How to Relax and Unwind for a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep plays a key role in our health and wellness, as it helps us to repair and recharge after a full day of various responsibilities and stimulation from things like our devices, work, school, and family. While there are many ways to help us improve our sleep, it all typically focuses on what happens when we are about to shut our eyes. But what about before that happens?

Preparing to go to sleep can play just as significant of a role in contributing to a good night’s rest as the actual sleeping part does on your health. The things you do before you say goodnight can have a direct impact on how easily you fall asleep and whether you have a restful night.

This article will look at some of the ways you can relax and unwind, which can help you to feel better prepared to catch some Z’s.

Develop a Bedtime Routine

Routines can offer numerous benefits in life, not just at night. Thanks to the repetitive nature of routines, maintaining one can help us feel more structured and balanced, and proves the adage that humans are “creatures of habit”.

During times of stress or when things seem unpredictable in life, routines can offer a sense of stability and control, which can help combat those stressful feelings. A lack of a routine or structure in one’s day can increase stress and anxiety, and lead to feelings of uneasiness; routines can contradict those feelings.

Of course, routines are not always easy to follow, as unexpected events can pop up in a day. That is why many experts recommend following a morning or night routine that can help you ease into the process of developing a full-day routine.

Following a night routine can help counter those anxious feelings that many feel around bedtime. Sleep or nighttime anxiety is extremely common, as many become more aware of their anxiety or stressful feelings at night, as the distractions of external stimuli are not as prevalent as they are during the day. When your sympathetic nervous system activates, which causes those anxious “fight or flight” feelings, it can lead to sleep disorders like insomnia, so it is important to find a way to develop some consistency at night so you can fall into a rhythm, which will naturally indicate to your body that it is time for bed.

A nighttime routine will look different for everyone, but there are some steps you can take to help you unwind in the evening hours and stick to a routine that is beneficial for you. This can include:

  • Setting an alarm to start your night routine – it can act as a reminder that you need to begin to unplug.
  • Following a guided meditation or put on a playlist with soothing music.
  • Having a warm, non-caffeinated beverage such as a soothing herbal tea.
  • Going to bed around the same time each night.

Read a Good Book

Similar to how many children are often read a bedtime story before they go to sleep, reading before bed can offer similar unwinding properties for adults. Not only is the act of reading a book very calming, as you are physically still, but it can act as a distraction to some of the ruminating anxious thoughts you may feel at night. Reading also can help reduce stress levels up to 68% — depending on the book you choose, of course.

Any type of book that captures your interest and doesn’t add to your stress is ideal. Experts say that if you can lose yourself in a book, that “escape” is exactly what you may need to lower your worries and stress from the day. As well, the act of focusing on the story and using your eye muscles to scan the pages left to right can help contribute to feeling tired and eventually going to sleep. It also helps if you read in bed – associating that space with relaxing and reading can help you get into that pattern night after night.

Remember, it may take some time to develop the relaxing benefits of reading, especially if your body is used to activating a stress response at night. However, over time, the areas in your brain that cause fear and stress will become less active, and you can feel calmer the more you incorporate this relaxing activity.

Restrict Screen Time

Phone, tablet, TV, laptop – put them away, especially 30-45 minutes before bedtime. There are two main factors about screen time before bed that can make it more difficult to have a good night’s sleep: the psychological impact and blue light.

Think about what is on your phone – anything and everything! Since there is such an array of stimuli that range from happy to sad to stressful, engaging with this content keeps our minds psychologically engaged, which is not what we need before going to sleep. The more stimulated the brain is from this type of content, the more active and awake you are, which is exactly what you do not want when you are trying to unwind for the night.

Blue light is also a concern, as it can have an impact on your melatonin levels – the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. To keep our circadian rhythm in check, it is important to get as much natural light as we can in the morning and less at night. That way, we can create a signal in our body that we need less melatonin in the morning and more in the evening.

When you incorporate blue light into your evening, it can have the largest impact on your circadian rhythm and suppress the release of melatonin. This constant disruption of your circadian rhythm can cause a range of negative health concerns, so keep those devices off until morning!

Incorporate Physical Relaxation Exercises & Techniques

When your body is physically relaxed, you may find it much easier to feel tired. Many relaxation exercises can help, and by combining them, you can bring out an optimal level of relaxation, especially before bedtime.

Breathing exercises can help deepen your breath, reduce stress and anxiety, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and help you feel an overall sense of calmness. There are several techniques you can try out, but simply incorporating them near bedtime can help immensely in the unwinding process.

Muscle relaxation is also a big help in feeling less stressed in the evening. For instance, taking a hot bath can help relax your muscles and reduce pain, and research has found that doing so at least 90 minutes before going to bed can help you fall asleep ten minutes quicker.

Getting massages is another muscle relaxation technique you can incorporate into your day that will help prepare your body for bedtime. Since the body can hold a lot of tension in various areas, it can make it difficult to feel fully relaxed, especially when you are trying to sleep. Receiving a massage from a Registered Massage Therapist can be a great tool to reducing pain while at the same time lowering stress and anxiety levels.

If you want to get a jump start on a good night’s sleep, contact a Massage Experts near you and speak to one of our specialists about our various services.