake" podcasts.
posted by Sara C. at 9:30 PM on July 4, 2012

Oh man, I'm sorry. Podcasts are nice, especially with some wispy voiced public radio host, a la Terry Gross or that book cast out of KCRW. You might also have a book of poetry by the bedside, something soothing or gracious. Read a poem every night. Reflect on it as you drift off. Maybe think of it as a healing ritual. When you're done with the book, you've put some distance between yourself and that tough time.
posted by vecchio at 9:32 PM on July 4, 2012

nthing podcasts and audiobooks. Audiobooks should definitely be something you've read before, and yes, Harry Potter is a great idea. The key for podcasts is finding something that's a little boring and not too funny. For example, I love basketball, but I might listen to football podcasts to help me sleep.
posted by acidic at 9:33 PM on July 4, 2012

So, this might sound to you like a beauty ritual, but I really view this as more of a relaxation/self care/meditation practice, so I'm throwing it out there: I would buy some really nice sheets, nice pajamas (if wear them) and some lovely lotion (hand cream, foot cream, etc). Give yourself a foot rub and cuddle into those nice, clean, luxurious sheets. Get a pillow or body pillow to grab onto. Do this all just for you, because you deserve it, not to fill the void of anyone.
posted by retrofitted at 9:41 PM on July 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Sometimes I like to brush my hair in bed as a way to relax and fall asleep. For me, it's not part of a beauty ritual (although I suppose it could be seen that way), but rather a way to have some nice soothing physical touch that makes me feel relaxed and sleepy.
posted by ezrainch at 9:42 PM on July 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Also, a journal of your thoughts and reflections or even of memories/quotes from your family and friends that mean a lot to you. This way, you would still be getting that connection from people in your life that maybe aren't right there physically. I have a document on my computer with quotes from friends/family from when I went through my separation/divorce, and it is still so nice to read through them to remind myself of my strength and support from others.
posted by retrofitted at 9:47 PM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know if the aim is just ritual behavior to dispel the memory of the old ritual or something that will actually help you sleep, but here are some ideas:

- Memorize brief poems you can recite to yourself. Learn each verse while you're wide awake, and repeat them at bedtime until you know a lot of poems.
- Imagine winter in North Dakota or a beach in Puerto Rico or vice versa to dream-like effect.
- Sing yourself a lullaby.
- Reading a novel might wake you up, but what about a page a day from Hegel.
- Talk to a picture of a loved one.
- Look around the room and call things by the wrong name (pillows are oranges, lights are salesmen, the wall is a sentence, etc.).
- I don't know if it counts as physical activity, but stretch minor muscles: flex your hands and feet, massage your temples, etc.
- Count down randomly from 99: 99, 97, 92, 91, 88, 80, ...
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:48 PM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another vote for podcasts. I find that the same episode is good for several nights, because I only really catch the first few minutes before I start to drift. On that note however, be careful who you listen to at night... The side effect for me now is that there are several podcasters whose voices make me sleepy even when that's not the desired outcome.
posted by cgg at 10:06 PM on July 4, 2012

Listen to the Phil Hendrie Show... you will laugh yourself to sleep (or something). Anyway it helps me when I'm way way down.
posted by Kloryne at 10:16 PM on July 4, 2012

Not just a podcast - a boring podcast that you're slightly interested in but don't mind that you keep falling asleep in the middle of. Beware the interesting speaker!
posted by chiquitita at 10:28 PM on July 4, 2012

Get a teddy bear, or at least a cuddly new blanket or body pillow.
posted by radioamy at 10:29 PM on July 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

After you've got into bed, close your eyes and think of three good things that happened that day. Fill your mind with the experience of each one and let the goodness of them be in your mind as you go to sleep.
posted by Kerasia at 10:34 PM on July 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me that you're not struggling with falling asleep, but rather looking for a replacement for saying good night to each other. The only real replacement I've found is saying good night to yourself. Brushing your hair, smoothing on foot cream can be part of it, but it needs to be a bit of a ritual every night. I have used prayer/good energy/happy thoughts -- however you conceive it, while thinking about people I love and who love me. Just briefly, sending a blessing, to a set list with occasional additions. And/or reviewing your day, and finding one thing to be grateful for (and more than once, the best I could do was "I got through the day") and saying thank you, or "i'm grateful." Asking for or hoping for something for the next day: a moment of joy, peace, kindness towards others.

This is such a personal thing it's almost impossible to know what might help you. But basically, just say "good night" to yourself, rather than waiting to fall asleep, or trying to distract yourself.

posted by kestralwing at 10:35 PM on July 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Husbunny and I have a nightly ritual of having "Pride Time" with the cats and watching cartoons. We like The Simpsons, but whatever mindless, show you enjoy will work. It should be something light, no heavy SVU dramas. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, or The Nanny will work. As long as it's a no-brainer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:33 AM on July 5, 2012


One row a day, taking note of the color of the sky when you get up each morning. That way, it sort of brings a closure to the day, and you can't jump ahead to do more because you don't know what color the sky will be tomorrow. (It also has the benefit of metaphor.)

Alternately, since it's super hot, you can make a giant collage, one tiny piece every night, incorporating the color of the sky. Then, put it all together later. You can use different materials, like magazine cutouts or even like, one piece of paper shaded with colored pencil for some of them, or paint. Make a nice box to store them in until you're done?

posted by dysh at 6:55 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Whatever your ritual is, make it portable in case you move homes or travel to unfamiliar places.
posted by lalochezia at 7:09 AM on July 5, 2012

My cat leads me to bed, then jumps on top of me to purr, knead, and gaze into my eyes. You might swing by your local no-kill shelter to see if they have any temporary foster-care cats who seem prone to keep humans company at bedtime. (My cat isn't otherwise cuddlesome, but cats adore rituals and routines.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:53 AM on July 5, 2012

Play a familiar, comfortable movie with a nice soundtrack and no alarming bursts of loudness (the BBC Pride & Prejudice works for me), or put on an audiobook of the same nature - I find the lovely plummy voice of Stephen Fry is a wonderful bedtime companion.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 11:52 AM on July 5, 2012

My partner and I ask each other "What should I dream about?" before we go to sleep, but I do it when I'm by myself, too.

"What should I dream about?"

"I'll dream about a trip to Vermont, nature walks, and swimming in a cool, clear river."
posted by ocherdraco at 12:24 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ira Glass of This American Life has an extremely soporific effect on me. Love the show, but there's something about his voice that always makes me feel calm, safe, relaxed and sleepy.
posted by cior at 12:54 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I lived alone for the first time, the silent house had serious heeby-jeeby potential as I curled up to sleep. So I said goodnight to the dogs. Out loud. Then I kept going and said goodnight to all the things I cared about, like a long personal version of Goodnight Moon. My friends near and far, the stars, the house, my family members etc. I made it a nightly tradition. It puts me in such a cozy good mood thinking of all the things I love before I went to bed.
posted by Grandysaur at 2:15 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have dreadful insomnia when stressed out, which is pretty much all the time. My problem isn't usually falling asleep as much as it's staying asleep, but these are things I've tried.

Recently, I've been spending a few minutes before I go to sleep thinking about what I'm grateful for in my life. Sometimes, they're big things, like "my friend X, who changed my life trajectory" but other times, they're small things, like, "Newcastle Brown Ale is delicious, affordable, and readily available in any supermarket."

Seconding L'Estrange Fruit about the relaxing, familiar movie. Lately, my go-to has been The Big Chill - since (arguably) nothing really happens, it's a nice movie to have on in the background while dozing, plus the soundtrack is pretty great and Kevin Kline's fake North Carolina accent is charmingly terrible.

If I'm really stuck, I recite as much of the Aeneid as I can remember in Latin. Other poems would do as well. Another good one is "The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll: "'The time has come,' the walrus said / 'To talk of many things: / of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, / of cabbages and kings / and why the sea is boiling hot / and whether pigs have wings.'"

A friend of mine thinks about square roots of very large numbers. I think this is gross but maybe it would work for you.

What about listening to a suitable playlist while making and drinking a relaxing hot drink, like chamomile tea? The tea-making process is a nice ritual, and if you dimmed the lights and played quiet music, it could be pretty relaxing.

I'd also recommend buying some new sheets and/or pajamas. Treat yourself to something really nice, maybe something that your former partner wouldn't have liked.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 2:15 PM on July 5, 2012

I light incense before bed every night. It smells nice and signals "time for sleep".
posted by threeants at 4:05 PM on July 6, 2012

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