If you want to drift off to sleep naturally and effortlessly, learning how to relax before you go to bed is absolutely essential. People who go to bed without feeling relaxed take much longer to fall asleep.
If you make a habit of going to sleep stressed, your mind begins to associate you being in bed less with falling asleep and more with lying there awake. It be very hard to break this mental association and can cause insomnia.
So without further ado, here are 3 simple techniques that you can use tonight to relax before bed.
1. Have a 20 minute wind down period
Falling asleep Sleep is a very gradual process. To fall asleep, first you need to relax. Most people get into bed when they’re still feeling wide awake so it takes them a long time to fall asleep.
If you want to fall asleep faster, have a wind down period at the end of the day so that you start relaxing before you go to bed.
At least 20 minutes before you go to bed avoid any type of physical or mental stimulation. Avoid bright light from TVs and smartphones. Do something relaxing, boring or just not very stimulating. Such as:
- Washing up the dishes or doing any other household chores
- Writing down any lingering thoughts and ideas into a journal to take them off your mind
- Listening to relaxing music
- Reading a book
- Having a relaxing bath
The goal of the wind down period is to transition from your normal alert state of mind to one that’s much more relaxed. By going to bed only when you’re already feeling relaxed you’ll be able to fall asleep much quicker and easier at night.
Before I started doing this it took me around 30 minutes to an hour. Now it normally takes me around 5 minutes to fall asleep, very rarely more than 10 minutes. Try it yourself for at least week and see how much faster you’re able to fall asleep.
2. A Simple technique to eliminate night-time mind chatter
How many times has this happened – You’re in bed feeling sleepy, but instead of drifting off into a nice deep sleep, your mind starts to fill with thoughts. Cycling through the same problems again and again. You come up with creative solutions for some, but others remain unsolved. You notice your heart beating a little faster. Somehow you no longer seem half as sleepy as you did before you went bed. No matter how hard you try and fall asleep your mind keeps chattering away, keeping you awake late into the night.
For many of us, the moment of calm in bed before falling to sleep is the only quiet time we get to ourselves. Whilst this is a great time to fall asleep, it’s also a great time for your mind to unleash its creativity, undisturbed by the day’s events. An overactive mind can easily hijack your sleep.
So instead of saving up all your thoughts and feelings during the day so that they go off like a loose cannon as soon as your head touches the pillow, make time to deal with them before you go to bed.
One of the best ways to do this is through journaling. Before you go to bed find someplace quiet where you know you won’t be distracted, relax, and write down any pressing issues that come to mind. Write them down on a piece of paper, type them into a computer document or use proper journaling software. Make time the next day to deal with them, perhaps first thing in the morning or just before your next journaling session.
You have these thoughts because your brain is trying to bring your attention to something it feels is important. Just the simple act of writing down the thought sends a signal to your brain that you’ve acknowledged the thought and that you have taken action, even if you haven’t actually done anything except write it down. Because the thought has been acknowledged the purpose of the thought has been fulfilled. Your brain then has no reason to bring up the thought again during the night.
Take a notepad to bed with you to capture any more stray thoughts that you might have missed. You can even buy a special pen that has a light attached to the tip so you can write on your notepad in the dark without having to turn on your bedroom light.
Writing down what’s on your mind is a quick and effective way to clear out all the nagging thoughts so you can relax easily and fall asleep quickly. It often takes less than five minutes to do and can save you from hours of late night mind chatter.
3. Why you should stop using your smartphone before bed
We’ve become a nation attached to our smartphones. We take them almost everywhere with us. Research from World Technology Report found that 75% of us even use them in bed. It’s tempting to use the time between getting into bed and falling asleep to check emails, catch up on the news or play games.
The problem is that using a smartphone before you fall asleep keeps you awake long after you’ve stopped using it. By using a phone you’re essentially staring into a box of light. This is exactly what doctors advise people undergoing light therapy do in order to increase alertness and stay awake!
We humans are biologically designed to fall asleep when it’s dark outside and to be awake during the daytime when it’s light outside. Unfortunately your body clock doesn’t know the difference between sunlight and light coming from your phone.
So using your phone in bed makes your body clock think it’s daytime and not yet time for sleep and so it responds by keeping you awake, perhaps long after the time you would have otherwise been asleep. It can take hours for your body clock to finally realize that it’s night-time after you turn off your device.
If you make a regular habit of using your phone at night you’ll find the time you’re able to fall sleep becomes later and later as the light from your phone begins to shift your sleep schedule. This causes you to feel sleepy in the morning and increases the chances of you oversleeping.
If you use your phone as an alarm clock, put it away from your bed so you’re not tempted to use it. If you don’t need it for an alarm, just turn it off before you go to bed. It’s not like you’ll have any use for it when you’re fast asleep.
If putting away your phone before bed is simply not an option, use a screen dimmer app. This app dims your screen lower than the normal minimum brightness setting. Use it to dim the screen so that you can still see what’s on the screen but with the least amount of light as possible.