How to Relax Your Body and Mind for Sleep
Sometimes, life gets pretty full-on, and the need to cope can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get sucked into pressures from the various aspects of our lives. Consequently, you might find it difficult to rest at night because you don’t know how to relax before bed when stressed.
For many people, bedtime is more like a nightmare. It’s as though the brain becomes more alert than it has been all day. Perhaps you feel anxious, and your thoughts begin to race. Or perhaps your mind wanders. Does that sound like you?
The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep to function well. While the human body can make up for one or two hours of sleep deficiency once in a while, getting just a few hours of sleep will make the next day miserable. Compound the effect day after day, and it gets worse.
When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline). If this continues unchecked, your tissues and organs work harder, and you feel worn out. Many of the factors that affect your quality of life (headaches, digestive problems, and sleep difficulties) are caused by protracted stress. That’s why the key to better sleep is learning to relax.
So in this guide, you will learn why it’s important to relax, and how you can quieten your thoughts and sleep well.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Why Relaxation is Important for Better Sleep
- 1.1 How to Relax for Sleep Tips
- 1.1.1 1. Have a Regular Sleep Schedule
- 1.1.2 2. Create a Before-Bedtime Routine
- 1.1.3 3. Use Bed Only for Sleep and Intimacy
- 1.1.4 4. Create An Optimal Sleeping Environment
- 1.1.5 5. Listen To Music
- 1.1.6 6. Sleep Relaxation Techniques
- 1.1.7 7. Start a Worry Journal
- 1.1.8 8. Sleep Relaxation Hypnosis
- 1.1.9 9. Participate in Physical Exercise
- 1.2 What Should I Do?
- 1.1 How to Relax for Sleep Tips
Why Relaxation is Important for Better Sleep
Juggling jobs, school work, family and social activities can put you under an incredible amount of stress. While all of these are important, you also need to make time in your schedule to unwind and do nothing but relax.
Here are some reasons why relaxing is important.:
- Protects your heart: Studies have shown that stress can cause high blood pressure and heart-related problems like hypertension, strokes, etc. When you relax, you reduce the risk of heart problems because your heart can catch a break.
- Keeps away depression: When you are stressed at work, you have a high tendency to be depressed. Relaxing helps calm your nerves and keep you in a stable state of mind which minimizes the risk of depression.
- Improves your skin: Acne is a worrisome problem for many adults. Surprisingly, it’s a less known fact that stress can lead to skin breakouts and other skin-related issues. By relaxing, your skin gets some time to recover from stress.
- Enhances your mood: When you’re stressed, it’s easy for everything to irritate you because you have a low tolerance for others. Stress makes everything look bleak. Want to have your real personality back? The best way is to give yourself a little extra time to relax and unwind. It will help get your mind and emotions back on track.
- Helps you to sleep: Last but not least, relaxing is a necessary activity your body needs to refresh and refuel, which in turn will help you sleep. If you’re having a hard time getting a good night rest because your mind is active, relaxing can help improve your sleep.
How to Relax for Sleep Tips
So, here are our top tips on how to relax before bed. Let’s take a look.
1. Have a Regular Sleep Schedule
Most of us understand the importance of getting at least seven hours of sleep to remain healthy. But while many people focus on how to sleep longer and better, they pay little attention to maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Although getting adequate sleep when you can is vital, having a sleep schedule in the long term is also important.
You, like every other person, have an internal scheduler called the circadian clock. In theory, it makes it easy for you to fall asleep at night and wake up the next morning. When you change the time you sleep and wake up, you throw your sleep pattern out its rhythm. This is why you feel groggy and out-of-sorts the next morning.
Once you alter your circadian clock, it becomes harder to fall asleep or wake up at the right times again. To reset your internal scheduler, you have to stick to a definite bedtime routine. This will help you send signals to your body to slow down and prep for sleep.
Your circadian clock is sensitive to light and darkness. Try to dim the lights at night as it makes it easy for your body to fall asleep. E-readers, cellphones, and other devices make your brain too alert to sleep. So go ahead and turn your brain off at night by switching off your devices.
Likewise, lights can also help your body if you have a hard time waking in the morning. Getting a dose of natural light in the morning can help you to wake up. Open your curtains to let sunlight into your bedroom or take a walk in the sunlight to cue your brain to start the day.
2. Create a Before-Bedtime Routine
Our bodies are wired to work with routines. Creating a routine to wind down is an invaluable method of shutting down your brain at night. A sleep routine for new parents is vital. It’s difficult for your brain to suddenly shut down when it’s still on the go before bedtime. If your mind is filled with plans, worrying thoughts, and imaginations, there’s very little chance that you would get your much-needed sleep.
You have to let your body know the difference between the daytime and bedtime. How can you do that? By making a bedtime routine! The human body desires routine and likes to know what’s coming. When you create a set of bedtime activities, your body can easily connect those activities to sleep.
For instance, if you listen to music before going to bed, your body establishes a clear connection between listening to music and sleep. If you read before bed every night, your body recognizes that reading signals sleep time. If you love watching a particular program on TV, your body knows it is sleep time to slow down and relax.
Creating a bedtime ritual is quite easy. You just need to ensure that whatever activities you pick help you to relax. For example, your choice of music has to be soothing rather than have a fast tempo. If you’re watching the TV, settle for a relaxing program instead of action movies, horror movies or even news.
In addition, the timing is important. It is advisable that you set aside 30 minutes or one hour for your bedtime routine so your body can relax and wind down for sleep.
3. Use Bed Only for Sleep and Intimacy
Many people like to do things before they fall asleep such as surfing the web, playing games on their smartphones, reading a book etc. The problem is that while they do this in bed, their body associates the bed with alertness. So when they want to sleep, it’s difficult for them too because their mind is still active.
If you’ve been using your bed for other activities other than sleep and intimacy, it could be the reason why you are having a hard time falling asleep. To solve this problem, you must create a clear association between your bed and sleep.
Stop making phone calls, sending emails, watching TV or using your computer in bed. You want to make your bed a place of relaxation and not a substitute work desk. It’s still okay to work in your bedroom but just not your bed. Keep your bed free of activities that can stimulate your brain instead of relaxing you.
In addition, make sure that you pick the right mattress if you want to enjoy your sleep. While you may think this doesn’t count, studies have shown that it really does. If your aim is relaxation and good sleep, you want to get a bed and pillows that are made of breathable, hypoallergenic materials. You have to also pay attention to the firmness and size as they contribute to the duration and quality of sleep you would have.
4. Create An Optimal Sleeping Environment
Creating the right environment for sleep makes it easy for your body to wind down at bedtime. There are several things you can do. For instance, a dark room is vital as the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is light sensitive. You may want to turn off all the lights in your room at night. If you live in a city with lots of lights outside your window, you should consider buying a blackout lining for your curtains or buying a sleep mask.
Furthermore, the temperature of your bedroom counts. If your bedroom is hot, it makes it hard for your core temperature to drop. The human body drops to its lowest temperature during sleep. So if you want to fall asleep faster and sleep longer, keeping your bedroom cool is not an option. An optimum temperature for sleep is around 64-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep your windows open and consider using an oscillating fan to ensure good air circulation.
If you can hear noise in your bedroom either from voices outside or cars, this can make your sleep environment worse. While you may not be able to stop the noise, you can cover it up with a calm, ambient sound. White noise generators are perfect to block out noises like these.
5. Listen To Music
You may have heard that music can help you relax before bed when stressed. A study conducted in 2012 found out that listening to music before bed can be used as a treatment for insomnia in patients suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Other people believe that listening to music makes them stay awake, and they are not wrong either. Other studies by researchers have shown that playing certain kinds of music before bed can increase your heart rate and even arousal which can result in wakefulness.
So how can you relax and sleep better by leveraging music? The answer lies in the type of music you listen to before bed. The music could be any genre but it should have a regular rhythm, low pitch, and peaceful melodies. You can pick familiar songs or even listen to jazz, classical and folk music. The music should have a rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute to put you at ease—nothing too fast-paced.
You may wonder how helpful this is. A study discovered that 45 minutes of music before bed for three weeks helped the participants fall asleep easily, sleep longer and improve their quality of sleep. Further studies of 500 participants have also shown that listening to relaxation music for sleep eased acute or chronic sleep disorders like insomnia.
Alternatively, you could try using earplugs instead of listening to music. Again, this helps you block out unwanted noise, and can help you sleep through minor disturbances.
6. Sleep Relaxation Techniques
There are many relaxation techniques that can help you relax and get your body primed for sleep. Some of these exercises help calm your racing mind while others help you actively release tension before bed so you can fall asleep faster.
You can try the relaxation techniques below before bedtime:
- Autogenic training: Though not well-known, this exercise is an effective method for reducing stress before bed. To do this, you must focus your mind on cultivating sensations of warmth and heaviness in different parts of your body. You can achieve this by using your visual and verbal faculties to relax physically and mentally.
- Breathing techniques: Breathing deeply is an ancient way of clearing tension and stress from the body. There are several types of breathing exercises but the most popular is the “4-7-8” breathing technique. To do this exercise, inhale for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds and exhale slowly for eight seconds. You can repeat this exercise several times to nudge your body and mind to fall asleep.
- Guided imagery: Ever imagined a type of meal and your mouth watered? That’s the power of guided imagery. Guided imagery is a mental exercise where you engage all your senses in a focused session of imagination. For instance, you can embark on a soothing image journey such as imagining floating calmly on a peaceful ocean. It may be visualizations or targeted imaginative scripts. Pick whatever works for you.
7. Start a Worry Journal
Anxiety and stress have a complicated relationship. For example, you go to bed but you can’t seem to fall asleep because you’re concerned about something. You have no idea how long it might take your mind to let go of that worry. You might even wake up in the middle of the night and pick up where you stopped worrying. Then, the fact that you can’t seem to sleep gets you worrying even more.
The next night, you’re already worrying that last night will play out again even before it’s bedtime. Before you know it, your body conditions itself not to sleep at night but fret about every little problem instead. What began as a little inconvenience has now spiraled into a chronic sleep problem. Does this sound familiar?
If you have a problem falling asleep, here’s how to switch off your brain at night: keep a worry journal. This may seem simple but it has proven to be an effective way of getting your brain to wind down. For about 15-20 minutes a day, write down all what has crossed your mind and what you’re doing about it. You can also make a list of the things that come to your mind at night. Then think about how you can resolve them and make the first step towards it.
By journaling, you would be prepared to sleep even before you head to bed. If a thought comes to your mind, you can mentally check it off. You’d know you’re dealing with it or even dealt with it already.
8. Sleep Relaxation Hypnosis
Hypnosis may conjure up images of magic tricks, and people who are performing on a stage while in a trance. But this is not all there is to hypnosis. The reality is that hypnosis has proven over the years to be a helpful tool for battling insomnia.
If you are battling with falling asleep, hypnotherapy may just be the solution you need to try out. It will quieten your mind by letting go of the anxiety and make your body relax. It has also proven to increase the amount of sleep you can get by as much as 80%.
So how does sleep relaxation hypnosis work? It’s simply done by listening to verbal cues from a hypnotherapist who guides the session. The hypnotherapist first puts you in a state of trance to increase your mind’s receptivity to new suggestions. The session typically involves a soft, soothing voice telling you to “relax”, and “let go.”
After the session or while it’s still ongoing, you might drift to sleep. Doctors, nurses, and psychotherapists make use of hypnotherapy to help their patients. However, you can also experience hypnosis by using self-hypnosis at bedtime. One of the easiest ways of using self-hypnosis is to download audio or app online.
9. Participate in Physical Exercise
Ever heard the saying: “exercise is good for sleep”? It’s true and has been shown by various studies. A poll was conducted recently by National Sleep Foundation. It documented that people who exercised regularly reported sleeping better on most nights than people who were not physically active. They reported an improvement in the quantity and quality of sleep.
More generally, exercise helps improve mood and reduces stress. It also resets the circadian rhythm, helps you stay alert during the day while helping your body prepare to relax for bed. Regular exercise serves as a long-term tool to combat sleeplessness as the results are not instant. But when the improvement becomes noticeable, it can help you get deep and restorative sleep for longer periods.
Integrate exercises into your daily activities for about 20-30 minutes. The activities could be running, jogging, skipping, swimming or even biking. What’s important is that you get your blood pumping and your muscles working. Exercising in the evening tends to be counter-productive as it can make you more alert in the short term rather than relax your body. Make sure you exercise in the morning or afternoon or at least five hours before bedtime.
What Should I Do?
Relaxation for sleep helps calm the racing thoughts in your mind and winds down your body for bedtime. It helps release tension from the several areas of your body so it can be primed for a longer and quality night rest.
To relax your mind and body for sleep, there are several things you can do. Some of these things are free. For example, you can engage in various sleep relaxation techniques like the 4-7-8 breathing exercise or even start a worry journal to deal with fretting thoughts at night. You can also engage in exercises during the day to help prepare your body to sleep. All of these cost nothing and you can readily do them at your convenience.
However, to get optimum results you need to explore options that are free and paid. For instance, you may need to buy a sleep mask to deal with lights at night or wake up lights alarm that mimics natural sunlight. You can even a white noise generator to cover up noise in your bedroom. There are also CDs and downloads for sleep relaxation hypnosis you can purchase.
You can also try out new bed and pillows are made of hypoallergenic materials that are effective in relaxing your body. A stuffy room makes it difficult to sleep, so you may want to purchase a bed fan to complement your open windows for easy air circulation.
To conclude, getting a good night rest is important as it plays a determining role in your health. It also determines your alertness during the day and your level of performance at work or academics. But to get the much-needed sleep, you need to relax your mind and body.