For a more a restful sleep, try these 3 simple tips to relax your mind, body and spirit
Life throws some pretty annoying curveballs at us sometimes. We’re in a big rush for that meeting and the printer decides to make us its personal enemy. We’re all ready for our hot date when a cafe door decides to swing open; the result, a white shirt of brown coffee stains and a feeling of now being hot in an entirely different way. And even though Alanis Morissette got it wrong by calling her song Ironic (nothing in it’s ironic; just annoying!), she did have a point.
Sometimes when we want something so badly, the opposite ends up happening. Like when we’ve never felt more exhausted, we can’t wait to get into bed and conk out until morning and then, but when we do…nothing. Sleep, that tricksy mistress, tempts us, lures us in – and then eludes us again, chuckling all the way.
As we lie there in bed, hoping for sleep to come, our minds are busy replaying the events of the day or planning the events of tomorrow. It seems the wandering mind will do whatever it takes to stay awake and alert. The result? A night of tossing and turning, hours of broken sleep and random dreams…and a grumpy, irritable you come morning.
Fear not! You needn’t be a sleep-deprived zombie every morning. Instead, try these 3 steps to relax your body and your mind before sleep and you’ll find a healthier, happier you in the bathroom mirror when you get up.
1. Embrace the Great Outdoors
Being cooped up all day, say in the office or at home with the kids, may make you exhausted, but not the kind of exhaustion that preludes sleep. My dad used to always exclaim “there’s nothing like a bit of fresh air!”, and then pulling us by the reluctant arm and taking us on weekly hikes in the mountains when all we wanted to do was remain firmly stuck to that TV.
But you know what? I’m so glad he did…because now I have a deep appreciation of the great outdoors. And I still keep up my weekly Sunday hike; meaning those Monday morning blues have never really affected me. Why? Because all that fresh air knocks me out! My body has gotten a workout, my serotonin levels are high, and my mind feels calm, instead of filled with the ‘Sunday night fear’ that my colleagues frequently mention. During the week, I make sure to do at least half an hour of exercise a day (walking, yoga or swimming) and I eat my lunch outside whenever the weather lets me. This combination of fresh air and exercise has worked wonders for my sleep; and I’ve no doubt that it will for you, too!
2. Shut Down Early
It’s easy to get into bad habits. You start by watching that new Netflix show in the living room after dinner. Just one episode, you say, then it’s time to turn in. Before you know it, your laptop has made its way into bed with you and you’re still staring, transfixed, at these moving images past midnight. Your brain is taking in all the violence, all the sex, all the drama, right when it’s supposed to be shutting down. Apart from leaving you with some pretty crazy dreams, this makes it much harder for you to get to sleep in the first place.
It’s been proven that devices which emit blue light can disrupt our sleep patterns. They overstimulate the mind, which goes into overdrive instead of settling down. So even if you’re not aware of it, checking those emails, watching TV, and posting on social media in the late hours is really hampering your ability to sleep.
And really, have you ever responded to all those WhatsApp messages, and then put your phone down and fallen promptly asleep? Probably not…because those thoughts and plans and worries are still churning around in your brain as neural connections. It may be a myth that the brain rests while we sleep; in fact it is pretty active. So do yourself a favour: Switch off those screens (your TV, your laptop and your phone…yes, your phone too!) an hour before bedtime. Buy yourself an alarm clock instead and you’ll actually be able to sleep soundly until it goes off.
3. Get Into Meditation
If you haven’t already, you really should. Because meditation makes us all kinder, more aware, more grateful people…and doesn’t that sound like a nicer society to live in than one filled with stressed, tense and angry machines?
The benefits of meditation are endless, but one major one is that it can drastically improve how you sleep at night. Why? Well, because you learn to be aware of those thoughts that come rushing into your head as you lie down…and rather than getting caught up in them, or beating yourself up for thinking (how dare you!) you can simply acknowledge them, then let them pass by.
Try doing a lying down body scan meditation to relax both your body and mind. Starting with the toes, imagine that you’re softening every part of your body – your ankles, knees, hips and so on – right up to the top of your head. Do this slowly, over the course of about 20 minutes, and your mind will become less clogged with other thoughts.
If you have the same anxieties plaguing you every night, make a list. Think of the situation that worried you from that day, how you might have reacted differently, then resolve to do that next time and sleep with an untroubled mind. Bringing those worries to bed will only throw them back up again and again. Instead, by resolving them as best you can first, your mind will be less chaotic and more at peace.
Hopefully these tips will help you relax both your body and your mind so you can wake up refreshed and alert, ready to face whatever the day has in store. If you need any more tips, here are some additional great sleep resources. Sweet dreams!
>You may also enjoy reading 5 Ways that Sleep improves Your Mind, Body & Happiness, by Edie Ainsworth