Isn’t it frustrating when you get into bed, and you simply can’t get off to sleep! Your mind is whirring, thinking about the day’s events, what’s on your to-do list for tomorrow, and whether you forgot to do something.
I used to have no problem falling asleep at all, and that all changed when I started to experience a change in my life that brought about anxiety, stress, and worries. I lost all sense of the present and would worry about all kinds of things in the past, and the future. In this state, our muscles tense up, breathing and heart rate go up, and falling asleep is very difficult.
It can be very hard to shut our brains off before falling asleep but getting into a stable routine can really help to keep excessive thoughts away.
Why is a wind-down so important?
“Our body craves routine and likes to know what's coming.” Dr. Lawrence Epstein, Harvard
If we can program our mind and body into a consistent wind-down routine, it will help signal that it is now time to fall asleep. Having said that, no ‘one size fits all' approach will work. This means you’ll need to experiment and make the routine your own and work on what helps you.
Once you start practicing your routine, your brain will kick-start production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, and this helps you to drop into a blissful sleep! More melatonin is produced by our bodies at night-time, as a response to low light levels, which helps you to feel tired, so if we can create a calming routine, that triggers melatonin production, we are far more likely to fall asleep, naturally.
7 natural sleep remedies
1. Read a book
Studies show that undisturbed reading can reduce stress significantly. While a physical book is better, I personally find listening to an audio book works for me. I get comfortable in bed and set a timer for 15 minutes, turning the ‘phone over so there is no light emitted. Usually, by the time the narrator has stopped, I am well on my way to sleep, or I have already fallen asleep!
10 minutes before bed, begin a mindfulness exercise. Here’s how it could work.
You sit or lay down in a comfortable position and gradually check in with each part of your body slowly. You might start with your head - how heavy does it feel against the bed or wall? Acknowledge those feelings. Slowly move down to your ear, shoulder, arms, and legs. Work down to your feet and then back up the other side of your body. Really focus on how each body part is feeling and focus on relaxing each part of the body, staying present as you do it. If your mind wanders; it inevitably will, just bring it back to the present.
3. Write a journal
Getting those thoughts out of your head and down on paper helps to stop our minds from whirring and orders our thoughts before bedtime. It can also be helpful to write a to-do list ahead of the following day, so you aren’t worried about remembering things.
4. Tech-free bedtime
Stopping scrolling social media or emails approximately 1 hour before bed has proven to really help improve sleep issues. Blue light emitted from our ‘phones can disrupt our circadian rhythm. Any type of bright light signals to our brain that we should be awake, so also avoid computer use close to bedtime. If you dim the lights at the same time, it is also a signal to the brain to start shutting down and getting ready for sleep.
5. Relaxing bath
Soaking for a minimum of 15 minutes in a relaxing Epsom salt bath has been proven to reduce stress levels and help us feel calmer. You could also light some candles to make it even more relaxing. Epsom salts are made of magnesium sulphate, and magnesium is an important mineral for many enzyme reactions in the body and can help to improve insomnia.
6. Stretching or yoga
Doing some gentle stretching or light yoga will help to relax muscles and reduce tension, helping to relax you before bed.
7. Drink chamomile tea
Chamomile tea is renowned for its soothing and calming properties. It contains apigenin, which is a chemical that binds to receptors in the brain and triggers relaxation and sleepiness.
When our minds are whirring, it can be impossible to fall asleep, even if we feel physically tired. It is important to allow our mind and body to wind down, to help trigger sleepiness. Since our bodies crave routine, it is important to figure out a consistent wind-down routine that works for you personally.
If we can program our mind and body into a consistent wind-down routine, it will help signal to our brain that it is now time to fall asleep and stimulate the production of melatonin.
There are many natural ways to build a wind-down routine, with 7 ideas documented above.
I hope they help provide you with things you can try to help build your own wind-down routine.
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