The 30-Minute, 3-Step Bedtime Solution
Creating a habit of preparing yourself for bed will help your brain know when it’s time to sleep. Try this 30-minute solution to get set up for a good night’s rest.
Step 1 – Write It Out
Stress is the leading cause of sleeplessness and taking the time to reduce your stress every day can help mitigate its effect on your sleep. In today’s society, 99.9% of our stress is psychological – the fight with your partner, yelling at the kids, the bad performance review from your boss, the nasty comment on your social media – all of these things induce the stress response, the flight or fight.
When the stress response kicks in, adrenaline and cortisol are released into your system causing an increase in muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure, and brain wave patterns. This response was meant to help you think and move quickly with speed, agility, and strength in the face of a physical threat.
When you are under a physical threat, the brain understands when it is over – you slay the tiger or survived the car accident – and the cortisol and adrenaline are automatically released.
However, when you are under a psychological threat, the brain doesn’t understand when it is over and the cortisol stays elevated in your system which reduces deep sleep resulting in a lighter, more easily disrupted night.
The worst part about psychological stress, is our conscious brain has become adept at making us believe the threat is over.
The worst part about psychological stress, is our conscious brain has become adept at making us believe the threat is over. You apologize for the fight, you reflect on the comments from your boss, you respond in similar nasty fashion to the social media comment; but your subconscious brain ruminates.
To stop these thoughts from ruining your night, take ten minutes to journal about your day, what went right, what you thought could be better, and especially how you felt throughout the day. This can help to dissipate any lingering stress that may try to spin out in your mind during the night.
To Do Lists
Have you ever woken up in the night and thought, “OMG! I need to remember to do…” And then you spend the next hour or more running it through your mind, over, and over, and over, and over, so you don’t forget to do it in the morning?
Take a couple minutes to review your to do list or to create a new one to help free your brain from trying to remember to do it the next day. You can also do this in the middle of the night when the list keeps you awake – writing it down means your brain doesn't have to try to remember it.
Step 2 – Engage in A Relaxing Activity
It’s really important to spend some time relaxing before bed. Society today comes with a lot of distractions and a need to always be on, to always be connected.
Not only should you turn off your devices, or at the very least, turn off notifications, but you should also avoid doing any thing that is too engaging for your brain.
Love documentaries but they keep you thinking for hours? Watch them earlier in the night to allow for time to consider what you learned and to avoid the thoughts from disrupting your sleep.
Tend to have important conversations with your partner while lying in bed? Start scheduling a time earlier each night to have those conversations so you have time to process the discussion, so it doesn’t keep you awake at night.
Take 15 minutes to do something that relaxes your brain.
Instead of engaging your brain in these kinds of activities, take 15 minutes to do something that relaxes your brain, like reading, listening to an audiobook, watching a neutral TV show, or meditating. Whatever the relaxing activity, ensure it’s something you can put aside if you start to fall asleep. And be sure to set a timer on your audiobook or TV so the noise doesn’t wake you later in the night.
Step3 – Try This Relaxation Technique
Before turning out your light, make sure you’re ready for sleep, meaning that you are sleepy and not just tired. Sleepy is a need for sleep and your body is physically telling you by yawning excessively or nodding off. Tired is a desire for sleep or a weariness but not necessarily ready to sleep yet.
Once you turn out the lights, you can try this relaxation technique to help you fall asleep easier.
Start by getting into your most comfortable position. Then relax all the muscles in your body. You can start at the head or the feet and imagine the muscles relaxing, or feeling heavy or warm, until you are fully relaxed.
When we are fully relaxed and sleeping, we breathe into the abdomen.
Then breathe into your abdomen. When we are stressed and anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly with our chest or even hold our breath. But when we are fully relaxed and sleeping, we breathe into the abdomen. When you breathe into your abdomen, don’t count your breath, or hold it, just breathe normally and as your body relaxes, it will naturally begin to deepen.
Lastly, calm your mind by using a mantra. Pick one neutral word like, one, heavy, or warm, but don’t use sleep or relax as that may get the brain thinking that you are not asleep or relaxed. If your mind starts to wander, bring yourself back to your breathing and your mantra.
Creating a healthy routine before bed will help relax your mind and set you up for a great night of sleep.
Looking for more ideas for the perfect bedtime routine? Get my free PDF, 15 Healthy Things to Do Before Bed.