5 Ways to Relax Before Bed
Do you struggle to switch off from work at night?
Are you laying in bed every night, unable to stop thinking about what you’ve done today, what you need to do tomorrow, and how you’re going to do it?
Sleep is an extremely important part of getting into the best shape of your life, and being at your best.
The problem is, the majority of people are unable to get sufficient quality sleep.
We’ve covered the way your nutrition can play a part in improving your sleep HERE. Yet this is only a part of it. What’s often forgotten in this discussion is how to relax before bed, so you can fall asleep quickly and enjoy deep, restful sleep.
Here are five strategies you can implement immediately with ease. These are extremely popular with our clients, whose busy lives means sleep quality often suffers if they’re not too careful.
1. Deep Breathing/Meditation
These two practices help people fall asleep because of their ability to induce a greater parasympathetic state (calm, as opposed to the fight or flight sympathetic state).
If you’re typically stressed with poor posture from years of desk jockeying, it’s highly likely you’re a ‘chest-breather’.
Excessive chest breathing has implications on your body, creating muscular and systemic dysfunctions which manifest themselves as headaches, neck pain, and upper back pain.
Proper breathing should be done with the diaphragm, so that when you breathe in (through your nose) the air should go all the way down to your belly.
Many meditation practices focus on the power of the breath, making the combination perfect for a pre-bed ritual. The benefits together will help clear the mind of stressful thoughts and create a greater sense of calmness.
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Here’s What to Do:
- Lay in your bed, with your hand on your belly
- Breathe in deeply through your nose. You should feel your hand rise
- Hold your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly
To enhance the meditative effect, you could play some classical or nature music, whilst focusing intensely on the feel of your body and the breath.
Another great option is to use a guided meditation app such as Headspace, which uses deep breathing as its central focus.
2. Gratitude Journal
This is a great tip made popular by Charles Poliquin, Oprah, and Tony Robbins, who all recommend its use.
When you’re grateful, you can’t be fearful or anxious. They’re two opposing feelings that don’t exist together at the same time.
Gratitude is very calming, preventing the mind from racing around thoughts all night.
All you need is a diary and a pen. Here are some examples:
‘I am grateful for my best friend who never fails to make me laugh’.
‘I am grateful for my colleague for surprising me with a new book which will help me learn more’.
Be creative, mix it up and most importantly, give it a fair chance. Stick with it for a month at least and see how it positively impacts not only your sleep but your life too.
3. Eliminate Electronics
Arguably the single greatest contributor to sleep problems is the use of artificial lighting and electronics at bedtime.
Specifically, the research suggests the blue light emitted (acts as artificial sunlight) is the source of the issue, as it disrupts the body’s natural sleep-wake cycles. Getting blue light (especially from the sun) in the daytime is important, but at night it tricks your brain into thinking it's still light outside. Consequently, it inhibits melatonin production, in turn negatively affecting your ability to fall asleep.
Most advice recommends you to stop using all electronic devices 2 to 3 hours before bed. Realistically, this won’t happen, especially if you have a habit of working till late.
Our advice is to cut all electronics at least 30-60 minutes before bed.
If you do find yourself working late on the computer, downloading F.lux can be useful. It works by automatically adjusting the colour temperature of your screen, and attempting to match the light of your screen to the natural light outside.
If you’re an Apple product user, activating ‘Night Shift’ on your iPhone or iPad works similarly by reducing blue light emission.
4. Read Fiction
The key with reading before bed is that it absolutely cannot be non-fiction, which will only stimulate your brain with ideas and future planning.
Immersing yourself in great fiction works incredibly at reducing stress levels and relaxing the body.
Reading can put your brain into an almost meditative state, as the present state attention and concentration required creates a complete distraction from everyday stresses.
By reading before bed, it allows you to disengage with all the work you’ve done in the day, making for the perfect environment to help you fall asleep.
5. Go for a Walk
Exercise right before bed needs to be relaxing. An evening walk around your neighbourhood is the perfect prescription.
Like reading, it’ll help you switch off from your day and allow you to reflect inwards.
A good tip to really ‘lose yourself’ in the walk is to pick the same route, so the directions become automatic.
Anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes works great, depending on your availability.
This may seem like a lot to get through, and completely unrealistic to implement. However, the key with these tips is to try them one at a time, slowly building up your sleep routine.
Whilst it may seem like you need hours, in reality, an hour is all you need at the most.
Give each strategy a go, and let us know which ones you found most useful.