How To Use the ‘Sleep Arc’ To Create a Bedtime Ritual That Primes You for Better Sleep

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Photo: Getty Images/Antonio Guillem
This isn’t your standard New Year’s plan. No restrictive diets, no weekly weigh-ins, no “whole new you” for this new year—because, hey, you’re pretty great already. These four expert-led plans—designed to help you move your body, eat more veggies, get a better night’s sleep, or show yourself some loving care—are all about developing healthy habits that better align with your goals.

For a great many Americans who have spent the majority of 2020 in quarantine, their relationship to their bed has evolved. It could be because in addition to being a place for sleep, the bed has evolved into a home office (me, working right now) or an any-hour-of-the-day masturbation sanctuary (also me, as soon as I finish working). But unfortunately, this bed-volution doesn't automatically translate to better sleep. Maybe that's because we need to think beyond the bed—specifically how it's come to play into our waking hours—to consider whether we each have a solid bedtime routine. During a recent Well+Good TALK, which centered on the home becoming the setting of our entire wellness world in quarantine, Casper co-founder and chief strategy officer Neil Parikh shared how optimizing your sleep in this landscape can be as easy as examining how the time, space, and activities look in the time leading up to you hitting the hay.

"People are having to think about, 'Do you really want to multipurpose things? Can you do shifts in how the room works? Or do you actually want to single-purpose things and have certain things that are specifically just for that purpose?'" Parikh asked during the virtual panel event.

Essentially, even in a world where we're using the spaces we have in many new and evolved ways, we can still be mindful of how and when we're using each space. Because, as Parikh points out, doing everything at once—especially in bed—can be bad news for sleep quality. A solution? Being mindful of the "sleep arc," or the journey toward "winding down" for sleep.

The sleep arc refers to the preamble to sleep—whatever leads up to snoozing, whether that's reading a book, lighting a candle, or scrolling through headlines. Thinking about your whole pre-bedtime ritual forces you to examine what components might be disruptive to your sleep arc.

"A lot of people will drift asleep, and then realize, 'Well, I want to now brush my teeth before I go to sleep.' Then you go into your bathroom and turn on the bright lights…it's reversing the cycle of drifting asleep." — Neil Parikh, Casper co-founder and chief strategy officer

For example, even the timing of when you brush your teeth can cog the gears of your sleep arc. "A lot of people will drift asleep, and then realize, 'Well, I want to now brush my teeth before I go to sleep,'" says Parikh. "Then you go into your bathroom and turn on the bright lights. You're actually waking yourself back up and then you're probably going to have a mint toothpaste, which is going to get you even more energized. So it's reversing the cycle of drifting asleep."

And that's obviously counterproductive to sleep goals. So, after considering your sleep arc and identifying what might be impacting your ability to drift off soundly, ask yourself, "How do I create a space and a vibe that supports falling asleep? How can I create a ritual or a routine that supports falling asleep?" You might find that simple shifts like clearing clutter off your bed helps or swapping your nighttime glass of wine for tea, or just keeping your phone out of reach, might make a big difference.

After all, there's a reason why we use the term "drift" to sleep instead of "crash land" or "take a multi-stop Amtrak train." It's because the sleep arc, the journey before you land in bed, is supposed to be peaceful. So find your peace to help guarantee you get a happy ending (especially if masturbation is part of that bedtime routine).

Want to learn more about how wellness became our wellness centers during quarantine? Watch the full recording of the panel here.

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