6 Ways To Relax Your Mind Before Bed That Are All Backed By Science
Trying to fall asleep at night is often a fickle, frustrating experience. There are nights when you're out as soon as your head hits the pillow, and then there are nights when you're up for hours, tossing and turning, staring into the darkness, trying to figure out new ways to relax your mind and shut down for the night. When your mind is racing well into the evening, sleep might seem totally impossible. But don't lose hope just yet.
It's totally normal to have trouble falling asleep, especially in our social media-obsessed age. Multiple studies are beginning to reveal the negative effects social media can have on our sleep cycles, which is, to say the least, less than ideal, since only 29 percent of millennials report sleeping as much as they should at night, according to a 2015 report from Newsweek.
But, if you've totally unplugged from your devices, and you're still having trouble calming your mind to get those ever elusive seven to eight hours of sleep a night, fear not. There are tons of new strategies you can try to relax your mind and fall asleep, most of which are available free of cost, and can be easily accessed right in the comfort of your cozy bedroom.
Whatever tactics you choose, try to stick to it for several weeks at a time. Studies show that creating bedtime routines can train your body to prepare for sleep before you've even completed the trick. Here are six quick tricks for relaxing your mind so you can fall asleep faster and more easily.
1. Stare At The Ceiling And Count Down From 60
As it turns out, counting sheep is the real deal: If you're having trouble falling asleep because of a racing mind, try staring up at your ceiling and counting down from 60, or a similar number.
Gazing upward will stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will in turn lower your blood pressure and slow down your breathing, all of which will calm you down and make it easier for you to fall asleep.
2. Cool The Temperature Of Your Brain
Research has shown that cooling the temperature of your brain can be a great way to help you feel relaxed enough to drift off to sleep, especially if you legitimately struggle with insomnia. TIME reports that insomniacs often have overly active frontal lobes (the part of the brain associated with behavior and learning), which can make it harder to wind down and fall asleep at night. Wearing a cranial cap or ice pack against your head can lower the temperature of your brain enough to allow for that overactive brain activity to chill out a bit.
3. Focus On Your Breathing
Meditation and breathing exercises are excellent ways to rid your mind of distracting thoughts, as well as allow your body to physically relax for sleep.
Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth in a deep, rhythmic pattern. Deep breathing will slow your heart rate, and focusing on the rhythm will dispel other distractions from your mind.
4. Take A Hot Bath
It might seem counterintuitive to take a hot bath, given that cooling your brain is also an aid in calming down and falling asleep. But it's true: Taking a hot bath before you go to bed will relax your muscles and raise your core body temperature (not your brain's temperature), which will act as a trigger for drowsiness.
5. Have A Cup Of Hot, Decaffeinated Tea Before Bed
Caffeine can seriously mess with your sleep schedule, even if you drink a cup of coffee as far away from your bedtime as six hours. But if you're like me, and you need to have a hot beverage basically every three hours, you should definitely consider adding decaffeinated tea to your bedtime routine.
A hot cup of tea can even serve as a general, easy bedtime habit, and you can train your body to recognize it's almost time to go to sleep with that first sip of warm goodness.
6. Run Through Some Mental Exercises
If counting numbered sheep doesn't do it for you, you can run through some mental exercises while you're in bed, such as coming up with names that start with the same letter, or trying to think of as many shades of one color as possible.
Mental exercises will distract your mind from running circles with things to do, people to talk to, or work projects you're worried about.