Bedtime Rituals to Quiet Your Mind for Sound Sleep
Do you ever have problems winding down at the end of the day? Getting to sleep – or staying asleep – because you can’t shut down your brain? Do you find yourself ruminating about what you should have done today or what you need to do tomorrow – or on any other similarly inane narrative? Me too!
I went looking for a way to stop that steady flow in my brain. Because if I allow even one of those thoughts to bubble up, and if I entertain it for just a moment longer, it latches on causing nighttime chaos.
That's because stressing about something stimulates the release of the stress hormone, adrenaline, leading to an even greater sense of alertness. And, as you know, it’s impossible to get restful slumber when your brain is switched to full power.
Start a Bedtime Ritual
Have you ever experienced the nightly activity of putting a kid to bed? If you have, it likely involved a series of nightly rituals including having a night snack, changing into pj’s, brushing your teeth, dimming the lights, reading a book, and saying a prayer. And, it seems to help.
And, yet, what do most adults do? Work or watch the screen up until bedtime (or even later than planned), turn out the lights, and then wonder why they can’t get to sleep.
To encourage sleep, I often suggest people establish a nightly bedtime routine beginning about an hour before bedtime. Mine involves changing into Pjs, washing up, stretching, and then I do a Sukoku puzzle (always on paper)! Pushing my brain to find numbers to solve a 9 X 9 grid is immensely helpful to turn off the steady flow of thoughts. But, Sudoku isn’t the answer for everyone. In fact, one friend told me that Sudoku creates anxiety, not rest.
Bedtime Ritual Ideas
Here are some other ideas on how to relax before bedtime:
- Write it down. Are worried keeping you awake a night. Try journaling before bed about them - to get them off your chest.
- Make a list. Is your mind racing about all the things you have to do tomorrow? Then jot down a list. When your mind goes back to those things you need to do tomorrow, remind yourself, "I've got it written down so I don't need to keep it in my brain. And, besides, nothing can be done now."
- Read a book. Tammy Preston, VP at Charitable Achievements, likes to relax in bed (without the tv on) by reading a good book for a while before falling asleep.
- Sip some chamomile herbal tea and journal. Jennifer Fisher, Managing Director of Well-being, Deloitte LLP shared her bedtime routine: “About 45 minutes before bedtime I dim the lights, play relaxing music, and make a cup of chamomile herbal tea. I then journal my thoughts – and spend some time meditating and practicing deep breathing.”
- Do something simple on the computer. Marty Yadrick, Director of Nutrition Informatics at Computrition, Inc. told me that he relaxes by ending the day on the computer with simple tasks like updating quicken, checking his 401K balance, or hopping onto Facebook to connect with friends.
- Yoga or Stretching. Whatever relaxes the body, relaxes the mind. So would a nightly stretching routine help? On the other hand...
- Work out to the point of exhaustion. Jeff Mathers, Senior Director, Global Software Engineering said, “I sleep better when I work out very late (10PM) to the point of exhaustion.”
- Listen to quiet music. Why not set up a nighttime playlist of your favorite songs that help you too relax?
- Add white noise. I’ve heard to stories where parents take their babies into the laundry room to be lulled to sleep by the sound of the washer or dryer (and maybe the vibration, too). I find night to be a bit too quiet so I use an air purifier to introduce white noise. There are also apps with a wide variety of white noises. The one I use when traveling is White Noise.
- Pick a sound. These apps often have repetitive babbling brooks, rain storms, forest sounds, and more. Personally I don’t listen to the thunderstorm or jungle sounds at night since they have a random loud thunder crack or lion roar that tends to startle me.
- Meditate. Meditation can help you get to sleep more easily by reducing stress and anxiety. It gives you a break from sensory overload and helps you to calm your racing thoughts.
- Try guided meditation. Need some help to meditate? There are many apps that offer soft music and southing voices help guide you to a relaxed state such as Calm, Headspace, and Omvana. These work because we can only think one thought at a time.
- Get bored to sleep. Sleep with Me is an NPR podcast that was started in 2013 by Drew Ackerman. In his long rambling bedtime stories for adults, in which he frequently gets off track, he says he doesn’t help people fall asleep, as much as he just keeps them company while they fall asleep. It’s not for everyone, but you might want to give it a try.
What do you do to help you relax at bedtime? Drop me an email (AskMe (at) DrJo.com) and let me know.
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