Do you find it hard to relax at the end of a long day? Are you one of those people that tosses and turns all night long, worrying and stressing over situations in your life?
Do you wake up too tired and too grouchy to prepare a healthy breakfast, so you reach for a sugar-filled, caffeine-laden pick-me-up instead, even though you know it’s not the healthiest way to start the day?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just sink into a nice, restful slumber and wake up refreshed and ready to conquer your day? It may be that you simply need to de-stress before you go to bed.
The following tips will help you relax before you go to bed, so you can go to sleep naturally and start each and every day at your fullest potential.
1. Develop a Regular Bedtime
Most people live a very regular existence. They go to work at the same time, eat lunch and dinner about the same time, and have several consistent daily routines. When you go to bed and awaken at the same time consistently, you program your internal clock to shut down your busy brain and wake up on a given schedule. This relaxes you by putting your sleep pattern on autopilot, instead of you anxiously trying to force yourself to sleep.
2. Create a Bedtime Routine
Develop a regular set of pre-sleep activities. This will let your brain know it is time to start shutting down. This means limiting stressful thoughts and outward influences before bedtime. This is how you “wind down” before you hit the hay. Turn off the computers and the televisions. You might read each night before going to bed, or take a bath and set out tomorrow’s outfit, let the dog out one last time for the day, and call your mom or your kids to say goodnight.
3. Exercise a Couple of Hours Before Bed
Exercise and other forms of physical exertion will generally give you a boost of energy. But sometime later, your body will tell you that you need to rest and recuperate. Exercising in the evening, 2-to-3 hours before you go to bed, signals your brain for rest and recovery, rather than a stressful “how will I go to sleep” mentality. You might do a heavy workout in the weight room or an aerobic dance class a few hours before bedtime, or you might do some gentle stretching, or yoga, a half-hour before bedtime. The trick is to experiment and find the right kind of exercise, and the right time to do it, for your body.
4. Start Counting Sheep … Seriously!
There is a sound reason the sheep counting strategy works to help you go to sleep. What you are actually doing is replacing stressful and worrisome thoughts with a simple and boring, repetitive mental exercise.
You can accomplish the same by thinking of objects or foods whose names start with each letter of the alphabet. Your brain will only be focusing on one thing at a time – in this instance a simple mental exercise instead of stress and anxiety.
5. Enjoy a Moment of Gratitude
Right before you crawl into bed, think about all the reasons you have to be grateful. It is hard to be anxious and stressed out when you realize you have so many things to be thankful for. Doing this right before bed implants positive thoughts on your night-time brain.
Mindful meditation focuses on the present moment. You want to concentrate on your breathing and your present state of existence. This allows no room for focusing on past problems or future issues which have yet to arrive. Lifelong practitioners of meditation can even slow down their heart rate and fall to sleep quickly, enjoying a healthy night’s rest.
7. Free Your Bedroom of Distractions
Ideally, the place where you sleep should have minimal possessions. This is especially true regarding consumer electronics, cell phones, MP3 players and the like. The fewer pieces of furniture in your bedroom the better. As you are preparing for bed, your mind unconsciously takes in all of the distractions and objects in your environment. This can negatively affect your ability to fall asleep, creating more stress in the process. You want your bedroom to be an oasis of calm, so you will be calm when you are in there.
8. Read Before Going to Bed
Reading a good novel is a great way to take your mind off whatever is bothering you. You’ll get involved in someone else’s life. You can also try reading something super boring! If you read in bed, read until you can no longer keep your eyes open or hold your book up. Lay down the book, switch off the light, and drift off into slumber land. If you consistently read for 1 hour before bedtime, your brain will eventually recognize that 60 minutes of reading in the evening is a signal that sleep is approaching.
9. Take a Relaxing Bath Before Bed
I personally swear by Epson salt and lavender oil bathes. The magnesium in the salts soaks into your skin and relaxes tight, sore muscles; and the lavender oil – well, the first time I used it in my bath, my stress disappeared so completely, it was like I was a kid again. Use the oil in your bath, or sprinkle a few drops on your pillow or the front of your pajamas to receive the benefit of smelling it all night long.
10. Find Your Own Personal Way to Relax and Unwind
I have a friend who says nothing relaxes her like watching Beavis and Butthead. She says they are so silly and it makes her laugh and forget about everything that is bothering her. Another friend likes to relax by taking a walk around the block at dusk. She says the day is winding down at that time, and being out in nature helps her to unwind. too. And still another likes to put on old Barbra Streisand records and sing along. Whatever your way of relaxing is, doing it regularly will help you forget your stress and get the restorative sleep that you need.