Almost everyone struggles with sleep problems at some point in their life. Often, it can occur when you need it most – like a stressful time in your life. Even though your body might be physically exhausted, your mind just won’t switch off.
If a busy mind is keeping you up – or jolts you awake suddenly in the middle of the night – it can be difficult to get that much-needed sleep. Luckily, there are a few things you can try to relax your mind and body so you can hopefully get some peaceful shut-eye and wake up the next day feeling rested.
#1 Write out a to-do list or day plan (or even schedule some ‘worry time’)
If you’re overwhelmed in your work or home life, it can bring on feelings of stress or anxiety and can be hard to switch off when trying to get to sleep. One effective way to ease this mental tension is to set aside some time earlier in the day (or evening) to create a plan for tackling whatever it is that may be worrying you – this might be through a to-do list or a schedule for the following day.
Similarly, experts suggest scheduling some ‘worry time’ – even just 15-30 minutes in the day to write down everything that’s playing on your mind (along with one actionable way to deal with it). Whichever method you choose, getting your thoughts down in writing frees your mind from having to store all that information, allowing it to relax instead.
#2 Enable night mode on devices (or avoid them altogether)
It’s well-documented that using devices before bed – whether scrolling on your phone or watching a show on your laptop – can interfere with your quality of sleep and ability to drift off. This is partly due to it being mentally stimulating, but also because the blue light emitted by electronic devices is known to suppress the sleep hormone, melatonin.
For this reason, experts recommend you stop using devices at least 30 minutes before bed. If this isn’t an option, at the very least make sure you’re taking advantage of any ‘night mode’ features on your devices, which reduce the amount of light emitted and shift the display colors towards the warmer end of the spectrum.
#3 Read a book
One way to help switch off before bed is to try and focus your attention on something else. Since watching something isn’t the best idea, a good alternative is reading a book. When choosing something to read, make sure it’s nothing too exciting or stimulating, or it might have the opposite effect. Reading has been proven to relax your body and reduce stress, with one study finding that it was faster and more effective than other relaxation methods.
#4 Brew some soothing tea
Another great method for encouraging sleep is to brew yourself a nice calming tea before bed. Herbal teas are known for their relaxing properties, with chamomile in particular recommended by experts following numerous studies. When it comes to teas, there are plenty of sleep blends available that combine different herbs known for their natural sedative properties, including chamomile, valerian root, lavender, lemon balm and more.
Even the simple act of brewing yourself a warm tea before bed can help you get in the right mindset. Implementing it as a nightly ritual can teach your body to know when it’s time for sleep.
#5 Listen to relaxing sounds or a meditation
Many people opt for audio aids to help them get to sleep. Whether it’s white or pink noise, or natural sounds, like the rhythmic crashing of ocean waves or deep forest sounds; a constant background noise can help the brain relax by giving it something to focus on. It also masks any disruptive sounds that may cause you to stir through the night. If you need something more concrete to focus on, a recorded meditation is another great option to help you calm your mind and focus on your body.
#6 Get out of bed
It might sound counter-intuitive, but if you’re having trouble getting to sleep, it might actually be better to get up and do something else. Lying in bed for hours when you’re unable to sleep can potentially teach your brain to equate being in bed with insomnia – an association that can be difficult to overwrite.
If after 20 or 30 minutes you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something else calming (like journaling or making a tea). Once you start to feel yourself getting tired again, head straight to bed.
#7 Try 4-7-8 breathing
It’s incredible just how powerful our own breath is. Deep breathing techniques are often used in meditation to promote mental relaxation, but they also have a profound effect on our physical body, slowing our heart rate down, in turn making it easier to fall asleep. One common technique is the 4-7-8 breathing method, where you inhale for a count of four, hold for seven and exhale for eight. Try doing this at least six or seven times and you might find it’s just the thing to ease you off to sleep.
Sleep issues can be frustrating, but always remember to be patient with yourself. Of course, if it’s a consistent problem, you may need to talk to your doctor to help identify the root cause of your sleeping issues so you can get back on track to enjoying a restful night’s sleep again.