After a hard day at work or the demands of children and family, it’s common for us to feel on edge and unable to relax before we go to bed. Stress and anxiety can really take their toll on the quality of our sleep as we typically find ourselves going over and over scenarios in our minds instead of letting them go and focusing on ourselves instead. Stress and anxiety can also cause our muscles to be tense which in turn affects the quality of our sleep. Being tense causes pain and discomfort, which can wake us up during the night.
How to de-stress and relax before bed
While it may be tempting to give into vices such as alcohol, junk food or nicotine to unwind before bed, these types of ‘home remedies’ will unfortunately only worsen your stress levels.
To help you unwind and de-stress yourself before bedtime, try some of these tips:
Practise being mindful.
Shortly before bedtime, try a relaxation strategy such as yoga, deep breathing or meditation to relax your mind.
Limit screen time.
The blue light emitted by devices such as TVs, phones, laptops, and tablets can throw off your body’s internal clock, as it tricks your body into thinking its daylight.
Drink chamomile tea
Known for helping to lower anxiety, this soothing tea could help you fall asleep easier.
Relax in a warm bath or take a shower
Picture yourself cleansing away the stresses from your day as you wash. Going from warm water into a cooler bedroom will make your body temperature drop, and this naturally causes sleepiness.
Do some gentle leg exercises
While exercising strenuously right before bed can keep you awake, gentle leg exercises are unlikely to have a negative effect on your sleep. Leg lifts and squats help increase blood flow which can have a soothing effect and make it easier to drift off.
Try the classic counting of sheep
It might sound like an old wives’ tale, but this can work. Keeping your brain focused on one thing helps you to power down. You could also try focusing on your breathing until you feel calmer.
Imagine yourself asleep
By picturing yourself in a peaceful sleep, you’ll put yourself in a state of relaxation. Try clenching and releasing your muscles, starting with your face and work all the way down to your feet.
Exercise earlier in the day
Working out is a great stress reliever and has been shown to improve the quality of sleep. But make sure your more intense workouts aren’t too close to bedtime – hit the gym at least three hours before you go to bed.
Take time to think stuff through earlier
When your mind is racing with concerns while you’re trying to fall asleep, it can be impossible to drift off. Try dedicating 15 minutes during the day to process these worries and thoughts. Write a to-do list or think about some solutions and then let them go until the following day.
If you’re still struggling to switch off, check out this Sleep Matters Club article which lists 10 sleep relaxation tips you may not have heard of. There’s also an article dedicated to unwinding after work in the evening.
You can also access our guide to everything you need to know about sleep. If you’re experiencing long-term sleep problems, or you’re finding that your overall health is suffering, it’s wise to speak to your GP.