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What you do an hour before going to bed is crucial to the quality of sleep you are going to obtain that night.
People who spend this hour watching some dramatic news on TV or involved in an argument, would find that they don’t wake up with a sense of a deep rest but one of agitation and fatigue. The hour before you go to sleep should be used for relaxation, because the more relaxed you are, the better your sleep quality will be.
Here are 39 simple yet effective ways to deeply relax your mind and body before going to bed.
1. Listen to the sounds of the night
Nature has its own music to soothe and relax you.
Before you go to bed, go outside to your porch, or your balcony, and sit in silence for a while.
You will notice many subtle noises emanating in the darkness, mostly from the insects, bugs, frogs and some birds. If you listen in silence, you can sense a harmony in their music which seems to relax your mind automatically. This is an excellent way to relax before bed.
2. Read some calming literature
Reading can be a very relaxing activity.
Most people seem to doze off into a peaceful sleep while reading, sometimes even with the book in their hands.
Reading requires focus from your mind, which helps in disengaging from repetitive thoughts of the day, and hence brings you out of your mind, so to speak. It’s deeply relaxing for the body to be free of the stream of constant thinking, and this helps bring about a state of restful sleep.
Just make sure that the book you are reading does not provoke thoughts, but is just a calming read.
Some examples of calming books are as follows:
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
- Open City by Teju Cole
- The Din in the Head by Cynthia Ozick
- The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr
- About Grace by Anthony Doerr
- The World of Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne
- Far from the Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy
- Stay Calm by Jenny Kempe
- Mink River by Brian Doyle
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Murakami
- One Man’s Meat by E B White
If novels then to keep you up longer consider keeping a short stories collection so you can dip into bed in time.
3. Practice Breath Awareness Meditation
The practice of breath awareness is an excellent means to relax your body before sleep.
This meditation requires you to be conscious of your breathing; feel the sensation of cool air caressing the tip of your nostrils as you breathe in and the warm air as you breathe out. When you focus in this manner, attention is taken away from the streaming of thinking and placed on a “non-stimulating” activity like breathing.
An unconscious pattern of restlessness or unease, caused by your stream of thinking, is thus abated while practicing this meditation. Practicing this meditation for around 2 to 3 minutes is more than sufficient to attain a calm state.
You can even do this meditation lying in bed.
4. Listen to soothing instrumental music
There is nothing more relaxing than the harmonious beats of shamanic drums or the pleasant melody of a flute. In fact, you can get yourself some music designed specifically to relax the mind.
Avoid listening to music with lyrics before going to sleep, because then there is a possibility of the song lyrics getting stuck in your mind, causing you to stay awake longer than usual.
Listen to pure slow relaxing music, mostly from instruments that have a soothing effect like a flute, harmonica, pipe, guitar or a piano. Even sounds of nature like whale sounds, sound of rain, sounds of a forest, ocean sounds etc. can be very relaxing.
You can easily find videos with relaxing sounds on YouTube. There are also various apps that allow you to play such sounds on your phone. One really good one is the calm sound app.
5. Listen to delta frequency binaural beats
Binaural beats alter the frequency of your brain waves generating deeply relaxing states.
The brain produces delta frequency waves while in deep sleep. When you listen to delta binaural beats, your brain tries to mimic that frequency resulting in a calm state of mind. This phenomena is known as brainwave entrainment or brainwave synchronization.
Listening to 5 to 10 minutes of delta binaural beats before sleeping can relax your mind and aid deep restful sleep.
You should be able to find free binaural beats on YouTube or download them from some websites that sell such beats.
Here’s an example:
6. Have a cup of Chamomile Tea
There is nothing more soothing to the nerves than a nice cup of chamomile tea.
In fact, traditionally chamomile has been administered for stress relief and sleep and it has some “>scientific backing too.
The best part about drinking chamomile tea is that its effect is quite instant and one does not have to drink it on regular basis to cure sleeplessness. You can have a cup of chamomile tea around half an hour before you sleep.
If you don’t enjoy chamomile, some other decaf teas you can try are peppermint, kava and lavender.
7. Diffuse lavender essential oil
Traditionally lavender has been used to promote sleep. And this is for a good reason.
Research indicates that lavender essential oil slows down your heart beats, relaxes your muscles and puts you in a parasympathetic state. Research also indicates that lavender promotes deep relaxing sleep states also know as the ‘slow wave sleep’.
Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a diffuser an hour before your sleep time and you will create a relaxing environment in your bedroom.
If you don’t have a diffuser, you can use a spray top bottle to spray the diluted oil directly onto your pillow and sheets. Add a few drops of essential oil to a spray top bottle, add some water, shake well and you are good to go.
You can also try steam inhalation with lavender oils which is discussed in the next point.
8. Do steam inhalation
Warm steam inhalation before bedtime has been shown to aid relaxation and significantly improve sleep quality.
To make this even more beneficial you can include lavender essential oil to the mix. Here’s how.
Boil water in a heatproof bowl. Once the water starts boiling, take it off the heat, add two to three drops of lavender essential oil (or any other oil that you find relaxing) and inhale the therapeutic steam through your nose for 2 to 3 minutes. You can use a towel to cover your head if you want.
9. Do progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (or PMR) is a powerful exercise you can do right before bedtime to deeply relax your body. The technique is simple and all you have to do is consciously tense up various body parts and relax them.
Here’s a Youtube video that beautifully demonstrates this technique.
10. Listen to a sleep podcast
There are tons of podcasts online that are specifically designed to help you sleep. The soothing voice of the narrator combined with random, long-winded topics that are not too interesting and at the same time, not too boring helps take your attention away from your thoughts and slowly lulls you to sleep.
Some really popular podcasts you can checkout are as follows:
- Snoozecast: Stories for Sleep.
- Sleep With Me by Drew Ackerman.
- Sleepy by Otis Gray.
- Nothing much happens by Kathryn.
- Boring books for bedtime by Handymakes.
- Sleep whispers.
Here’s an example of a podcast episode by Kathryn (Nothing Much happens):
You can find and listen to these podcasts on your phone by downloading the iTunes, Google Podcasts, Podbean or Spotify App. You can even listen to podcasts on your computer through Youtube and sites like Podbean or Stitcher.
11. Listen to an audiobook
If you are not a big fan of podcasts then you could explore the option of listening to audiobooks. A lot of audiobooks have readers that have calm, relaxing voices and there are plenty of titles ranging from poems, novels, and short stories to choose from.
The best part about listening as opposed to reading a book is that you can do it with the lights turned off. So it’s perfect for some night time relaxation.
Simply download any one of these Apps and start listening. The audible app also has a nifty feature that allows you to set a sleep timer so you can avoid staying up for hours listening.
12. Spend some time journaling
Journaling before bedtime helps you get things off your mind and is therefore very calming. If you don’t know what to write, just write about your day or whatever’s on your mind at that particular moment.
Remember that you do not need to make it perfect; don’t worry about grammar or structure, just let the words flow without thinking too much.
13. Solve puzzles
Puzzles can be calming as they help refocus your attention and are not overly stimulating like a video game.
You could consider doing logic puzzles like Crosswords, Sudoku, Nonogram, Dot-to-dot (connect the dots), Boogle, Trivia or even mechanical ones like Jigsaw Puzzles or the Rubix Cube.
A good option is to buy a few puzzle books so you always have access to puzzles.
14. Listen to ASMR
ASMR consists of a combination of gentle sounds such as whispering, rubbing, tapping, scratching and brushing that can trigger feel good (tingling) sensations and instant relaxation responses in some people. It might work for you and it might not, you will just have to find out.
You can find a ton of ASMR videos on YouTube, Spotify or other podcast apps.
Here’s a video to give you an idea of what ASMR is all about:
15. Try coloring for a few minutes
Coloring is a simple activity that has many associated benefits. For instance, coloring has been shown to relax the fear center of your brain and thereby reduce stress and anxiety. A few minutes of coloring can take you into a Zen like state that is free from thoughts and is deeply relaxing.
Plus, anyone can color, all you need is a piece of paper and some coloring pens.
You can use pencil colors, sketch pens, basic watercolors or even crayons for coloring. And do not worry about making it look good. It doesn’t matter if it is messy, it will still relax you.
16. Use a weighted eye pillow
Weighted eye pillows are absolutely amazing for some pre bedtime relaxation. These pillows apply gentle pressure on the eyes that helps reduce eye fatigue, headaches and migraines.
Place them hot or cold (You can heat them in the microwave or cool in the freezer) on your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes and you will sure to start feeling doozy.
Some eye pillows also come infused with lavender that can offer an additional layer of relaxation.
17. Use a neck wrap
Similar to the eye pillow is a neck wrap. You can wrap them hot or cold around your neck/shoulders for 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime and they help relax your neck/shoulder muscles reducing aches, cramps and stiffness. Considering that most of our stress gets accumulated around this area, these wraps are great for relaxation.
A combination of neck wrap and eye mask would be a great way to relax.
18. Get a soothing back/shoulder massage
Back/shoulder massages are the ultimate form of relaxation. If you don’t have a partner around you can also give yourself a self-massage or use a massaging tool. You can find a ton of massaging tools online.
19. Try knitting
Doing a repetitive activity like knitting can help you achieve a Zen-like meditative state that will prevent your mind from wandering into stressful thoughts helping you relax and unwind. Knitting is the perfect relaxation activity before bedtime.
Knitting is also quite easy to learn and there are plenty of easy knitting projects that you can do.
20. Take a warm bath
In cooler weather one of the best things you can do to relax and unwind is to take a warm bath. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil or some other relaxing oils to your bath and soak your stress away. Warm showers work great too. Just make sure that the water is not too hot.
21. Soak your feet in a foot spa massager
If you are on your feet a lot during the day, soaking your tired feet in a foot spa massager will feel like pure heaven. Foot spa massagers use vibrations, bubbles and warm water to sooth your aching feet. All you need to do is add water, soak you feet, press the start button and relax.
To make this even more relaxing, you can add a few drops of lavender essential oil or bath salts (like magnesium bath salt). Magnesium has been shown to help relax muscles and aid sleep.
This is also great to relieve restless legs during sleep which further aids your sleep quality.
22. Do some relaxing body stretching
Stretching is one of the most powerful and often overlooked methods for relaxation. A good stretch helps loosen stiff muscles, reduces fatigue, improves blood flow and uplift your mood all of which help you relax. Hold your stretches for a few seconds while being mindful for maximum relaxation.
There are hundreds of stretches you can do but it is best to choose 3 to 5 of your favorite stretches and stick to them. Some good ones to consider are bear hug stretch, neck stretches, back/shoulder stretches and butterfly stretch. You can also do some simple yoga stretches like the ‘child pose’, ‘cobra pose’, and the ‘legs up the wall’ pose.
The following video demonstrates some simple stretches that you can do before bedtime:
23. Watch falling sand art
There is something really calming about watching sand particles fall and create unique patterns, structures and landscapes. This is the reason why falling sand art has become really popular over the years.
You can find a variety of sand art online on sites like Amazon.
24. Watch a lava lamp
Another option similar to watching sand art is looking at a lava lamp. A lava lamp consists of an incandescent lamp and a specially colored wax mixture that rises and falls in a glass vessel creating a mesmerizingly cool effect.
Turn off the lights and you will find the glow and movement of the wax really calming to look at. And since the lamp is not bright enough it’s easy on your eyes and can induce sleep.
You can find a variety of lava lamps (different colors, shapes and sizes) on sites like Amazon.
25. Work on a mini Zen garden
A mini Zen garden is a miniature version of large Japanese Zen gardens (containing sand, rocks, plants, water features and figurines) that are thought to help increase calm and mindfulness.
Running a mini rake through the fine sand while looking at the patterns created and listening to the gentle sounds can really sooth your soul. You can also move around rocks, water features and plants to create unique looking gardens.
Definitely a good way to spend some relaxing time before bed. You can find a wide variety of Zen gardens on sites like Amazon.
26. Lie down on an acupressure mat
An acupressure mat (and pillow) contains thousands of tiny spikes that help relax stiff muscles, relieve headaches and improve circulation. You can lie down on the mat for 10 to 15 minutes to relax and unwind before you go to bed.
Make sure to set a timer on your phone before you use this mat as you just might fall asleep on it.
27. Do some Tai Chi
Tai chi is a practice that involves a series of slow movements combined with rhythmic breathing. It is often referred to as ‘meditation in motion’. A simple 5 minute Tai Chi session with a few basic movements before bedtime will help you connect with your body and greatly enhance the quality of your sleep.
Here’s a simple Tai Chi session you can practice before bedtime:
28. Do bead meditation
Bead meditation involves counting beads on a mala (string of 108 beads) as a form of meditation.
As you turn each bead through your finger, you can add a mantra or a phrase like OM, Love, Relax or any other word that you prefer. It’s much easier to keep your attention focused on a mala bead which can prevent rumination and promote peace and calm.
Once you complete a cycle of counting 108 beads, you will automatically be in a deeply calm state ready for sleep.
Here’s a video explaining how to meditate using beads:
29. Watch fish swim
This might sound odd but studies have shown that watching fish swim for a few minutes reduces stress and anxiety, reduces muscle tension and creates feelings of calm and relaxation.
If you don’t have an aquarium at home start out with a smaller tank or even small bowl with a couple of fishes. If you find it beneficial, you can invest in a bigger aquarium.
30. Do some Qigong shaking
Qigong shaking (also known a ‘Shaking The Tree’) is a slow rhythmic shaking that helps loosen your body, improve circulation, improves digestion, removes stress/anxiety and remove stagnant energy all of which help you sleep better.
All you need to do is stand straight, keep your soles firmly planted on the floor and start to hop on your legs/knees while moving your hands/shoulders.
Shaking for around 5 minutes is the perfect way to get ready for bed.
Here’s a video that show you how to do the Qigong shake:
31. Do body awareness meditation
This is a deeply relaxing meditation technique that you can do while lying down in bed.
In this type of meditation, you take your awareness within your body and consciously relax body parts that feel tensed. You can start from the soles of your feet all the way up to the crown of your head. As you do this exercise, you will doze off even before you have completed it.
Here’s a detailed explanation of this technique.
32. Do some yoga for sleep
Practicing simple, slow-moving yoga poses, especially when combined with deep, conscious breathing, can work wonders to relax an overstimulated nervous system. You don’t even have to roll out your yoga mat!
Before you go to bed, try practicing a few stretches such as seated forward bend, happy baby pose, reclined twist, and reclined pigeon, to start. As you hold each stretch, be sure to breathe slowly and consciously.
33. Create a to-do list
Do you go to bed already thinking about every task you have to complete tomorrow, or perhaps worrying that you’ll forget to do something important when you wake up? You’re not alone!
Planning your upcoming day can help you to relax at night, as long as you keep it light and gentle– in other words, do your best not to stress over every single detail. That can wait until morning.
Instead, create a simple list for all of the important tasks you’d like to get done tomorrow. Then, leave it outside of your bedroom, somewhere you’ll remember to look at it tomorrow; maybe even hang it on the fridge! By doing this, you won’t have to worry about tomorrow as you’re trying to fall asleep tonight.
34. Prep for tomorrow
This follows from the above point; you don’t want to be stressed about everything you have to do tomorrow as soon as that alarm clock rings, so why not prepare yourself tonight, and get a good night’s sleep instead?
The idea behind this tip is to make tomorrow morning run as smoothly as possible. So, you might try laying out the clothes you’ll wear tomorrow, packing your lunch and putting it in the fridge, or preparing your coffee pot so that all you have to do is press “start” when you wake up.
35. Do some light cleaning
Again, try not to undertake any massive projects just before heading to bed; however, it may ease your mind a bit to do some light cleaning just before sleeping. After all, isn’t it difficult to relax when there’s a mess in another room?
If it helps, you might try doing something simple, such as sweeping the floor or washing the dishes. In addition, if you really become aware of every movement and sensation as you clean, the act of cleaning itself can turn into a moving meditation, which will relax your mind even further.
36. Do some doodling
If you love to draw, you might even find that doing some simple sketches can relax your mind before bed. Although, don’t try to complete a masterpiece right before you shut your eyes. Just have fun and doodle for a few minutes, without concern for what the outcome looks like.
You can even consider drawing mandalas which can be a very calming and spiritual experience.
37. Practice box breathing
Slow, conscious breathing can work wonders for your racing mind, and box breathing is a breathing technique that you can practice literally anywhere. You might even practice this as you’re falling asleep!
To practice box breathing, all you need to do is:
- Breathe in for the count of four.
- Gently retain the breath for four.
- Breathe out for four.
- Gently retain the breath for four.
- And repeat.
Repeat this sequence as many times as you need in order to feel relaxed.
38. Put your phone in airplane mode
Do you lay down with your phone still on, plugged in right next to your bed? If so, you may often hear your phone buzz once or twice as you’re trying to fall asleep. This stops you from fully relaxing into sleep, because once you hear that phone buzz, you likely wonder who might’ve texted or emailed, whether it is important, whether you should reply immediately, and so on.
Rather, try setting a bedtime, at least on weeknights. When it’s time to lay down, either turn your phone off, silence it, or put it on airplane mode, so that you won’t hear any incoming notifications. Anything that comes in can wait until morning anyway.
39. Add a blue light filter to your devices
And here’s the final tip.
Blue light from devices tends to negatively impact your body’s melatonin production which can impact sleep.
If you have the habit of using your phone or computer before bedtime, consider adding a blue light filter app like f.lux on your computer, tablet and phone. Another option is to invest in good quality blue light blocking glasses.
So these are some simple yet highly effective ways to relax before bed. The bottom line as you would have noticed, is to slow down the thinking processes in the mind and bring in space in your energy field. Anyone who goes to bed with a strong thinking process is unlikely to obtain a good night’s sleep.