Chances are, you know the frustration of lying awake in bed with a busy mind. Stress from the day can keep even the most exhausted of people up at night. When stress has sent you into a sleep rut, it can feel difficult—if not impossible—to get out of it. But these 10 strategies can all help your mind and body calm down so you can get the restorative sleep you’re after.
1. Emphasize relaxation one to two hours before bedtime.
In the evening hours, decrease stimulation as much as possible. Dim the lights and slow things down. Do something you find relaxing, such as reading while wearing blue light blocking glasses, practicing gentle yoga without doing any inversions, or taking a warm bath. As much as possible, make relaxation the theme of the evening.
If certain tasks are unavoidable, then practice doing them in a slower, more relaxed manner.
2. Eat the right dinner and consider introducing a supplement to your routine.
At dinner, eat a combination of high-quality proteins and complex carbohydrates, like quinoa mixed with sautéed greens or baked chicken breast sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seeds.
For dessert, try a bowl of fresh tart cherries or a frozen yogurt made with frozen tart cherries and coconut milk.
Then, right before bed, consider taking a supplement such as magnesium glycinate, a popular sleep aid that works to reduce the stress of the nervous system and promote a steady state of relaxation.
3. Quit caffeine by noon.
Caffeine’s effects vary from person to person, but in general, if you are having trouble sleeping, caffeine could be the culprit. If you’re caffeine-sensitive, try completely eliminating it for a month and see if that improves your sleep. Also consider sneaky sources of caffeine such as chocolate, tea, and soda, and instead opt for water, herbal tea, and herbal coffee substitutes.
4. Turn your lights off at the same time every night.
Aim to go to bed around the same time every night, whatever that is.
Some studies have found that the actual time you sleep doesn’t matter—it’s more about regularly going to sleep at the same time every night.
This is, of course, a controversial idea, but it stands to reason that consistency is key when developing a healthy sleep routine, so figure out what works best for your schedule and stick to it!
5. Focus on your breathing.
If you’re stressed out, it’s imperative that you do what you can to calm yourself down before bed. One way to do that is to regulate your breathing—it triggers our relaxation response and helps declutter our minds. There are plenty of resources online where you can learn how to practice different types of deep breathing, like left-nostril breathing which is said to have a soothing and relaxing effect on the body-mind.
6. Let go of any fearful thoughts.
Have you ever been so worried about going to sleep that you end up sleepless? Yeah, it’s the worst. Fearful thoughts like this create tension in the body, and a body that is tense will not be able to fall into a deep sleep. The fear of not being able to fall asleep can easily keep one from falling asleep night after night. When those thoughts creep in, I often use the affirmation,
“I choose to relax and let go now.”
7. Play with light and sound.
Light and sound can play a large role in whether or not you sleep well. In the evening, a few hours before bed, try dimming the lights. Sleep in a pitch-black room or wear an eye mask. If you find that you’re more relaxed with some background noise (or need to drown out noise from outside), try switching on a fan or noise machine while you sleep. Earplugs are also a great option if you’re sensitive to noise.
8. Take a soothing bath.
Is there anything better than a warm, calming bath when you’re worked up? Probably not. Some studies found that bathing on a regular basis helped lower stress and improve sleep in participants. Here’s my go-to Epsom salt bath recipe:
Combine 2 cups of Epsom salts with a few drops of an essential oil*(like lavender) in hot water.
*Make sure you choose an essential oil that won’t cause irritation.
*The water should be warmer than your body temperature.
Soak for 30 minutes.
9. Try acupressure or another relaxation technique.
There’s no denying that sometimes breathing or telling ourselves to sleep just doesn’t work. Insomnia can be brutal. Acupressure has been shown to have pain relieving and relaxing effects, so if restless muscles seems to be your issue, you could try lying on an acupressure mat before dozing off. That said, these mats can be pretty intense, so you’ll want to do some thorough research before you purchase one, and consider consulting with a physical therapist first. Alternatively, you could try a guided progressive muscle relaxation meditation or yoga nidra video, in which you relax each part of your body using your mind.
10. Take relaxation breaks during the day.
This one is simple: Try taking at least one 15-minute relaxation break during the day. Going for a short walk or even taking time away from staring at a screen can help keep your body in balance (and help you avoid that dreaded state of overwhelm at the end of the day).
Try to remember that life is short and balance is the goal.