This is a guest post by Erika Zheng of Just Letter Perfect Proofreading & Writing
Do you find yourself lying awake long after you’ve turned the light off and decided it’s time to sleep? Do you struggle with being able to relax enough to drift off?
It can be hard to wind down after a stressful day full of work, chores, and kids, so here are ten simple ways to relax and get ready for sleep.
Ways to Mentally Relax
One of my main problems is that I can’t turn off my thoughts -- they keep churning round and round with everything that happened during the day, everything that needs to be done tomorrow, and that embarrassing thing I did three years ago. A great solution to this is to distract your mind or simply empty it out by one of these techniques.
Writing down your thoughts lets you express the feelings and ideas surrounding them, which makes it easier to let them go. Keep a journal by your bedside so you can write down what’s bothering you no matter what time it is.
Listening to an audiobook
Sometimes even journaling doesn’t help to stop your brain from running on overtime, so have an audiobook ready to listen to when you turn off the light. By doing this you give your brain something to concentrate on and something to engage with instead of troubleshooting that new project at work. I recommend listening to something you have heard or read before, though -- don’t fall into the trap of staying awake to find out what happens. Also, make sure that it won’t run all night, because that will leave you exhausted. Set it to turn off after an hour.
Keeping a gratitude journal
I am a big fan of gratitude journals. You probably already know the concept; Write down three things every night that you’re grateful for. Doing this every day actually rewires your brain to feel, and expect, happiness! By focusing on the positives in your life you will feel content and grateful, and thereby more relaxed.
Looking at your phone or watching TV the hours before bed is terrible for your sleep quality since it inhibits the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. So what should you do to stay entertained? Just read an old-fashioned book. It has the same effect as listening to an audiobook by distracting your mind.
Just a few minutes of daily meditation lowers your stress levels and it even alters the way your brain responds to stress. It can be difficult to start meditating if you’ve never done it before (I never think of as many things that need to be done as when I sit down to meditate), so I really recommend the free app Calm; it has guided meditation, a breathing guide, background sounds, and a simple timed meditation ending with a gentle gong.
Ways to Physically Relax
A wired-up body can also make it difficult to relax enough to fall asleep. Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous? Our bodies are very connected to our feelings, and when we are stressed our muscles tense up in order to guard themselves against injury and pain that surely must be imminent since we’re so wound up. Try some of these activities to let your body know that it’s okay to relax.
Yoga has so many health benefits, and one is the ability to relax you. Find a YouTube video with a relaxing sequence and end your day on a blissful note.
If you’re not much for yoga, stretching is an excellent alternative. Enjoy the feeling of your muscles giving in to the stretches and your body warming up. If you have an office job, focus on your shoulders, neck, and forearms, since they are subject to so many repetitive movements on a daily basis. A lot of headaches come from tight shoulder muscles, so doing this daily can even alleviate migraines!
Taking a shower or a bath
I love taking a long, hot shower or bath in the evening. Showering is a great way to reset your day (literally emerging clean and renewed), but it’s also a relaxing bedtime activity. Let the warm water wash away the stress from the day behind you and enjoy the feeling of crawling into bed all fresh and clean.
Giving/receiving a massage
Surely you know how beneficial a massage can be, but did you know that even the person giving the massage receives most of the same benefits? That’s something to point out to your partner next time you ask for one! Along with releasing oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, and boosting your immune system (who has time to be sick, right?), it also bonds you as a couple.
Use lavender essential oil
Lavender has tons of health benefits, ranging from easing migraines, improving brain function and mental health, to treating acne, alleviating menstrual cramps, and most of all -- improving sleep and relaxation. Put a few drops of lavender oil in your oil diffuser, spray your pillow with a lavender linen spray, or pamper yourself with a lavender body lotion.
Build a Routine
Pick your favorite activities and build a bedtime routine. Doing the same things every day in the evening lets your body know that it’s time to sleep soon and makes it start to automatically wind down. It’s just like training your dog to come when you whistle -- give your body cues so it understands that it’s time to relax and recharge.
It’s basically basic self-care; Do things that make you feel good, grounded, and relaxed, and enjoy the effect a night of good-quality sleep has on you.