Another night spent tossing and turning in frustration. Late-night anxieties keeping you from getting the rest you so desperately need. Followed by a day of poor productivity, teary arguments, and bad decisions… which only causes you to lie awake worrying again.
It’s a vicious circle. And one you need to escape from, fast.
Because sleep is vital to our well-being. As well as it is one of the best things we can do to keep us looking young and healthy, getting enough sleep comes with a heap of other physical and mental benefits.
It keeps our bodies fit, our immune systems strong, and our minds calm. It helps us to be motivated, creative and thoughtful people who function better in our jobs, our relationships and our lives in general. While sleep deprivation makes us grumpy, lethargic and prone to every bug going around. So, as all the experts will tell you, it pays to get enough sleep.
Easier said than done, right? Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do before bedtime to tackle stress and get the better sleep you need.
1. Enjoy some ‘you time’
If you’re taking care of a million other things before bedtime – making your kids’ lunch, correcting homework, responding to emails, doing chores or fiddling with spreadsheets – no wonder you’re all wound up before settling down. Your mind is likely to be filled with tasks and plans instead of sleepy intentions.
So try to carve out a little routine in the evenings that’s centered around relaxing both your body and mind. Have a long bath, diffuse some relaxing essential oils and read a book before getting to bed at a sensible hour; one that ensures you get your recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep in. Repeat this routine every night and soon you’ll find that sleep comes more easily.
2. Turn off those phones
Gasp! Too hard, you say. Far too hard. Because won’t the world end if you’re not updating your various profiles, checking in on WhatsApp or making online ‘to-do lists’ right until lights out?
No. It won’t. And these screens aren’t doing your stressed-out mind any favors before bedtime. For one, they add a dose of stimulation when your mind needs calming down. For another, they actually block the body’s production of melatonin, which we rely on to help us relax before sleep.
So do yourself a favor. Turn off your phones – and laptops and tablets – an hour before bedtime if you can. That way you won’t be tempted to be glued to any screens right before bedtime, and a deeper sleep will be your reward.
3. Try some yoga or meditation
No, it’s not just for hippies. Although they do seem pretty chilled out! Anyone can feel the benefits of meditation, in just a few days. And if you’re overly stressed out before bedtime, some simple guided meditation exercises and a few gentle yin yoga classes can be the perfect way to unwind.
The next time you find yourself lying awake, staring at the ceiling, try this simple ‘progressive relaxation’ exercise. Starting with your toes, imagine that you’re then relaxing your feet, your ankles, your calves etc. Work your way up the body until your head, your face and your eyelids. Feel yourself melting into the bed and your mind becomes calm. Repeat this process for at least 5 minutes every night and you may feel that relaxation, and not stress, is your default bedtime companion.
4. Make a list
If you still have a million thoughts running through your head at night, try writing them down. OK, so you may not have kept a journal since you were 10, but this really is a worthwhile exercise. Once you’ve written down your regrets from the day or worries for tomorrow, and numbered them, they start feeling like less of a big deal.
Next, think back on 3 positive things that happened that day. They might be big things, like getting a promotion, or little things, like a stranger smiling at you in a cafe. By writing down and numbering these things after your worries, you’ll end on a positive note. You might find yourself going to bed feeling happy rather than wound up, and in a better state for sleep.
Tip: You could make this into a mental list instead of writing it down if you like. Then you might actually drift off with a smile on your face!
Hopefully, these tips will help you feel less stressed when you lay down your weary head. And with continuous good sleep, you’ll start feeling like a calmer, happier you for the days that follow!