Everyone knows it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re riled up. When your heart is racing, your blood is pumping quickly and your mind is active and engaged, you’re bound to have a tough time settling down and falling into peaceful slumber.
Unfortunately, in our “always-on” world of today, too many of us attempt to hop into bed immediately after doing something stimulating or stressful, which results in poor sleep. In order to potentially alleviate your bedtime woes, and subsequently reduce stress during the day, you must take time each night to relax and unwind.
Relaxation may be the key to solving insomnia
Insomnia is much more common than most people think, and it can have some disastrous effects on your physical and mental health.
Without adequate sleep, the body is unable to heal effectively, the brain is unable to recharge, and focus, memory and cognition can be impaired. Mental health is also affected, with insomnia being linked to higher stress and an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Part of the reason so many people can’t sleep at night is because they aren’t taking time to unwind before heading to bed. Studies show that relaxation is imperative for sleep, and the same techniques you use to get ready for bed can also help you alleviate stress (which also has benefits for sleep!).
The best way to do this is to make relaxation a part of your nightly routine. Ideally, you should spend an hour each night focusing on the self—allowing yourself to unwind and become calm. While everyone’s relaxation routine may be different based on personal preferences, here are some ideas to help you get started.
- Take a bath: Taking a calming bath or steamy shower before bed can help you shed the stressors of your day by relaxing tense muscles and helping you feel clean and refreshed. Baths, in particular, are great for relaxation, because you can utilize essential oils, bath bombs and other additives for a heightened experience filled with calming aromas and soothing water. This strategy also raises your body temperature artificially, causing a sudden drop when you get out, which can help trigger sleepiness.
- Do yoga or meditate: Mindfulness is a key part of relaxation and allows you to center your thoughts and focus on your breathing. Stationary meditation, whether self-guided or directed by an app or audio, can help you wind down, slow your breath and clear your mind. Gentle exercise like yoga can also help you stretch while breathing and focusing.
- Prepare for the next day: When your mind is racing, sometimes what you need is to “brain dump” and get everything that could be stressing you out onto paper so you’re prepared for the next day. Take 10 minutes to make a to-do list or jot down notes so you’ll remember your ideas late and can focus on sleep now.
- Journal and reflect: Taking time to journal about your day and reflect is another great way to wind down and express your thoughts, ideas, stressors and anxieties in an attempt to get them out of your head. Writing is often relaxing and easy to do a few minutes before heading to sleep.
- Read a book: If you’re looking for a more interesting activity, reading a book can be engaging without making you stare at a screen. Many people find that reading before bed is a good way to disconnect from real-life stressors while winding down.
The important parts of pre-bedtime relaxation are focusing on it entirely and making it part of a daily routine. Avoid rushing through these activities, or they will be of little use in your goal of winding down.
Avoid stimulation before bed for more peaceful slumber
Generally, it’s important to avoid stimulating activities before heading to bed to give your mind and body time to relax. This means stopping stressful activities, like working or watching intense TV shows, at least an hour before bedtime. You should also avoid intense exercise during this time.
Finally, be sure to turn off electronic devices before going to sleep. Electronics give off blue light, which can disrupt the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that triggers sleepiness. Without proper melatonin production, you may find it harder to fall or stay asleep.
Electronic usage can also be tough to stop, meaning you go to bed later than you intended, and can be highly stimulating.
Overall, your focus before bedtime should be on winding down and preparing your body and mind for sleep. The more you focus on implementing and maintaining a consistent bedtime ritual, the easier it will be for you to relax, sleep better and reduce stress each day.