How to Relax Before bed
Waking up and sleeping at the exact same time is the greatest way to synchronise our bodies with our circadian rhythms
Sleeping is a vital activity for good health and wellbeing. Getting the right amount of good quality sleep at the right time will ensure good physical and mental health, as well as increased energy levels throughout the day.
Why Sleep is important for health
Sleep maintains a correct balance of the hormones which make us feel hungry and full – ghrelin and leptin. Deficient sleep makes ghrelin rise and leptin decrease, making us eat more than when we are well rested.
Sleeping affects how the body reacts to insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels when we’re sleep deficient.
Sleep is essential for healthy growth. During deep sleep, the body releases hormones that support growth in children and teenagers. This hormone repairs cells and tissues, and boosts muscle mass.
Sleep is indispensable for strong immunity. When we’re tired and sleep deficient, our body’s ability to fight common infections is lowered.
Sleep enhances concentration and productivity.
The effects of insufficient sleep
Insufficient sleep can result in a lowered ability to solve problems, control emotions, concentrate, make decisions, etc. It can also increase stress and fatigue, causing depression in the mid to long term.
Teenagers and children, suffer higher risks from insufficient sleep as they require higher energy levels for growth. Most bone growth occurs at night time.
How to Relax Before Bed – 7 Steps
Step 1 – Understanding the importance of sleep
Many of us prioritise our work and social life over sleep. Sleep is the first thing we sacrifice when we’re busy, thinking we can just binge on coffee the next day and catch up on lost sleep later on. But sleep is vital for health and wellness.
Step 2 – Using the bed only to relax
Using the bed only to relax helps the mind create an association between the bed and relaxation. Other activities such as reading or watching movies should be done elsewhere. Doing this will help us relax and fall asleep faster when going to bed in the future.
Step 3 – Creating an appropriate environment
Our room should be conductive to relaxation and sleep. This includes keeping the room as dark as possible, moderating the temperature and keeping noise levels to a minimum. It is also best to leave all electronic devices out of the room and use a regular alarm clock rather than the phone. Doing this will also ensure we don’t stay in bed checking our phones in the morning.
Step 4: Becoming mindful of the sleep stealers
It is wise to detect the habits that steal our sleep in a direct or indirect way.
Coffee and tea – contain caffeine (Even decaff contains traces of caffeine.)
Alcohol – Interrupts circadian rhythms
Chocolate – contains caffeine
Heavy foods – difficult digestion
Highly salty food – keep us thirsty during the night
Step 5 – Keeping a regular sleeping schedule
Having a daily schedule for rising, eating and sleeping is highly beneficial for a healthy life. Waking up and sleeping at the exact same time is the greatest way to synchronise our bodies with our circadian rhythms – our body clock.
Yogis like to synchronise their daily activities with the sun – which is how all of nature works – by rising at Brahma Muhurta – The Divine Hour.
Step 6 – Creating a pre-sleep routine
In the same way we have a regular schedule for sleeping and waking up, its beneficial to have a routine for our pre-sleep activities. If we regularly read, paint or bathe before going to bed, our body recognises it is time to relax. Being consistent in our pre-sleep ritual helps create an association between those activities and sleep.
Clothing and tools:
What we are going to wear and use on the next day should be left ready. This includes bags, tools, laptops, clothing, shoes, etc.
Making a list of all the things we have to do tomorrow is also helpful as it reduces stress. By listing everything we need to do the next day, we release some of our stress and tension, knowing that we have a plan in place, and also making sure we haven’t forgotten anything.
It is always better not to engage in any activities that stimulate the mind such as watching TV. For those who need to watch TV at night to disengage and relax, it is best to watch something soothing and relaxing, preferably something we’ve watched before and know by heart such as “friends”.
Taking a bath:
Taking a hot and relaxing bath at night is soothing to both the mind and the body. However, the water must not be too hot, as it will result in the opposite effect. Adding a few drops of lavender oil to the bath will help relax.
Step 7 – Practicing Yoga Nidra in bed
Yoga Nidra is called the sleep of yogis. This meditative technique teaches us how to relax with full awareness, helping us get rid of stress and fatigue. It energises the body and is considered the greatest form of meditation to combat insomnia. Yoga Nidra can be done as a guided meditation or self-read.
Bonus tip: Using sound to relax
What disturbs us when we’re trying to sleep? We receive all external data through our senses, but when we’re asleep its usually only light and sound the disturb us. We have control over the light in our room, but we don’t always have control over noise.
In such cases we can use soothing sounds such as binaural beats or nature sounds to help us relax and cancel out any external noise.