Sleep is just as critical as food and water for your mental and physical wellbeing. Neglecting it could leave you with a host of sleep troubles with severe long-term consequences.
Now, how you spend the last few hours of your day can affect sleep quality in more ways than you think. This is why an effective bedtime routine is essential as part of a healthy sleep habit. It can help you unwind and prepare your mind and body for a good night’s sleep. A relaxing bedtime ritual could trigger your body’s sleep responses and get you ready for a well-rested slumber.
So, if you’re regularly struggling to fall asleep after a hectic day, here are 10 practices to help you wind down in time for bed.
1. Practice yoga
While improving your flexibility and muscle strength, yoga can also offer mental and physiological benefits to help you achieve better sleep.
For example, it can help reduce blood pressure, muscle tension, and breathing so you can fall asleep faster. It can also reduce chronic pain and increase melatonin production that’s essential to trigger sleep. And studies confirm that regular yoga has beneficial effects on overcoming insomnia among elderly adults and individuals with chronic illnesses.
There are various relaxing yoga poses such as Savasana (the corpse pose), Balasana (child’s pose), and Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) that a healthy adult could include in their bedtime yoga ritual. But if you’re suffering from any health condition, it’s important to first seek advice from your doctor.
2. Indulge in some herbal tea
Regular tea typically contains caffeine, which could have sleep-depriving effects. But many herbal teas may provide a relaxing and sleep-inducing, sedative effect that could help you sleep faster and improve overall sleep quality.
Some herbs can help with digestion, which in turn could give you a better shut-eye. In fact, Ayurveda and other eastern medical practices have used many of these herbs for centuries to induce relaxation and sleep. Chamomile, lemon balm, valerian root, lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, and turmeric are a few for you to try.
3. Aromatherapy and essential oils
For years, aromatherapy has been a popular remedy to help sleep better. According to Western science, some essential oils can help reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, which are all essential to induce sleep. And aromatherapy is known to improve sleep quality, even among the elderly.
Some of the most popular essential oils for a well-rested slumber include lavender, eucalyptus, jasmine, sandalwood, and citrus. You can try an aromatherapy diffuser, spraying mist, or an essential oil massage before bed to help you relax.
However, what works best for you may depend on your personal preferences. Also, remember to check with your doctor for advice on any allergies, medical conditions, and reactions to medication.
4. Take a hot bath
A hot bath before bedtime can reduce your body temperature and prompt the circadian rhythm to prepare you for sleep. Studies show that it could speed up your ability to fall asleep by around 36%. However, ensure you schedule the bath around 1 to 2 hours ahead of bedtime. You can also try a few drops of essential oil to make it more relaxing.
5. Practice meditation
According to Dr. Deepak Bhatt at Harvard Medical School, meditation can help reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing and help you relax. Regular meditation can increase the production of serotonin, the happy hormone that regulates stress. It can also reduce the stress hormone cortisol and help make you calmer.
So, integrate a 10- to 15-minute meditation practice into your bedtime routine. Breath meditation, guided meditation, and mindfulness meditation may all help you relax and improve sleep quality.
6. Include prayer
Research by Terrence D.Hill Ph.D. and the team suggests that religious individuals experience better sleep. Prayer before bed could be an excellent way to calm the mind, relieve stress, ease tension and worries, and unwind both physically and mentally to achieve better sleep outcomes.
7. Turn on some soothing music
If you’ve listened to the Marconi Union song Weightless, then you’re likely familiar with its calming and soothing effects. It’s designed with the help of sound therapists. And according to scientists, it’s just as effective as certain medicinal sedatives to calm patients prior to surgery.
In fact, slow, soothing music can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing and help you relax into sleep. So, playing a calming tune could be just what you need on those long nights when sleep evades you.
8. Try breathing exercises
Breathing exercises, also known as Pranayama in the East, have been practiced for centuries as part of meditation and yoga. They could help you relax and ease stress to achieve good quality sleep.
And according to research by National Yang-Ming University, practicing breathing exercises for 20 minutes prior to bedtime can improve sleep efficiency and sleep time for those suffering from insomnia.
9. Keep a gratitude journal
A daily gratitude practice can help reduce sleep disturbances and improve sleep quality and overall mental wellbeing. It can promote positive feelings, appreciation, and happiness. These are especially helpful to cope with the many stresses and worries of daily life.
Studies even confirm that writing on a gratitude journal before bedtime could help increase sleep time by around 30 minutes. In the long term, this can translate into significant health benefits.
10. Bedtime reading
Developing the habit of reading before retiring to bed could help you relax and unwind. It’s also a great way to avoid late evening screen time, which could disrupt your sleep quality.
However, be mindful of the type of books you select for bedtime reading. Keep away from thrillers, mysteries, and the likes to avoid feeling restless, tense, or excited, which could prevent you from a well-rested slumber.
Needless to say, stress, anxiety, and worry could all deprive you of good quality sleep. Therefore, unwinding with a relaxing bedtime routine is essential to achieve better sleep outcomes. Practices such as daily meditation, bedtime yoga, and gratitude journaling could significantly help reduce stress so you could achieve a calmer and more positive mental state for a restful slumber.
(This article first appeared on The Urban Stuff)