Health & Wellness Articles

6 Ways to Relax Before Bed

Take the Stress Out of Sleep

1KSHARES

Sleep is something that every body craves. So why does everyone struggle with it periodically? You’ve tried to do it right – you skip caffeine late in the day; you don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed; you make sure the lights are off; you try to follow a consistent bedtime schedule each day. Yet, as you lay in bed sleepless, frustration creeping in, none of this seems to matter. When insomnia hits, you could spend hours stressing, instead of doing a few easy things to slip gently into sleep.

Difficulty falling (and staying) asleep is a common problem. As an important source of fuel for the body, sleep is a valuable commodity. If you have been lying in bed for a while and can’t sleep, get up. Don’t stay in bed, worrying about not having enough energy for tomorrow. Do something to encourage a more rapid appearance by the Sandman.

1. Go for a soak
Relax in the bathtub. This soothes both body and mind. Try adding some sleep inducing scents into the tub like lavender oil. Caution: Don’t take a shower. This can awaken your body. Opt for a warm bath instead. Add some candles and calm music for heightened relaxation. A second hint: Sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow to pacify you in bed, too.

2. The old wives tale works
Have a glass of warm milk. You thought this was just an old wives’ tale, but it actually works! Warm milk has a tranquilizing effect on the body that can calm you down and prepare you for sleep. The same amino acid (triptophane) that gives turkey its reputation for causing drowsiness is also found in milk, and it causes more serotonin to be released in the body. Can’t stand the idea of warm milk? Add a drop or two of vanilla extract. Still not sounding tempting? Try some chamomile tea. A number of people think an alcoholic drink right before bed does the trick. Although this might initially make you sleepy, it doesn’t prep you for sound sleep. Chances are, you’ll toss and turn during the night.

3. Find an activity
Do something relaxing out of the bed. Try reading (pass on the action thriller, though). Watch something a little boring on television at low volume (think the Learning or Home Shopping Channels). Don’t watch anything that will wind you back up. Looking for other ideas? Sew, scrapbook, or write a letter. This activity should be easy, nothing that will key your nervous system back up. Once your eyes get droopy again, hit the sack.

4. De-stress
One of the worst things that you can do is to sit in bed and think about what you didn’t get done today, and all of the work you have tomorrow. Worrying about it won't get any of it done, so let it leave your mind. If it helps, make a to-do list so that you don’t forget the next day. But leave it at that; once it is on the paper, forget about it. Another trick is to turn the clocks away from your bed so you cannot count the passing minutes. If you focus on the fact that you are not sleeping, you’ll make the problem worse.

5. Add some noise
Wait a second. . . your bedroom should be as quiet as possible, right? Up to a point, yes. The darker and quieter the room is, the more deeply you’ll sleep, even if you don’t realize it. But, adding “white noise” into the background can actually help you slumber. These steady, quiet sounds will block out other, more disturbing noises that might keep you awake. Plus, once you are asleep, you’ll be less likely to wake up from other noises. Try keeping a fan blowing at night – a cool bedroom is more conducive to sleep anyway. Or, try putting some relaxing music or natural sounds, especially something that can be set on a timer. You can buy CD’s that play gentle rain, waterfalls, or wind noises.

6. Listen to your body
Could it be your body is too tense for sleep? Try a relaxation tape that guides you through loosening up and relaxing each muscle group. Start at your feet, tensing and untensing your muscles, and move up your body. Work on some deep breathing exercises, which mimic your respiration pattern while asleep and can help convince your body that it is time to drift off.

And in the future…
Exercise! Consistent fitness and nutrition is directly linked to improved sleep. Of course, if you are lying in bed restless, it might be a little late. But, start tomorrow and you’ll sleep better in nights to come. If (and when) you do exercise, make sure it’s not right before bedtime, which can interfere with your body’s ability to relax and nod off.

Make going to bed a routine. Around the same time every night, even on weekends, start your routine. This could mean taking a bath and some light reading. It could simply mean changing into your pajamas and brushing your teeth. Do something consistently that your body will learn as signals to settle down for the night. Wake up refreshed the next day.


Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
1KSHARES

Member Comments

  • Reading helps me.
  • I'm a go to bed early person ... and since a X-C move a year+ ago I've been waking up at 3 a.m. At first I ascribed it to the time differences EST vs PST. After this amount of time I figure it has to be more. I'm deaf so listening to music is out. I live in a "newer" house meaning the bathtub doesn't allow a soak. "full up " it barely covers the butt ... you get cold quickly that way. But anyway, falling asleep is not the problem as several have said - staying asleep is. I do get up when I wake up but then I'm groggy the rest of the day even with a nap.
  • These tips may work for those who have trouble falling asleep, but what about staying asleep. I can do almost anything before bed and pass out quickly. I am not a night person and I almost always fall asleep early. However, waking up at 2AM is almost a nightly occurrence for me. It has been a problem for me since I was in my early teens.
  • Great ideas. However, since we're drinking more water, we're getting up frequently to go to the bathroom!!!
  • Restorative yoga, nighttime visualization (meditation audios) and gratitude lists are all great ideas too.
  • Maybe why prayer isn't mentioned is because they want to give suggestions that everyone can try. Not all of us pray here.
  • Milk works for me and I'm pretty sure it's because of the minerals. Now I take trace minerals and consistently it helps me to sleep at night. Vitamin A increases cortisol (and insomnia!) = I really have to be careful with face creams with vitamin A too.
  • I can' see watching TV being very good as light stimulates the awake response, I was also surprised prayer wasn't mentioned,
  • I have fibromyalgia and was only getting about 2 to 3 hours of sleep per night due to pain and restless legs but I've been able to increase it to 4 to 5 hours by coloring before bed with relaxing music on...warm epsom salt bath helps to relax your muscles. thinking of trying essential oils as well. Thanks for the ideas!
  • i'm trying to get into a regular sleep pattern. I saw my pulmonary specialist ( I have muscular dystrophy) and he told that i suffer from sleep apnea. Now he wants me to sleep with oxygen but I think I'll work on going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time before i follow his suggestion
  • AMANDAROSE121
    Reading, gets me everytime. My goal is is not use energy drinks anymore!
  • The things that have helped me sleep better are:
    *Journal sleep patterns to see how much sleep i need
    *add up the hours i sleep then add one hour to that, then use that number to determine what time to go to bed (for example if i sleep 6 hous, on average for a week, give myself seven hors in bed. That means a midnight bedtime if i want to wake at 7am)
    *stay out of bed except for sleep
    *change attitude about sleep and how i will suffer with less sleep
  • I can't sleep good at night if I don't have my fan on. I will go to sleep and sleep good if my hip is not paining me. My kids are the same way they all sleep with a fan. They too say it help them to sleep better.

About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

x Lose 10 Pounds by July 11! Sign up with Email Sign up with Facebook
By clicking one of the above buttons, you're indicating that you have read and agree to SparkPeople's Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy and that you're at least 18 years of age.