Simple Tips to Shut Off Your Brain Before Going to Bed
If you find it hard to relax at the end of a long day, if you have a brain that begins buzzing as soon as you lay down your head on the pillow, or if you are one of those people that tosses and turns all night long, worrying and stressing over situations in your life, we have a few tips you can try to relax your mind before bedtime.
Sleep deprivation can seriously damage your health, energy, mood, creativity, and aging process. And if you know what it is to wake up tired and grouchy and reach for a sugar-filled caffeine “pick me up” to start the day, or if you recognize some of the above conditions, you know it can become a vicious circle, and you might become addictive to drugs, medicine or alcohol, which only make things worse…
Obviously, in life we all have situations that we feel so stressed or worried with thoughts that keep gnawing at us, that it might seem impossible to get to sleep. And while there is no button we can push to deactivate our thoughts or relax our brain, we can create a set of right associations for the brain to understand as triggers to help us relax before bedtime and prepare for a healthy sleep.
Not only will the following tips help you relax before you go to bed, they will also help you with a natural and restful sleep so you can start each and every day at your fullest potential.
These tips can be used separately or combined. However, keep in mind that for some it might take a few times of practice and tweaking for your brain to understand that it’s time to relax before bedtime. So don’t give up after trying one time, and saying they don’t work. Just go slowly but steady with the implementation of a few new habits that will benefit your mind, your mood, and your health in ways beyond your imagination.
1 – Program proper sleep with a routine
Develop a set pre-sleep schedule of activities. Let your brain know it is time to shut down. This means limiting stressful thoughts and outward influences before bedtime. This is how you “wind down” before you hit the hay. You could do this by creating your own set of routines like making a cup of thee, or taking a hot bath, that indicates to your brain it is time to relax before bed, or you can pick and choose from the tips below.
2 – Develop a set bedtime
Most people live a very regular existence. They go to work at the same time, eat lunch and dinner about the same time, and have several consistent daily routines. While your life might be totally different, and very hectic, you will benefit tremendously if you can try to get to a set bedtime. When you go to bed and awaken at the same time consistently, you program your internal clock to shut down your busy brain and wake up on a given schedule. This relaxes you by putting your sleep pattern on autopilot, instead of you anxiously trying to force yourself to sleep.
3 – Exercise a couple of hours before hitting the bed
Exercise and other forms of physical exertion immediately deliver a boost of energy. Soon after, your body tells you that you need rest and recuperation. However, if you exercise in the evening, make sure you do it at least 2 to 3 hours before you go to bed.
This is because the energy stream throughout your body is at such a high vibration, that even if you might feel tired after the workout, and your body needs much of that energy to restore damaged muscle tissue (especially with strength and weight training), you might still feel pumped and energized for hours after your training.
Therefore, ideally you do your cardio and weight/strength training in the morning, and you do stretching, yoga, or relaxation training in the evening. However, that doesn’t fit every ones plans, so if exercise is only possible in the evening, try to create a set exercise time at least 2 or 3 hours before bedtime, as in the same way as with tip #2, it will start to signal your brain for rest and recovery, rather than a stressful “how will I go to sleep” mentality.
4 — Read
Consistently reading for 30 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime will indicate to your body and brain that reading at night signals sleep time. Obviously, what you read, has importance too. If you read the daily news — which is so focused on trying to grab your attention with exaggerated head lines and shocking stories — it might have the opposite effect. It can even be the root cause of your anxiety, worries, or stress that come to your mind while you have time to address it with your thoughts. It might be that you are so focused and busy with your work and other daily tasks, that you only have time during bedtime to really think about all the problems in the world…
If you recognize something, or if that’s you, you’ll find great benefit in avoiding all negative stimulus from outside your zone of influence. But to come back to reading, read about things that interest you, or make you feel calm and cosy. If you are not interested in learning a new skill, personal development stuff, or discover more about science, no need to pick up the National Geographic Magazine, you can read a novel or anything else that makes you feel good.
5 – Brain dump
If you stress about the many things you still have to do, you might find great benefit and mental relief in a 15 minute brain dump before bedtime. Just take a piece of paper and write down all the things you need to do so you not forget them. Many times insomnia and sleep deprivation start with the fear of forgetting things, or the things we need to do, and this keeps our minds racing. The fact of making sure that you haven’t forgotten anything, and all is written down, can help your racing brain to calm down as there is a sense of relief in that.
No need to start planning the tasks, just dump what’s on your mind. However, if your brain can’t stop thinking about when to do all the tasks, you can take it one step further and start planning. If that’s you, plan what’s really important, what you can delegate, and what’s a “must do” for yourself.
The interesting thing about brain dumping is that it liberates your mind, so you can focus on the next thing that comes up. For some people brain dumping is the first thing they do in the morning, and makes them more focused and productive during the day. But for others, they like to do it in the evening, because it frees up their worries, relaxes their mind, and make them sleep better. It also has the benefit that they can start the next day knowing exactly what their priorities are.
6 — Journal
Writing in a journal is such a great exercise as it is so therapeutic in many ways. The simple act of writing down your thoughts, emotions and ideas will help you relax and calm down before you go to bed. This is because journaling will help you get the benefits of brain dumping discussed in the previous tip, but on top of that will give you clarity and insight in the topics that keep you busy, and why.
It will give you insight into your personal behaviors and moods, and will also connect your mental self with your spiritual self. You will soon start to want to connect more and more with this inner wise voice that helps you see things with another perspective. From all Self-Improvement Techniques, journaling is probably one of the most beneficial you can do. You can read more about keeping a journal in this post: 5 Self-Improvement Tips To Start Keeping A Journal
7 – Start counting sheep … seriously?
There is a good reason the sheep counting strategy works to help you go to sleep. What you are actually doing is replacing stressful and worrisome thoughts with a simple and boring, repetitive mental exercise. You can accomplish the same by thinking of objects whose names start with each letter of the alphabet, or any other brain exercise that makes your brain tired and boring. But here is why this works, your brain only focuses on one thing at a time, in this instance a simple mental exercise instead of stress and anxiety.
8 – Enjoy a daily moment of gratitude
Right before you crawl into bed, think about all the reasons you have to be grateful. It is hard to be anxious and stressed out when you realize you have so many things to be thankful for. Instead of making it a mind game, you can also choose to create a specific gratitude journal.
Exactly like in journaling discussed under tip #6, but with one big difference, you only write in the journal about the things you can feel grateful for. They can be minor things like a beautiful flower you spotted on your way to work, or anything really that makes you feel happy, good, grateful, or in a good mood.
Going over this in your mind or in your journal right before bed has the additional effect that it implants positive thoughts on your nighttime brain and according to the LOA continues to flow into your daytime experience.
9 – Meditate
Mindful meditation focuses on the present moment. You concentrate on your breathing and your present state of existence. This allows no room for focusing on past problems or future issues which have yet to arrive. Lifelong practitioners of meditation slow down their brainwaves on command and can even slow down their heart rate and fall to sleep quickly, enjoying a healthy night’s rest.
Obviously, if you just start with meditation note that meditation is a practice, an exercise, something that you need to learn and takes time to get to a level where yo can control your mind. One technique that has helped me a lot in the beginning of my meditation practice and that I actually use till this day, is to see each thought – that is trying to grab my attention – as a cloud. And to push this cloud gently away saying, “Not now, you can come back later when I approve time to address this issue, for now I just want to relax and see a clear blue sky.”
If you have been struggling with meditation, try this one for a week, and see how that makes you progress. The real moments of meditation are within the times between those clouds of thoughts. The longer you can stretch them away, the longer you are in a state of real deep meditation.
One of the physical things that happen in your brain when you meditate is that meditation lowers down your brainwave frequency, and if you want to speed up the benefits of meditation or you want your brainwaves to vibrate at a certain frequency, you can choose to use binaural beat sounds or brainwave entrainment technology. It would go to far to address this topic in these tips, but in Great Mindset Magazine #2 you can find a full report on binaural beats, and we will certainly post more information on this website, as the benefits are huge for people that never seem to have time and live life at 200 mph. (I know, as I was one of them…;)
10 – Free your bedroom of distractions
Ideally, the place where you sleep should have minimal possessions. This is especially true regarding consumer electronics, cell phones, MP3 players and the like as they might have negative energy fields. But it’s not only for electronics, the fewer pieces of furniture in your bedroom the better. As you are preparing for bed, your mind unconsciously takes in all of the distractions and objects in your environment. This can negatively affect your ability to fall asleep, creating more stress in the process. If you can make the view of your bedroom relaxing and calm, it will stimulate your brain to slow down the brainwaves too.
11 — Use Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy can be an easy and enjoyable experience to help you get into the moods that are appropriate for the different segments throughout your day. Research shows that aromatherapy really is effective, and can help to relax before you go to bed. You can read more about the influence aromatherapy can have on our mental states and why that is so in this post Can Aromatherapy For Mental Health Help?
For people having sleep trouble it is recommended to take medical-grade essential oils orally before bedtime as well as putting them in a diffuser to help you stay asleep. Some good ones for rest: lavender, petigrsain, chamomile, geranium, sandalwood and rose.
Here are some related articles about more ways to relax before you go to bed:
Psych Central – 12 Ways to Shut Off Your Brain Before Bedtime
Woman’s Day – 11 Ways to De-stress Before Bed
Mind Body Green – The Easiest 5 Steps To Relax Before Bed
P.S.: If you like these kind of short and easy self-improvement tips, click the image on the left for your FREE download of 33 Tips For Self-Improvement You Can Start Today!