5 Relaxing Bedtime Activities
If I have trouble falling asleep at night, these are my go-to relaxing and meditative activities that not only get me sleepy and relaxed, but also when performed frequently enough signal to the body that it’s time for bed.
What often keeps a lot of people up at night is racing thoughts, the inability to relax, and general restlessness. Performing a meditative activity before sleeping is an effective way to clear most if not all of these issues.
If you find one activity that works well for you, then performing that activity every night before bed will not only relax you but also be a consistent signal to the body that it’s time to sleep!
When meditating seemed challenging and foreign to me, stretching bridged that gap. A pre-bed stretch is not the same as stretching before exercise, or after a long day at work sitting down at a desk.
When stretching before bed you want to take your time. Focus on making the movements and stretches very deliberate and concentrate on how your body feels while doing them. This is a form of focused meditation which can be both physically and mentally relaxing. Go through stretching your entire body from your feet and ankles, your core and back, hands and shoulders, and your neck. You should feel any stress being released from your body and once you’re finished stretching hop into bed and keep your mind clear.
What I described in for stretching accomplished a meditative state by using the stretching and physical focus to enter you into that state. Meditating on its own can be more challenging but is very easy to accomplish with a bit of practice.
To enter a meditative state I like to picture a blank piece of paper. Every time a thought pops into my head I write it out on the blank sheet in my mind, and then erase it. Keep that sheet clear and accept and erase every thought that pops into your mind. This is a simple and actionable way to process all the thoughts/worries in your head and clear your mind – try it!
Getting back to another meditative state inducing method I present to you: puzzles and games! My favorite bedtime puzzle is the 3x3 speed cube or Rubik’s cube. My entire focus is placed into solving this small and addicting puzzle. I forget about my worries, I forget about anything that might keep me up at night, and I put all of my focus into the puzzle.
You’re not able to think of anything else while solving the puzzle and after a few solves you’ll have worn out your mind and be ready for sleep.
Reading a book accomplishes similar things to solving puzzles. Thinking and imagining another life or storyline allows your own thoughts to be lost while you relax and delve into another world. I find that fictional stories, the more wildly set the better to allow for escape from the current world helps me fall asleep the best.
Try reading a book in your favorite genre before bed and note the effects, it’s an alternative to staring at a screen before bed and gets you in a dreamy mode already.
Similar to the meditation inducing method I talked about where you write your thoughts and clear them – writing accomplishes a very similar form of therapy. Writing your dreams, thoughts, goals, and problems gets them on paper and can quantify them, make them feel more manageable, and also gives you a reference point for the next day.
I find writing out my thoughts and feelings before bed allows me to accept everything that can and has happened and clears my mind wonderfully.
Using any of these exercises before bed can not only allow you to fall asleep quicker as you’ll be more relaxed but they can also improve the quality of your sleep.
If you’re looking for an app to help you fall asleep, you might be confused by the huge number of apps to choose from. They range from free to $300/year! Most are very simple, but some are quite complex and demanding. The overwhelming majority are created by developers who have never taken a course in sleep, let alone done any scientific research on the subject.
But then there is mySleepButton®, a very simple app designed to help you fall asleep. This invention is based on Dr. Luc Beaudoin’s research in Cognitive Science at Simon Fraser University in Canada. All you need to do is press the “Put Me to Sleep” button and imagine each one of the dreamy scenes it plays you. For example, it might say “Mountain”, then you’d imagine a mountain. And then perhaps “Mars”, and you’d imagine the planet Mars. And then “Piano”, so you’d imagine a piano.
This is called “the cognitive shuffle”, because it shuffles your thoughts.
This mental activity keeps your mind off the concerns that might otherwise keep you awake at night. You won’t be able to worry about your job, your bills, your kids or relationship problems while you are visualizing these calming images. If your mind does wander to a concern, it will gently be redirected to the new scene, like “walking along a river”.
But there is more to it than that. Sleep researchers have found that when people fall asleep, they naturally tend to have little micro dreams. People also tend to process many memories as they are fall asleep. The cognitive shuffle imitates these natural mental processes, which tricks your brain into thinking that it is time to go to sleep. After all, when else does your mind wander so much than when you are falling asleep? This basically acts as a mental cue to fall asleep. (So, don’t try this while you’re driving!)
In combination with these methods I always recommend:
- Having a dark room – blackout blinds are best for sleep hygiene
- Have silence or a consistent noise (i.e. noise maker)
- If you don’t have the above, use earplugs
- No screens 30mins-1hr before bed
- Try sleeping at the same time each night
- Create a bedtime routine to signal to your body