Stressed? Don’t lose sleep over it.
Hormones like cortisol keep you awake when you’re stressed – which is why your goal should be to relax, not sleep. Try these relaxation techniques on for size during your stressful times, for hours of deep and restorative sleep when you need it most.
Prepare by day
If you want a good night’s sleep, spare a little time to do this, no matter how busy you are today…
1. Sweat it out
Get your heart pumping to reduce stress and increase the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. Walk, kick a ball about, try yoga – exercise however you fancy for 20-30 minutes a day. If you can get outside, all the better, because sunlight helps you relax – clearing your mind for a good night’s sleep.
2. Put your worries onto paper
Get good at writing ‘to do’ lists. Dump your worries and any unfinished business onto paper, with a note about how you’re going to deal with it tomorrow. Armed with a battle plan like this, your brain won’t have to spend time worrying, giving you the chance to relax and sleep.
3. Declutter your bedroom
Transform your chaotic space into a calm one, using Marie Kondo’s world renowned decluttering advice. Surround yourself with objects that bring you happiness and get your books, paperwork and unloved clothes out of your bedroom – or out of sight in a divan bed base. Hide your clocks too, so you won’t stress yourself out counting the hours, minutes, and seconds until your alarm screams.
4. Use your bed as a bed, never a desk
Leave your work, serious conversations and any big decisions at your bedroom door. No checking your emails in bed or so much as watching the evening news. Associate your bed with nothing but sleep, to get in the right headspace for doing just that.
5. Tweak your bedtime
Train your body clock, go to bed at the same time every night for a good night’s sleep. But make sure you’re not going to bed too early. Racing thoughts aren’t necessarily a sign of anxiety, but being tired and awake. So stop forcing yourself into bed if you’re not tired. It could backfire.
Use this back up plan by night
Don’t just lie there, tossing and turning. Give sleep another shot by working through these nocturnal relaxation techniques tonight…
1. Start a pre-sleep ritual
Whether you wash the dishes, shower or journal for 20 minutes, get in the habit of doing a certain task before bed – you’ll soon associate it with sleep, preparing your mind for bedtime.
2. Think positive thoughts & pamper yourself
Desperate times call for desperate pleasures. Spread fresh sheets over your bed and soak in a hot bath for 30 minutes, two hours before bedtime – you could even use lavender bubble bath or moisturiser, with its slightly sedative effect. Reflect on good memories and happy events, while learning to forgive. Sometimes it’s no mean feat, but it’ll bring you joy, give you confidence and ultimately, relax you ready for sleep.
3. Take an imaginary holiday
If you could go anywhere, where would you be? Imagine every detail of it – what you see, hear and smell. Lose yourself in this imaginary world.
4. Distract yourself from… ooh look at that!
Forget your troubles by focussing on literally anything else. Think of animals with a certain letter, calculate tricky sums in your mind or listen to an audio book. Bore yourself to sleep with monotonous nature sounds or white noise. Anything. Just avoid anything electronic, because the blue light from the screen will overstimulate you and keep you awake.
5. Learn when to quit
Cut your losses to save you from further stress. It’s better to get up and leave your bedroom to do something relaxing, than panic that you’re still awake. Keep the lights dim and brew yourself a calming mug of Chamomile tea, read a book and take deep breathes – saying ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhh’ as you slowly breathe out.
6. Try a spot of Thai Chi or Yoga
Lie on your back with your legs up the wall and your arms by your side with your palms facing up. Breathe gently for two minutes, feeling the stretch down the back of your legs. Alternatively, lie on your back and bend your legs, putting the soles of your feet together to form a diamond shape with your legs. Rest your arms by your side and relax for three minutes.
Still stressing? Relax your mind with some late night Thai Chi, with masters like this:
7. Snaffle a sleep snack
Eat 30grams of almonds, a tablespoon of almond butter or snack on fresh, frozen, or dried cherries – all sleep-inducing foods. Wash it down with a glass of cherry juice or a calming mug of Chamomile tea.
8. Take your breathing more seriously
Take the edge off your day and relax, by laying on your back with your eyes closed and your right hand on your belly – feel it expand when you breathe in slowly. Imagine it’s a balloon filling with air. And when you slowly breathe out, the balloon is deflating. Controlling your breath like this will slow your heartrate and calm you down, even when you’re stressed – giving you a better chance of drifting off to sleep.