Most people have some sort of bedtime ritual. Whether it involves taking a hot bath, reading, stretching, watching a movie, drinking some special beverage or just relaxing on your bed. Another kind might just be falling into bed whenever you’re too tired to keep awake any longer.
Since sleeping might be one of the most important things you do to keep your body and mind healthy, rethinking your bedtime routine might be a good idea if you fall into the latter category.
Here are some things to do before bed that you can consider doing, and adding to your routine, if you already have one.
8 things to do before bed
- Take a hot bath
I’m sure you know the feeling of relaxation you get after taking a long, hot bath. The hot water helps to relax stiff muscles, especially if you’ve had a workout during the day. This is important in order for you to get a good night’s rest. Having tense muscles during the night results in a feeling of insufficient rest the next morning. Pain relief is always a great way to destress, and a hot bath can also help to relieve pain from swollen or stiff joints. If you suffer from arthritis, a warm bath could also help relieve your pain.
A hot bath can also induce and help your body with detoxing. Every night your body goes through a natural detox process, that clears the toxins that have gathered in your body during the day. When you soak in hot water your temperature rises, which causes you to break into sweat. This begins the detox process and can help your body do a more thorough cleansing. This might cause headaches or slightly red and swollen eyes in the morning, but your body will thank you for it in the long run.
If you’re looking to make your soak in the tub even more effective, consider adding something to the water. Sea salt, Epsom salt or any mineral salt will ease your aches and pains even more efficiently, and help you relax more deeply. You can also use a natural detoxifying agent like baking soda or ginger.
- Try journaling
Some research has shown that people who write about their lives every day see many positive changes. This includes having higher grades in school and college, doing better at your job, having less stress, and even living longer.
Journaling might sound like a daunting task, but it is important to remember that you only have to write as much as you want. You don’t need to write down every detail from what you had for breakfast to how many red lights you stopped at on your way to work to the amount of hairs on your dog’s coat, you can just write down the things that matter.
Research has shown that just writing a few sentences about the things that are bothering you can help you sleep much better. Write down everything that’s stressing you out, all the angsty thoughts buzzing around your brain. If somebody said something hurtful to you during the day and you find yourself still feeling bad about it, get it on paper and out of your head. If you’re pondering over a decision you have to make, write down all the pros and cons so that you can see it in sober black and white.
In addition to writing down the bad things, you should also write down the good things. You could write down all the things that made you smile that day. Or all the things that made you feel thankful. Write down your successes and nice things that people said to you. Write down the things you dream about during one day. Don’t try to organize, just pour it out on the paper.
If you allow some of your thoughts to materialize on paper like that, you might find yourself feeling much more relaxed, which of course will help you sleep better.
- Plan for the next day
While you’re busy writing in your journal, you might as well plan the next day’s activities as well. This provides a calm time for you to think about you goals and appointments for tomorrow. Having your schedule planned and knowing that you won’t forget something in the morning will give you peace of mind as you try to go to sleep.
In the first place, just list your appointments. Make a note of things you have to do for work or school, of assignments or deadlines you have to meet. Remember to make a note if you have a meeting or a date some time during the day. If you have to drop the kids off at school or take them to sports or music lessons, make a note of that as well. Also check your emails and messages to make sure there isn’t anything that you’ve forgotten.
Next, you should think about your own goals. If there are things that aren’t necessarily work related that you would like to do, make time for them in your schedule.
The next thing that many people find saves them time in the morning, and thus gives them more time to snooze, is deciding on and laying out their outfit for the next day. For example, if you know that you want to go to the gym early the next morning, you can save time by setting out your workout clothes and trainers. But don’t just lay out your workout clothes, be sure to lay out or pack the clothes you want to wear during the day as well. That way, you won’t have to stumble around looking for clothes in the nick of time. It might also be more enjoyable and relaxing to pick your outfits in a leisurely moment.
- Dim the lights
Have you ever tried sleeping in a hospital? One of the main things that many people complain about is the fact that the lights never seem to get switched off. The lights in the hallways are usually kept on through the whole night, and are of a particularly intense brightness. This is of course to help the medical personnel fulfil their duties, but there is no getting around the fact that bright lights are almost better than caffeine at keeping us awake. The science behind this is that the photoreceptors in your eyes sense light and dark, and alert your brain to the status of the outside world. This aligns your circadian rhythm to the external cycle of days and nights. It is important to dim the lights in order to be alert in the morning, and also to help us fall asleep easily in the evening.
It makes sense, therefore, to dim your lights when you want to relax before going to sleep. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a dimmer on your light switch, you can opt for a bed lamp with a lower brightness. The hue is also important, as a softer, yellowish hue is more calming to the human eye.
A fun thing you can consider is lighting a few candles. Candlelight is excellent at setting a more relaxed and calm mood. There are also many scented products on the market. A scent like lavender or jasmine has may calming properties, or you could even use some special calming blend especially crafted by a manufacturer.
- Shut down your electronics
As mentioned above, light plays a huge role in your brain settling into the correct circadian rhythm. Research has now shown that even the small amounts of light coming from your phone, computer or tablets, are also able to destabilize that rhythm.
Furthermore, studies have shown that the specific type of light given off by your electronic device does not create a sleep-friendly environment. The light given off by phones, laptops and other electronic devices is blue-and-white light. This has been shown to prevent your brain from releasing melatonin, which is a hormone that tells our bodies that it is night time.
Some experts suggest cutting off your screen time at least an hour before bed, in order to go to sleep more easily.
- Read a good book
Reading is a great way to lower your stress levels, and get you to fall asleep. Studies have shown that it is even more effective in reducing stress than other common methods, like stretching or listening to calming music. Reading for as little as six minutes helps you to relax and releases tension in your body. This is most likely due to the fact that reading stimulates your imagination, and allows you to use your creativity to enter an almost altered state of consciousness. You are able to connect with the author’s world and imagination, and escape from everyday worries and stress.
Other than being great at helping you relax, reading might also improve your life overall. Studies have shown that people who read do not only obtain the obvious benefits like an enlarged vocabulary, a boosted memory and better communication skills. They also develop the ability to think more logically and focus better. It has also been reported that fiction readers especially show a larger capacity for empathy towards others.
Reading makes sense on an economical level, as it improves your literacy. People with a higher literacy level are more likely to get a higher salary, keep their jobs longer and are less likely to become involved in a divorce.
While you might feel that you can’t fit in the time to read into your busy social schedule, you might be able to fit in a little reading in the quiet time before bed. A few pages, or even just a few paragraphs, add up to some hefty tomes in the long run.
- Do some yoga
Many people find that doing some exercise before they go to bed helps them to fall asleep. However, doing a high-intensity cardio workout might not be the best option, as this pumps up your heart rate and floods your body with adrenaline. A workout that has become very popular in the last couple of years is yoga. Endorsed and practiced by many celebrities, it is a stretching based exercise that helps to strengthen your core muscles, improve your breathing and energy and increase your flexibility.
Yoga will also help you work out aching muscles or joints and improve your blood circulation. It is focused on teaching you to clear your head and finding inner balance, which is a good idea if you struggle to relax before bed.
You can easily look up some yoga poses to do before bed, but here are one of my favourites:
The Child’s Pose
To get into the child’s pose, you get into a kneeling position on your mat. Stretch your arms forward, but ensure that your tailbone stays pushed back against your heels. You can stretch as far as you feel comfortable, relaxing your arms onto the floor and your stomach onto your thighs. Stay in this position for as long as you like.
- Just breathe
If you do a yoga routine before bed you will most likely do some breathing exercises as part of that. If not, you should consider doing so anyways.
Breathing exercises might seem a little superfluous at first: after all, breathing is so easy a baby could do it. However, teaching yourself to breathe deeply and mindfully could reduce stress and anxiety and improve your sleep and mood. When stressed or upset, you tend to start taking short, shallow breaths. This means that you are no longer using your diaphragm to take the deep breaths you need to keep your body in supply of oxygen, which serves to make you feel even more stressed and anxious. Once you start breathing deeply again, the signal is quickly sent to your body that the danger is past, and you will find it much easier to calm down.
There are several types of breathing exercises that are designed to help you calm down. Perhaps the simplest exercise is to simply count your breaths. This focuses your attention on the act of breathing in and out, forcing you to take more mindful breaths. Another simple way is called “pursed lip breathing”. For this exercise, you take a deep breath in for 2 counts, and then purse your lips and exhale for 4 counts.
Diaphragmatic breathing is also a good way to focus on breathing more deeply, and is especially helpful if it feels as if your stomach is knotted up with anxiety. For this exercise, it is optimal that you sit down. Place your hand on your belly and breathe in deeply, trying to get your belly to push your hand away a little bit. Feel the air expanding your belly, and then slowly exhale through pursed lips.
The 4-7-8 method is another breathing exercise to help you relax. It is also optimal if you sit down for this one. Start by breathing out fully through your mouth. Close it, and breathe in deeply through your nose for four counts. Hold in that breath for 7 counts and then exhale through 8 counts. Repeat this sequence at least three times.
Yoga breathing is a bit trickier, but once you get the hang of it,
it’s great. Start by placing your right thumb over your right nostril and breathing in deeply through your left nostril. Taking your right ring finger, place it over your left nostril as you exhale from your right nostril. Leave your ring finger where it is, inhale through your right nostril and then cover it again with your thumb as you exhale through your left nostril.
That’s it, folks!
What do you do to relax before bed? Let me know in the comments!