How to relax for 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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How to Relax and Get Better Sleep

Written by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on November 15, 2022

Think about how easy it is for a baby or small child to fall asleep. We're born with the instinct to relax and sleep when our bodies or minds need a break. Over the years, it becomes necessary to control and even suppress these natural urges to rest, because we must remain alert as we attend school, learn professions, go to work, or care for a family. Many people spend years conditioning themselves to perform well despite feelings of tiredness. While no one would argue that suppressing tiredness can be a necessary skill, it can impair our ability to actually "let go" and relax when we do find the time.

Relaxation is also a uniquely individual activity. Napping or just doing nothing might be your idea of relaxation, but this amount of inactivity might drive someone else crazy. Others may relax by participating in sports or undertaking physical challenges, but some people would find these activities stressful. Whatever your idea of relaxation, the following tips can help you re-train and regain some of those lost relaxation skills:

  1. Give yourself permission for some down time. Stop ruminating about work or personal problems or tasks. If it helps, make a to-do list of issues and projects and put it aside during your relaxation time. That way, you won't worry about forgetting or neglecting any responsibilities after your break.
  2. Decide if you're interested in a structured relaxation program, such as courses in meditation, yoga, or martial arts. Some may find this kind of training helpful; others may feel it adds to their stress.
  3. Try some short, simple techniques such as muscle relaxation or meditation.
  4. Practice other positive health habits such as getting exercise and eating well. The healthier your body is, the better it can function in all areas, including relaxation. An exhausted, "burned out" state isn't going to bring on restorative or strengthening relaxation.
  5. If necessary, force yourself to take emotional "time out" for relaxation. Practice shutting out stressful thoughts and images for a few minutes at a time to start out. Imagery exercises (visualizing a comforting or pleasurable setting) can help redirect your thoughts.
  6. Accept help. Talk to a loved one or counselor about your stress. The very act of sharing can provide a much-needed release of anger and frustration.
  7. Don't always equate relaxation with sleep. Particularly if you suffer from stress-induced insomnia, daytime napping can just make your nights more wakeful. Instead, focus on an activity that gives you pleasure.
  8. Remember that the best form of relaxation is finding and participating in something that brings you joy - whether it be alone or with others, sedentary or active, goal-directed or aimless - find whatever is it that brings you relaxation and peace.
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10 ways to relax before bedtime

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 overstimulation of the nervous system. 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. nine0003

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 there is 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 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 help 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. nine0003

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. nine0003

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

✍️ Text

If you can’t fall asleep because of 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 should 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. nine0003

In order to feel the positive effects, it is important to comply with the conditions: sex must be by mutual consent, with a partner that inspires trust and sympathy. If there is no one suitable nearby, masturbation will do. It improves sleep just as well

All about stress management

Twice a month on Fridays we send letters about how to feel better in conditions of complete uncertainty. Effective Ways to Calm Down and Avoid Thinking Mistakes

More articles on sleep and stress management:

1. How to stop stress eating.
2. Why insomnia occurs.
3. Free ways to relieve stress after a hard day.

News that concerns everyone is in our telegram channel. Subscribe to be aware of what is happening: @tinkoffjournal.

How to relax before going to bed, free your thoughts and fall asleep soundly

In the last five years, the world has been embraced by a new current of the so-called " slow life ". “Stop running like a runaway horse! their motto tells us. - Stop! This trend involves both businessmen and top managers, as well as doctors, engineers, teachers and housewives. nine0003

The idea of ​​stopping rushing and looking around has captured the minds of many, but not everyone is able to do it fully. Why is this happening?

The fact is that the modern way of life has taught us to hurry so much that we often simply do not know how to do otherwise. We have forgotten how to rest in full force, to release and let go of thoughts, to relax on our own, to do our business slowly and thoroughly.

Instead of morning bliss in bed, we drink a cup of strong coffee, forcing ourselves to wake up. Instead of relaxing and going to bed, we toss and turn for a long time, remembering the past day. Even after a sufficient number of hours of sleep, we often wake up shattered, because we do not know how to relax before going to bed, and that does not bring us rest. It is this problem that we will discuss in more detail. nine0003

What happens when we sleep?

Sleep is not just a rest of the physical body. This is a unique opportunity for the brain to process all the information received during the day, and for cells to enter the phase of active renewal. During sleep, the body checks the operation of all its systems, giving a respite to those who can afford it. Even the heart begins to beat much more calmly than in the daytime.

In order for all these processes to proceed naturally, it is necessary to be able to relax before going to bed and calm down. Falling asleep should be gradual and consistent - it is this falling asleep that will bring the greatest benefit. nine0003

How to properly relax before going to bed?

First of all, "relaxation" refers to the removal of tension from all muscles. For these purposes, you can use a warm bath or a relaxing massage.

Sometimes the features of our work leave a kind of “imprint” on our body: excessive tension in the neck, tired eyes or heaviness in the legs.

Learn more