10 Tips About Relaxing for Sleep You Need to Know
Unless you’re exhausted, getting your brain and body into sleep mode requires a little preparation. The most crucial step is relaxing. While it sounds simple, relaxing can be challenging in our always-on, connected world. It’s tempting to look to our devices for entertainment in the name of relaxation, but between the blue light exposure and stress games, movies, and videos can induce, there isn’t much real relaxation to be found on them. Relaxing requires we disconnect and focus on ourselves. How do you do that? To answer that very question, we’ve compiled some tips about relaxing for sleep to help you.
Here are 10 sleep relaxation techniques to help you slip into a deep, quality sleep:
1. Have the right bedtime snack
It’s essential to avoid going to bed hungry or thirsty. You want to avoid caffeine and sugary or fatty foods before bed. A warm drink such as an herbal tea (lavender, chamomile, mint ) or warm milk can help you drift off into a deep sleep. A snack that contains tryptophan or melatonin will also help you drift off into a night of quality sleep. Foods that are high in tryptophan include protein-based foods like nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, lentils, and eggs. Foods that are high in melatonin include Rainier cherries, wheat, barley, oats, walnuts, strawberries, tart cherries, tomatoes, almonds, sunflower and other seeds, eggs, fish, pistachios, bananas, pineapples, and red wine.
2. Prepare your bedroom
Keep it cool – The room temperature should be set between 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit. If the room is too warm or too chilly, it may cause you to wake up in the night.
Dark & Quiet – Close the blinds and curtains, turn off the TV, put your phone on silent, and use pink or white noise to block out outside sounds.
Maximize Comfort – Invest in a comfortable mattress, pillows, and bedding to support your natural sleeping position and keep you comfortable throughout the night.
3. Keep a notebook and pen nearby
Whether you’re someone who’s prone to lying awake worrying about tomorrow’s to-do list or waking up in the middle of the night with your brain overflowing with ideas, having a notebook and pen on your nightstand can be a sleep-saver. Take a moment to jot down your to-do list items before bed, that way they can spend the night on paper instead of on your mind. Plus, you can relax knowing that if you do wake up with ideas, there will be a place to note them and then slip back into sleep quickly.
4. Reserve the bed for sleep and sex
If the bed is regularly used for activities done while awake, like watching TV, working on the computer, or playing video games, the body may begin to associate the bed with waking activities, leading to difficulty falling asleep.
It’s also important to limit the amount of time you spend lying in bed wide awake. If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do something calming by low, soft light (don’t watch TV, check your phone, or play games on your tablet). When you start to feel tired, go back to bed. Trying to force sleep can trigger stress hormones keeping awake longer. Sticking to a regular sleep-wake schedule will minimize this problem.
5. Practice progressive muscle relaxation
The art of progressive muscle relaxation involves purposely tensing different muscle groups before relaxing them again. This helps release tension built up in your body from the day’s activities.
It’s a simple exercise to do and only takes about 15 minutes to complete. Start by lying on your bed. Then starting from the top of your head and working your way down to your toes, hold each muscle tension for 5 seconds, then pause for 10 seconds and breathe deeply between each muscle group.
- Forehead – Raise your eyebrows as far as you can
- Eyes – Clench your eyelids tightly shut
- Mouth – Open your mouth wide enough that the hinges of your jaw are stretched
- Neck and shoulders – Raise your shoulders up to touch your ears and tighten the muscles
- Chest – Tighten by taking a deep breath
- Stomach – Suck your stomach in
- Right arm and hand – Tighten your bicep by drawing your forearm up towards your shoulder and “make a muscle” while clenching a fist.
- Left arm and hand – Tighten your bicep by drawing your forearm up towards your shoulder and “make a muscle” while clenching a fist.
- Buttocks – Tighten by pulling your buttocks up and together.
- Right thigh and calf – Squeeze your thigh muscle and tighten your calf while pointing your toes downwards
- Left thigh and calf– Squeeze your thigh muscle and tighten your calf while pointing your toes downwards
- Right foot – Curl your toes downwards
- Left foot – Curl your toes downwards
6. Try humming
Whether you have a tune stuck in your head or a favorite tune that relaxes you, humming it is a great way to relax. Humming as the same calming effect on the nervous system as deep breathing. It also makes your face, neck and should muscles more relaxed and soothed – almost like a mini massage.
7. Use 4-7-8 breathing
Dr. Andrew Weil, the pioneer of ‘integrative medicine,’ advises people to perform the 4-7-8 breathing exercise to experience a profound sense of inner relaxation. It’s a simple technique where you breathe in 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and then breathe out for 8 seconds. You should repeat this 4 times to feel the benefits.
8. Practice sound meditation
Mediation focused on a specific sound or vibration can deeply relax you. When you focus solely on the sound vibrations from instruments like singing bowls, chimes, drums, gongs, or even a personal mantra, you can transport yourself into a state of calmness and profound peace in as little as 20 minutes. A wide variety of sound mediation playlists are available on most music services.
9. Try guided imagery
Hang a picture on the wall of your bedroom that you find particularly relaxing. As you prepare for sleep, focus your attention on the image (or another story or image that you find relaxing). As you lay in your bed, let your body relax as you concentrate on the image. Focus your thoughts on of all the details in the image and on what makes it relaxing.
If you get distracted, calmly move your thoughts back. This will take time to master, but the more you try, the more relaxed you will be.
10. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a type of mediation that is about focusing all of your attention on the current moment. You simply focus on being aware of where you are and what you’re doing – observe the moment as it is, letting all judgments pass by.
The practice of mindfulness involves many of the relaxation techniques already covered, but all are working in sync. As you sit comfortably, let your gaze soften and focus on your breathing. If you notice your mind wandering, acknowledge the thoughts and bring your attention back to your breathing.