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sleep / wellness

How to Wind Down Before Bed

by BetterSleep
Jun 15 • 5 min read

Relaxing before bed isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some nights it feels like the more we try to relax, the more stressed out we become. And as well-intentioned as your loved one may be when they say “just don’t be so stressed,” we all know (unfortunately) it doesn’t work like that.

Taking the time to relax and unwind before bed has been shown to improve sleep quality. For years people have been trying to crack the secret of how to wind down before bed. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, there are many different techniques that can help you relax and get better sleep. Keep reading to find the one that’s best for you!

Why is relaxing before bed good for my sleep?

If you work late or are out with friends, it can be hard to find the time to relax before bed. All this stress and busyness means you don’t have time to turn your brain “off” before bed. Going to bed with a hyper-aroused brain (ie. thinking about what you need to do, thinking about the next day, your plans, and more) interferes with how well you can get to sleep and stay asleep. It’s important to create a relaxing bedtime routine to help signal to your body that you’re about to go to sleep

Did you know: relaxing before bed improves sleep quality and is even used as a way to treat insomnia.

How long should I wind down?

A good bedtime routine is all about consistency. Aim to start yours anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours before you usually go to bed. You know what is realistic for you - stick with that!

Ways to relax before bed

Here are some easy things you can try to create a relaxing bedtime routine.

Nighttime meditation

Meditation boasts a variety of benefits at all times of the day, but if you’re having trouble sleeping, you should try a quick meditation into your nighttime routine. Meditation helps people fall asleep twice as fast and preserve deep sleep. It’s also been shown to increase melatonin, activate parts of your brain that control sleep, and decrease blood pressure.

Meditation can look like you sitting mindfully for a couple of minutes and focusing on your breath, or it can range to an hour-long deep sleep-guided meditation. If you get especially anxious at night, it may help to find a guided meditation specifically for anxiety and sleep. These guided meditations mean you can simply listen to the cues to get your body into a state of relaxation. You can also use sleep mantras (focusing all your attention and energy on saying one phrase) to help your brain focus and progressive muscle relaxation to relax your body from head to toe.

Read a book

A study from the University of Sussex in 2009 found that reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent. According to Mental Health First Aid, just six minutes of undisturbed reading is enough to distract your mind from your worries.

Steer clear of caffeine

Reduce your caffeine intake between 3 to 7 hours before going to bed, so it doesn’t impact your sleep quality.

Listen to music

Music has been shown to soothe the automatic nervous system (the system that helps you relax by slowing your breathing, lowering your heart rate, and reducing your blood pressure), helping you get into a relaxed state for sleep. Make sure you steer clear of heavy metal music or songs that stir significant emotions. Sleep Foundation says most studies say that songs with 60 to 80 BPM (beats per minute) are best. If you don’t feel like making your own, browse through free pre-curated sleep playlists online.

Here are some other things you can do to unwind before bed

  • Do light stretching or yoga
  • Avoid light exposure from screens (or, try blue-light blocking glasses)
  • Take a hot bath

Need help forming your sleep routine? Check out these helpful tips from the BetterSleep blog!

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