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From Journaling to Inhaling Flower Essence: Sara Jane Ho’s Perfectly Refined Bedtime Routine

On clearing mental clutter after a chaotic day:

I have busy and intense work days, so I am often working overtime or thinking about work up until bedtime. Every night, I wrap up by writing a new To Do list on scrap paper for the next day. I have two columns: To Do on the left (usually important and urgent, or urgent), and on the right I have a column for items that are important but not urgent. It helps me mentally check in on my progress for the day, and what else needs to be done. I have great satisfaction crossing out the items that I’ve completed!

In putting down any remaining thoughts or goals down on paper, I’ve cleared my head for the night, and can relax knowing I can start the next day with focus. My mother forced me to do this when I was 7—and I’m so glad she did because it keeps me organized and has become a lifelong habit! 

One Line a Day: A Five Year Memory Book ($15)

After this, I write in my journal. I use a “One Line a Day: A Five Year Memory Book” little blue journal. I discovered this book in a charming boutique in Harvard Square in Boston when I was studying at Harvard Business School and have also gifted it to some of my best friends. There are 365 pages for each day of the year, and every page is separated into 5 years. So say on May 17, when you are filling in your diary entry, you can see what you did on the same day up to five years ago. It makes for great reflection. 

My most straightforward bedtime ritual:

I like to clean and pamper my body but in a simple and no-fuss way before bed. I shower and have a consistent skincare and oral hygiene routine before bed. No matter how late I come home, I never skip a step. And I finish it off in bed by slathering L’Occitane hand cream on my hands, elbows, and feet. It’s the best cream in the world.

On generational wisdom:

My mother always told me, “How you look now is a result of how you’ve lived the past 10 years of your life.” Beauty and wellness are preventative. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you wearing SPF? Are you staying hydrated? All these things will affect how you look 10 years later.

Pak Fa Yau Analgesic Balm ($16)

One particular ritual I’ve adopted as my own is that I rub Pak Fa Yau (White Flower Oil) under my nose. It’s funny because it’s generally used as a sharp, eucalyptus-smelling remedy to wake you up, but it helps me focus on deep breathing so I can relax. When I was a little girl in Hong Kong, I watched my mother rub this under her nose multiple times a day, and I incorporated it into my sleep routine a few years ago.

I also incorporate a foot soak in warm water and Chinese herbs twice a week before bed. It increases blood circulation and helps my muscles to relax before sleep—the water should not be too hot or it will over-activate your blood circulation and have the opposite effect. I often have cold feet and cold hands so this helps to improve my qi and keep me warm. In the winter I will sleep with socks on. You always want to keep your body and feet warm in TCM.

Skincare is non-negotiable: 

I have a simple skincare routine before bedtime but it is very disciplined and I never go a night without it. Some steps I do as soon as I'm home if I'm staying in for the rest of the night, like removing any makeup, cleansing my face and neck, and applying toner and a light serum. Every few days I'll apply a mask after cleanser—I like to discover and try new ones. Then a few hours later at bedtime, I will simply use toner again, followed by serum and then a thick moisturizing cream that can last through the night. Sometimes I'll even use an overnight mask.

The finishing touch of every nighttime (and morning) skincare routine of mine is lip balm, to keep my lips soft, moisturized, and presentable.

On the key to a good night’s sleep, no matter where I am:

Two words: Blackout curtains.  In my twenties, I would lie down and fall asleep on anything. Now it’s harder, and I am more particular with my environment.

When I travel, I wear a soft silky eye mask to sleep because I am very sensitive to light. My eye mask is black to help block any pesky light that tries to find its way. And I bring earplugs.

The very last thing before bed:

I put on my Hawley retainer. I’ve done that every single night since my braces came off when I was 14 because I want to keep my teeth in place. That’s well over 20 years. It’s always a little awkward when you start dating someone and see their reaction to you wearing retainers because you look like you’re 12 again. I knew my husband was the one when he leaned in to full-on French kiss me while I was wearing my retainer! 

Thanks to my parents, I am very disciplined about oral hygiene since I was a little girl. For as long as I’ve had teeth, I have flossed every night.

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From Journaling to Inhaling Flower Essence: Sara Jane Ho’s Perfectly Refined Bedtime Routine
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