How to calm down and fall asleep

Fall asleep faster with mental tricks to calm your mind

Editor’s Note: Sleep Awareness Week is March 13-19, and CNN’s Life, But Better Sleep section will have daily tips and facts you need to get a better night’s slumber. Join us!

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You’re exhausted, your body yawning for sleep. Yet once your head hits the pillow, your mind is flooded with worry, making sleep elusive, at times impossible.

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Don’t fret, experts say: There are relaxation techniques you can use to calm that racing mind.

“Think of these relaxation exercises as tools in your tool kit for better sleep,” said sleep specialist Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in the division of sleep medicine for Harvard Medical School.

“Practice them, and you’ll get better and better at falling asleep, which is the holy grail, right? No one wants to spend time tossing and turning at night.”

Deep breathing is a science-backed method of calming the body and mind that can be done easily before you get into bed and when you wake during the middle of the night.

Changing the rhythm of your breath slows your heart rate, reduces blood pressure and stimulates the body’s parasympathetic “rest and digest” system, which can take worry and anxiety offline.

“Consciously focusing on the breath can help you separate yourself from the darting thoughts that fly through your brain,” Robbins said.

There are a number of deep breathing techniques you can try. Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, focuses on relaxing the diaphragm, the main muscle of respiration. Start by taking a deep breath through your nose to a slow count of six, making sure that you can feel your stomach rise with your hand as it fills with air. Count to six again as you let the breath slowly escape.

The young woman is disturbed sleep from snoring husband sleeping nearby on bed in night time, then she used a pillow off the ears with a nuisance

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“Strive for effortless inhales that are soft and soundless while treating your exhales like gentle, extended sighs of relief,” suggested CNN contributor Dana Santas, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach.

Stay in the moment, Santas said, by focusing on the sounds and sensations of your breath: “Direct all of your senses to follow the path of air in through your nose, down your throat, into your lungs and out again. If your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath, happening in the here and now.”

Meditation is a centuries-old method of calming the body and the mind. Studies show it can help perfectionists stop judging themselves and can assist in the treatment of smoking, pain, addictive disorders and depression, among others.

Using direct measures of brain function and structure, one study found it only took 30 minutes a day of meditation practice over the course of two weeks to produce a measurable change in the brain.

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“When these kinds of mental exercises are taught to people, it actually changes the function and the structure of their brain,” neuroscientist Richard Davidson, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds, told CNN in an earlier interview.

There are many resources on the internet to help someone begin to meditate. Davidson and his colleagues have created a free, science-based app designed to help people practice meditation and mindfulness.

Visualization is another sleep aid. Picture a calm and peaceful spot in your mind’s eye and fill it with specific objects, colors and sounds. Researchers have found that people who visualize in detail were able to push unwelcome thoughts more successfully from their minds.

If you have trouble populating the scene, the researchers suggest asking yourself questions about smell, touch and light, such as “Can I feel the sun on my skin? What do I smell in the air?”

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You can also visualize your body relaxing, experts say. While breathing deeply and slowly, imagine your breath is a wind coursing through the body, easing stress and relaxing tension as it moves through each part of the body and then escapes.

“I like to think of the breath as a light in your mind’s eye that grows when you inhale and gets smaller as you exhale,” Robbins said. “Those tangible strategies where you visualize something and match that to a breath are really powerful.”

Most of us aren’t even aware of how much tension we carry in our muscles until it shows up in backaches and headaches.


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Progressive muscle relaxation is a way of relaxing those muscles, thus making it easier to fall asleep, experts say. You tense and release muscle groups in the body in a certain order, starting at the head and working your way down to the toes and feet.

Each section of the body is tightly tensed and held for 10 seconds as you breathe in. Strive to squeeze each muscle hard, but not to the point of cramping or pain. Then, as you breathe out, relax the muscle suddenly and all at once. University of Michigan Health recommends you do the exercises in a systematic order that you can find here.

There’s an added benefit to the exercise, experts say: There’s no room in your brain for anxious thoughts.

Here’s a way to stop your mind from repetitively listing all the things you need to do (or haven’t done), but it only works if you do it before you hit the sack.

“Don’t worry in bed. Schedule a ‘worry time’ – a period of time outside of the bedroom, outside of sleep, to worry about the things that naturally creep in your mind at night,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

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“Write down a list of things you need to do tomorrow,” suggested Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, a professor of medicine and director of sleep research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“You can even email it to yourself. It gives you satisfaction and the realization that it is night and there’s nothing you can do with your list, but you can attend to it tomorrow,” Polotsky said.

All these mental tricks and relaxation tips serve a purpose beyond that night’s sleep, experts say.

“They are extremely beneficial from a classical conditioning standpoint,” Robbins said. “If your body knows what comes after the end of these activities is sleep, then you start to condition yourself, and after a bit of time, your body will more easily slip into a state of relaxation, which increases your chances of sleep.

How to Clear Your Mind So You Can Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on February 22, 2022

While it’s a good idea to go to bed at the same time each night, there will be some nights when your brain is buzzing and not ready for sleep. If so, don’t lie down just yet. Your racing thoughts could lead to insomnia. Instead, do something to relax until you feel tired. Take a warm bath, for instance, or sit in a comfy chair and listen to soft, calming music. You’ll spend less time in bed but more time asleep.

Stressful subjects, like work or your finances, can make your thoughts churn. Take care of the bills and emails tomorrow. Also, turn off scary or action-filled movies and TV -- even the news. Log out of social media, too. Whether you engage in, or just watch or read a heated back-and-forth, your mind revs up and makes it harder to relax.

Work projects to finish, calls to make, kids to wrangle. It’s hard to drift off when you’re trying to remember every last thing you need to do when you wake up. Let go of this mental load by putting it down on paper. Take 5 minutes before bed to jot down every task you need to take care of in the a.m. You’ll get it off your mind and be able to fall asleep faster.

Release tension from your body, and you’ll find it easier to let go of stressful thoughts. Lie on a flat surface and allow your body to go limp. Take a breath and deeply exhale. Then, squeeze and release one section of your body at a time. Start with your toes. Your heels can come next, followed by your knees, thighs, belly, and so forth. Let your forehead be last. Notice how relaxed your body feels -- and enjoy it!

With your breath, you have a ready-made tool to relax your body and slow down the thoughts that keep you awake. Try this: Place a hand on your heart and feel its rhythm. Breathe in deep for 4 seconds, then take a long, slow breath out. Repeat this pattern until you can feel your heartbeat slow down. Your thoughts should soon ease up as well.

Your phone, tablet, and other screens can mess with your sleep. The reason? They give off blue light, which signals your body to stop making melatonin, the hormone that controls when you feel sleepy. Instead, this light tells your brain to stay alert. Not to mention the late-night dings and buzzes that can jolt you out of peaceful slumber. The best bet for better sleep is to keep computers, TVs, and, yes, your phone out of your bedroom.

Learn to calm your mind on demand, and you’ll find it easier to drift off at night. If you’re new to meditation practice, it helps to find a point of focus. It could be the sound of your breath or a simple phrase that you repeat in your head, like “I am at peace.” At first, you may struggle to tune out your thoughts. It’s OK to stop after a minute or two -- but try again the next night. Over time, you’ll be able to meditate longer.

If they’re stuck inside your mind, worries and “What ifs?” can grow unchecked. Say them out loud, and they might just vanish. You can test this tactic first: Start to recite the letters of the alphabet in your head. When you get a few letters in, say something out loud. Notice that your ABCs came to a halt? That’s what can happen when you give voice to your worries.

Many people say yoga helps them sleep better. Try “child’s pose” at bedtime. Kneel on the floor with your big toes together. Separate your knees the width of your hips, and sink your chest to your thighs. Let your forehead touch the ground. Have hip or knee issues? Try “corpse pose” instead. Lie on your back, legs apart and arms relaxed at your sides. Exhale and feel yourself sink into the ground. Stay in either pose for 3-5 minutes.

Spoiler alert: You won’t be able to get rid of all your worries for good. In fact, the more you tell yourself not to stress, the more you probably will. What can help is to schedule a “worry time” during your day. Choose a small window of time to sit quietly. Let yourself go over all the things that have you concerned, as well as some ways you might solve them. You may find that this allows you to worry less -- and sleep better.


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SOURCES: “How to cope with sleep problems.”

Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust: “Jacobson’s progressive relaxation technique.”

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: “Sleep Disorders.”

National Sleep Foundation: “How Does Anxiety Affect Sleep?” “Scary Ways Technology Affects Your Sleep,” “How to Meditate Before Bed.”

Journal of Experimental Psychology: “The effects of bedtime writing on difficulty falling asleep: A polysomnographic study comparing to-do lists and completed activity lists.”

The Sleep Council: “Seven Steps to a Better Night’s Sleep.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Yoga for Better Sleep.

Behavior Modification: “A Preliminary Investigation of Stimulus Control Training for Worry: Effects on Anxiety and Insomnia.”

Sleep Health Foundation Australia: “Anxiety and Sleep.”

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Ten ways to fall asleep under stress

Healthy sound sleep has become a luxury today: modern people work too much and end the working day late, worry and worry a lot about the news, rarely really rest - and as a result they sleep little and restlessly . Stress and poor sleep form a vicious circle: the more nervous you are, the worse you sleep, and the worse you sleep, the more difficult it is for you to cope with the stress of a new day. It is difficult to do something about external circumstances, but still do not forget: you can noticeably improve your own well-being with the help of simple ways that depend only on you. nine0003 tells you what you can do to get good sleep.

1. Change the diet

Normal restful sleep begins with a stable regimen. Of course, rule number one should be to go to bed at the same time every day (and wake up too).

But diet is just as important. Don't overload your digestive system before bed! If you can’t stop eating after six or eight in the evening, then at least make sure that the last evening snack is at least an hour and a half separated from going to bed. It is also important not to drink too much fluid before bed. If you try to drink more water every day, then trying to make up for missed meals during the day by drinking heavily before bed is definitely a bad idea. Do not drink more than one glass of liquid. By the way, it can be chamomile tea or warm milk with honey - an effective natural sleeping pill. nine0005

2. Reduce caffeine intake

Caffeine is found not only in coffee, but also in tea of ​​all varieties, cola, energy drinks, lozenges and bars, some types of chewing gum. The link between daily caffeine intake and nighttime sleep quality is direct and should not be ignored. Yes, a cup of coffee with milk that you drink during the day counts too!

If you want to see noticeable results, avoid caffeinated products altogether. By the way, this substance causes not only excitement, but also addiction, so it will be difficult to break off relations with it. But you will definitely feel the difference. nine0005

3. Learn to relax

Some people don't know how to rest and relax at all. Watching TV, lively chatting and going to a workout in the evening is not a vacation! Before going to bed, it is recommended to immerse yourself in an atmosphere that will relax the mind and body: calmness, lack of stress, a warm and well-ventilated room, some quiet activities.

4. Turn off bright lights an hour before bedtime

Like the previous preparations, this will serve as a signal for the body that sleep is ahead, and it is time to gradually move into the appropriate state. An hour before bedtime, turn off the overhead lights, close the curtains if there are bright lights outside, turn off the TV and computer, try not to use your phone or tablet - anything that would irritate your eyes. It is important to turn it into a habit, a nightly ritual. Then it will bring wonderful results. nine0005

5. Take a hot bath in the evening

A simple rule applies to hot baths: no later than an hour and a half before bedtime, no longer than 15 minutes, and, if possible, in soft lighting. You can add a relaxing essential oil or your favorite bath salt to the water. Few things can compare with the effect of water procedures in relieving stress.

6. Read

Reading is one of the best relaxation techniques before bed. Moreover, it is better to read a book already familiar to you with a well-known ending. You say it's for an amateur? In fact, even a fundamentally "non-reading" person, if he tries, will be able to remember some text that is certainly pleasant to him. It does not have to be a literary masterpiece, there is only one criterion here - your positive emotions and the calming effect of reading. If rereading books you've already read is somehow too much for you, then you can take a chance and take on a fresh bestseller, promising yourself that you will definitely go to bed on time, no matter how exciting the book is. nine0005

7. Take breaks and workouts during the day

Move more during the day and switch between activities more often, don't focus on one thing. If possible, take ten-minute breaks to walk, get some fresh air, stretch, or even do some simple exercise. Thus, you will make your day more active, you will be able to maintain your tone, and all this will provide you with a pleasant feeling of muscle relaxation in the evening.

8. Do breathing exercises

Everything in yoga is useful for optimizing your lifestyle, but among its main findings are invaluable breathing exercises that help a person to control his own condition very effectively. For example, a good exercise is breathing through the left nostril, which helps a person to relax. With the index finger of the right hand, pinch the right nostril (the pressure should not be too strong). Breathe deeply, evenly and evenly through your left nostril for five minutes, listening to your own breathing. You can try this exercise at night, before going to bed, and breathe in this way until you feel an overwhelming desire to sleep. nine0005

9. Eliminate thoughts that interfere with sleep

Often we are disturbed by thoughts that we cannot cope with. The cause of sleep disturbance can even be the fear itself that we will not be able to sleep, we will suffer all night and be late for work in the morning! It happens that a person in the evening so torments himself with this fear that this is exactly what happens to him.

The problem with this sleep disturbance is that one such failure triggers a whole series, and our regimen is completely upset for a week, or even two. Is it possible to counteract thoughts and fears that have piled up on your own, without the help of a psychotherapist? First, try to cope with them, look for ways to calm down. If they do not work, then do not knock on a closed door. Do not wait for the situation to change on its own - do not hesitate to ask for help. nine0005

10. Spend a few minutes alone before going to bed, looking at the sky

if you feel like there is absolutely nothing you can do, don't be lazy. Get dressed, go outside or on the balcony alone and spend some time by yourself, looking at the sky. This is a very relaxing activity. Take your time: after a few minutes, the vise of heavy thoughts will loosen, you will be able to distract yourself from what you are fixated on, and you will be able to relax. Breathe evenly and deeply, and if the situation allows, then take a glass of warm milk with honey with you. nine0005

The material was provided by the portal especially for MIR 24.

10 ways to relax before bed

It is usually not recommended to drink coffee, alcohol and use the phone before going to bed. But they rarely talk about what to do before a night's rest. We have compiled a list of things that will help you tune in to sleep, switch your attention from everyday activities and relax.

📚 Read the book

Many people cannot fall asleep quickly due to nervous system overexcitation. An easy way to calm her down is to read an interesting but uncomplicated book for 15-30 minutes. According to scientists, this is enough to distract the brain from problems, switch attention to routine activities and reduce stress levels. nine0005

It's better to read a paper book: blue light from gadgets can slow down the production of melatonin, which regulates sleep

🌬 Make it colder

Ventilate the room thoroughly before going to bed, and if you have air conditioning, set it to 16-20 ° C. According to scientists, this is the optimal temperature range in which it will be easier for you to fall asleep.

The effect is explained by the peculiarities of physiology: getting ready for sleep, the body lowers its temperature. If the environment is cool, it is easier for the body to do this - and the rate of falling asleep automatically increases

🛁 Take a warm shower

An option for those who don't like coolness. Warming water procedures, as studies show, also help to normalize the state of the nervous system and prepare the body for sleep.

It doesn't work the way you might think. After a warm shower, the body cools down and reaches a comfortable temperature for falling asleep. A heating pad and socks worn at night will enhance the effect: if the feet are additionally warmed, heat loss will increase

🎧 Listen to white noise

This is the name for a special hissing sound, which, for example, makes a running hair dryer or turning on the air conditioner. Several studies have shown that it can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and have a positive effect on the quality of sleep. Why this happens, scientists do not know. One of the hypotheses is that white noise simply drowns out other sounds that interfere with sleep.

If the sound of a hair dryer doesn't calm you down, listen to some music before bed. It will also help to distract from extraneous sounds, activate the pleasure centers in the brain and enhance relaxation

🧘‍♀️ Stretch

Stretching slows down breathing, calms the nervous system, and helps relieve muscle tension. The main condition: you don’t have to try too hard in the process. Your goal is not to sit on the splits, but to enjoy the slow and careful stretching of the muscles.

Instead of stretching, you can do a couple of simple yoga asanas. They too can increase the speed of falling asleep and the overall quality of sleep

👃 Use the 4-7-8 technique

One of the most effective breathing practices to quickly calm the brain before bed. You can do it right in bed. Once you are comfortable, inhale slowly for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts, and then slowly exhale for 8 counts. Repeat several times until you feel sleepy. nine0005

Scientists believe that breathing exercises activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for relaxing and stopping the stress response.

💪 Try progressive muscle relaxation. Sit comfortably again - and start consistently tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups. First, those on the face: the muscles of the forehead, around the eyes and mouth. Then - neck, shoulders, and so on, until you get to the feet. nine0005

The exercise is based on the physiological principle that tension is always followed by relaxation. There is evidence that it reduces heart rate, reduces nervous excitement and anxiety symptoms, helps to fall asleep faster

✍️ Write

If you can’t fall asleep due to anxious thoughts about upcoming things, it’s worth making a plan for their implementation. Even such a trifle can structure thoughts, create a sense of control and calm down.

Other writing practices can help. Describe the experiences accumulated during the day in order to free the brain from them during sleep. Or list three things you are grateful for: Sleep deeply and in a good mood

🥱 Don't let yourself fall asleep

Yes, you need to stop trying so hard to fall asleep as soon as possible. And start resisting it with all your might. As a result, as experiments show, the opposite is likely to happen - you still fall asleep.

The method was invented by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. It's called paradoxical intention and is especially effective for anxiety caused by sleep problems - insomnia due to insomnia

❤️ Have sex

During sex, calming substances are released: oxytocin and prolactin. And the level of the stress hormone cortisol decreases. It relaxes, improves the quality of sleep and its duration.

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