There is nothing like getting a good night’s sleep, and part of being able to sleep well is learning how to relax before bedtime. I recently wasn't sleeping well and asked my doctor for advice; she said that it is really important to take time to relax before bedtime so that our bodies have time to wind down. She used the example how children have a bath, story-time and get ready for the night ahead, and that we adults really should be doing the same… story time is optional of course! Here are 9 techniques that I have started to practice to relax before bedtime.
1. Switch It off
Scientist's research at the American Institutions of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that the use of mobile phones, TV's and computers before bedtime can significantly affect the body’s clock and contribute to lack of sleep. Up until recently my night-time ritual consisted of shutting down my laptop, pushing it onto the bedside cabinet and then rolling over to sleep. I now make a conscious effort to be technology free for at least one hour leading up to bed time.
2. Cut It out
It sounds like a no-brainer, but be mindful of what you are eating before bed. After eating enough chocolate gold coins to open a bank the other night, I lay wide eyed and bushy tailed wondering why on earth I wasn't sleeping. Stay clear of foods high in sugar and opt for foods such as fish, rice, whole grains and a comforting glass of warm milk every now and then.
I tend to shower in the morning as it wakes me up and is invigorating, whereas a bath has the opposite effect. If you are having trouble nodding off at night run yourself a bubble bath and have a soak for 15-20 minutes. Let it be about just laying there and feeling your muscles relax as you make a conscious effort to clear your head and prepare for a fabulous night's sleep.
4. Book Worm
There’s nothing like a good reading session to have you set for sleep. An age old way to relax before bedtime is to get tucked up in bed and read for a while. In these times reading is almost becoming a leisurely activity only reserved for holidays or the commute into work, but taking the time to read will not only help you relax but ensure that you are having some ‘me time’ every night.
5. No More Lists
Until recently I would be lay in bed running through my ‘to do list’ in my head and blindly writing anything down I would have forgotten on a note pad next to me. This is hardly conducive to relaxing as your brain is continuing to run at one thousand miles an hour regardless of whether or not you are tucked up in bed in your Charlie Brown flannel PJs or not. Ditch the lists and get whatever tasks you have to do done at least an hour before its time to catch some Zzz's.
Still on the mind racing theme, I often find that my body may be tired but my head is acting like a three year old who has been injected with insulin and dunked in chocolate sauce. To relax before bedtime try some simple breathing exercises to calm your mind. You can count your breaths for example, counting one exhale, one inhale, two exhales and two inhales for example. Or you can simply take 10-15 deep breaths whilst focusing on your tummy expanding on your inhale and your body relaxing on the exhale. I often start these and then pass out before I know it, hence why I have been caught out snoring in not one, but three meditation classes.
7. Snooze Worthy Songs
An exception to the no technology rule is listening to relaxing music. I am talking about something easy on the ears which stays pretty even the whole way throughout so you won’t be jolted awake by the bit in the song where the drummer goes nuts and brings the house down. My personal favorite is Nick Drake but you may prefer something without words at all.
8. Write the Day off
Keeping a daily journal is great for your over all health and well being. It is a great way to take stock and run over and reflect on the days events. To relax before bedtime take time to write even just for 15-20 minutes about your day and how you are feeling. Heading to bed knowing that you have gone over your day and ‘closed the book on it’ so to speak, sets you up for a wonderful nights sleep and sends you into the next day with your best foot forward.
I have found that one of the key factors that sets me up for a great night's sleep and truly relaxes me before bedtime is having a night time routine. I am now conscious that an hour before bed is my wind down time and that everything I do is relaxing, gentle and peaceful. I enjoy having a bath, reading a couple of chapters and running through my breathing exercises. Simply making the time for me is a treat in itself, one that I indulge in every night!
It may seem like a luxury to develop your own little night-time routine, but considering that a good nights sleep is a key component to your overall health and well being, it would pay to do all you can to ensure you are relaxed enough to sleep at night. What does your night time routine consist of and how do you make sure you are relaxed before bedtime?