For many people, the thought of spending an hour tossing and turning before falling asleep is a nightly worry. You may be tired all day long, but when it finally comes time to go to bed, your brain just speeds up and starts analyzing all of the stresses in your life. Then, you start to worry about not sleeping enough to function properly the next day, and the vicious cycle takes over!
Unfortunately, there’s no single “button” you can push to stop this cycle. There are, however, some steps you can take to get your mind in the right place by bedtime.
Create a Relaxing Environment
Before you even think about settling down for a good night’s sleep, you should look at any way you can make your bedroom a better environment for sleep. The room should be as dark and quiet as possible.
A welcoming and comfortable bed is a great place to start. Blackout shades can be a good way to block any lights outside from entering the room. If you live in a noisy area, you should look into white noise machines or the use of calming music to reduce distractions.
You can use lavender scents to relax your body, decrease your blood pressure and calm your mood. Also, the National Sleep Foundation recommends a cool room (about 65 degrees) to help you fall asleep faster.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Physical exercise is a well-known and very effective way to reduce stress. Participating in a physical activity on a daily basis should help you fall asleep faster.
However, you should always do your exercise early in the day. Exercise within 6 hours of bedtime can actually make falling asleep more difficult!
Make a List of Your Worries
Take about 15 minutes out of your day to write down your stresses and what you’re doing to overcome them. If you have trouble getting started, ask yourself what things are typically coming to your mind while you lay in bed at night.
Since you’ve already dealt with these issues earlier in the day, the list will help you push them out of your mind when you’re in bed. This exercise provides a general feeling of relief. Try to make your list well before bedtime so that you create enough separation between these thoughts and falling asleep.
Take a Hot Shower or Bath
A hot shower or bath can go a long ways toward relaxing your body and mind. Not only will the water “wash away the day’s worries,” studies have shown that the hot temperature plays a major role in sleep preparation.
Turn-Off All Your Electronics
We love our electronics, but they can be a major problem for those struggling to fall asleep. Whether it’s your phone, tablet, computer or television, the lights from these screens stimulates our brain and keeps it active for long periods of time. Try turning-off all your electronics an hour or more before your bedtime.
Put on Warm Comfy Socks
According to a Swiss study published in Nature, keeping your extremities warm is a major factor in falling asleep quickly. When your feet are warm, your blood vessels remain wide open and allow blood to flow properly from your core to your toes. This helps to cool your body and increase melatonin for good sleep.
Read a Book
Reading is a well-proven relaxation method. Research shows that it can decrease stress levels by as much as 68 percent, so a good book can really help you wind down before bed.
When reading, make sure that you avoid any white/blue lights. Stick to the more traditional “warm” lighting. This type of lighting helps to convince your brain that it is late in the day.
Some doctor’s also recommend that you avoid actually reading in bed. You can read in a lounge chair in your bedroom, but it may be best to leave your bed for sleep alone.
Set and Follow a Regular Sleep Schedule
Most doctors agree that the true key to quality sleep revolves around a solid sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day helps to align your body’s internal clock with your patterns.
While it may not be “fun” to follow a strict bedtime, it will pay big dividends when helping you fall asleep faster!
Mental Relaxation Exercises
If you’re still struggling to fall asleep in bed, you should keep your mind occupied with mental relaxation exercises. Simply distracting your mind from your normal stresses can be a major help.
These exercises can be as simple as thinking about foods that start with the same letter. You can also try to focus your mind on the specific details of a given object (like its color, size, shape and what it’s used for).
Visualization exercises are another great way to relax your mind while in bed. Just visualize your “happy place.” This should be a place that makes you feel calm and comfortable. For example, this could be an inspiring beach at sunset, a serene waterfall, or warm fire under the stars.
Physical Relaxation Exercises
There are also several well-known physical exercises you can try while lying in bed. Progressive muscle relaxation may be most common, and it has been around for almost a century.
Start by lying on your back and focusing all your attention on your body. Beginning with your feet, start gently tightening and releasing each muscle group all the way to the top of your head. You should hold each muscle in the tight position for about five seconds before releasing it. Try to feel the difference between each muscle group as it is tightened and relaxed.
Remember, sleep is extremely important to your quality of life! It helps you to be at your best and stay healthy. Even if you have to give up some late-night binge-watching fun in favor of a sleep routine, it will be well worth it!