It’s late in the evening. You’re tired but feeling too stressed and wound up to fall asleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for your mental and physical health, yet stress often gets in the way. Don’t toss and turn all night – there are many effective ways to relax and de-stress before bed so you can get the rest your body needs.
Limit Screen Time
Screens emit blue light that inhibits the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Avoid bright screens for at least an hour before bedtime – no TV, smartphone, computer or tablet screens. Dim your devices, use night mode settings or blue light blocking glasses. Read an actual book or magazine instead of digital media. The soothing activity helps calm your mind.
Take a Warm Bath
A warm bath elevates your body temperature, which precipitates a drop in temperature as you get out, a signal for your body that it’s time for bed. Add Epsom salts or essential oils like lavender, both known for their relaxing properties. Light some candles to set the mood. The dim lighting cues your brain to wind down. Let the comforting water soothe away stress.
Practice Deep Breathing
When you feel anxious, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths, which activates your sympathetic nervous system, making you feel keyed up. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing triggers the opposing parasympathetic nervous system, inducing calm. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, directing the air into your belly. Exhale gently through pursed lips. Repeat for a few minutes until your heart rate drops.
Listen to Soothing Music
Try ambient or classical music without lyrics or a steadily-paced beat, or use a white noise machine. Songs with over 60 beats per minute can energize you, while slower-paced songs promote mental and physical relaxation. Natural sounds like ocean waves, rainfall or nature sounds are also wonderfully calming. The predictability is soothing. Play relaxing tunes to quiet your mind.
Sip Herbal Tea
Try sipping a cup of herbal tea, like chamomile. Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to specific receptors in your brain that reduces anxiety and initiates sleepiness. Other calming herbal teas include lavender, passionflower, valerian root and magnolia bark. Inhale the aroma as you sip – that too helps you unwind.
Do Gentle Stretches
Don’t exercise intensely before bed, as that releases endorphins which are energizing. But doing gentle stretches increases blood flow to tense muscles, releases tightness, aids relaxation and clears your mind. Try easy yoga poses like child’s pose or legs up the wall, or neck rolls and shoulder stretches. Relieve stress and loosen up.
Write Down Thoughts
If your mind is racing, dump all those thoughts onto paper. Getting them out of your head diffuses worry and stress. Maintain a pad and pen by your bedside. Or, keep a journal where you can write as little or as much as you want. Expressing your feelings is therapeutic. Write away your anxiety so you can fall asleep more calmly.
Use Essential Oils
Certain essential oils are naturally soothing. Try diffusing lavender or roman chamomile oil in your room. You can add oil drops to your bath, dab on your temples and wrists, or inhale directly from the bottle. Inhaling lavender stimulates alpha waves in your brain which induce relaxation and prepare your body for sleep. Its scent is powerfully calming.
Cuddle Up With Your Partner
Science confirms that hugs from your partner lower stress by releasing oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Hold each other close in bed as you wind down together. Feel your partner’s calming touch. Express your affection. Couples who frequently show physical intimacy tend to sleep better. A partner’s embrace is one of the most comforting things.
The lead up to bedtime presents the perfect opportunity to slow down, de-stress and prime your body for much-needed sleep. Set aside time for relaxation so you can drift off peacefully. Implement these unwinding rituals into your evening routine and say goodnight to stress.