How To Unwind Before Bed

When your days are jammed with your usual responsibilities and your downtime is suddenly consumed with planning for the holidays and attending celebratory shindigs, it can be hard to unwind in the evening. Which means your mind may still be racing when it’s time to settle down and slip between the sheets. Which means you may not slip into the blissful state of slumber you need to recharge. What to do?! Don’t stress! Instead, come to your own rescue and regain snooze control with these simple strategies:

Avoid sneaky stimulants. You probably realize that caffeine can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Also, remember that while having a few cocktails or glasses of wine in the evening may make you sleepy at first, after a few hours of shut-eye, alcohol can leave you susceptible to micro-arousals or full awakenings or generally poor sleep quality. Limit yourself to a max of one or two drinks per day and avoid it close to bedtime.

Steer clear of heavy meals. Have dinner earlier in the evening so you have plenty of time to digest. And avoid rich, fatty foods or things that are highly spicy or acidic that could lead to heartburn when you get horizontal. If you’re hungry before bed, have a light sleep-inducing snack that contains magnesium, tryptophan or another calming substance; good choices include a handful of walnuts and a small banana, some cheese and whole-grain crackers, or cereal with a mug of warm milk or chamomile tea.

Offload your worries. If your “To Do” list is overwhelming and you have trouble getting your mind to shut down, make a list of items you want to think about and set a time to brainstorm ideas or solutions the next morning. In the a.m., your perspective will be fresher and you’ll feel more productive and creative after a good night’s sleep. For now, remind yourself that you are officially “off duty” for the night and it’s time to clear your mind for a good night’s sleep.

Kick technology out of your bedroom. Don’t bring your smartphone, your laptop, or other high-tech devices into your bedroom. Using these gadgets tends to be stimulating, which isn’t what you need before bed, and the blue light from these devices can reset your body’s internal clock.

Create a relaxing vibe. Make sure you have comfortable pillows and sheets on the bed and that the room is dark, cool, and quiet. Treat yourself to something dreamy to wear on your journey to the Land of Nod.

Chill out before bed. Dim the lights and stick with a relaxing pre-bed routine such as taking a warm bath, or doing some gentle stretches or deep breathing exercises. Listen to soothing music. Take a mental mini-vacation (a sunny Caribbean beach, anyone?). Or slather on a calming scented lotion (such as vanilla or lavender). It’ll be a signal to your body and mind that it’s time to decompress and get in the mood to snooze.

Reflect on good moments from the day. As you try to drift off to sleep, let your mind wander to what went right and the small victories you had during the day. You might also think about what you’re grateful for in your life. Reviewing these upbeat elements will flick on a positive switch in your mind, one that will set you up for a peaceful, satisfying night’s sleep. 

Also check out How to Sleep Better from Dr. Holly Phillips or How to Relax from Kelly Morris.