We live in a world that is awake 24 hours a day. Technology has enabled us to access pretty much anything we desire, around the clock. Unfortunately, that has also negatively impacted our ability to get a good night's sleep.
Sleep is necessary for us to survive. If you don't sleep for multiple days on end, then you begin to lose a sense of reality and your body and brain eventually shut down. Sleep is vital for our existence and struggling to fall asleep, or not getting enough, can increase feelings of fatigue, anxiety and may also cause panic attacks.
You can relax your mind for a better night's sleep by:
- Having a regular schedule
- Having a bedtime routine
- Only using the bed for sleep
- Practicing sleep relaxation techniques
- Keeping physically active
- Keeping a worry journal
- Trying Pocketcoach
Learn to manage anxiety in only 5 minutes per day
Having A Regular Schedule
It is generally accepted that getting at least seven hours of sleep a night is necessary for normal cognitive and behavioural functioning. However, it is also important when you get those hours.
Everybody has an internal schedule due to something called the circadian clock. It is synchronised with the sun and for many years, has served to help us to fall asleep because we’ve historically woken with the rising sun and slept with the setting sun.
However, we are now in a world full of technology. Lights, sounds and other forms of stimulation enable us to stay up beyond sunset and wake up before sunrise. However, if we consistently change our sleep schedule, this confuses our circadian clock and therefore makes it harder to sleep and wake up.
So, in order to help yourself fall asleep, and wake up more refreshed, try to always go to sleep and wake up at the same time. Personally, I find it easier to always wake up at the same time, but harder to fall asleep at the same time!
Having A Bedtime Routine
Imagine how active your brain is when you are using a mobile phone, watching Netflix or working on your laptop. It uses the cues of light and sound to ensure you stay awake. Worries, thoughts and stress may also keep you up.
One way to relax your mind is to create a bedtime routine that helps your brain to prepare for the upcoming sleep. You can do this by creating a relationship between an activity and sleep. For example, the classic, reading a book before you sleep. If you consistently read a book, in bed, before you go to sleep (and do nothing else in between, including using a phone or laptop), then your brain begins to associate being in bed and reading with sleep.
The best idea is to pick something that makes you feel relaxed, for example:
- Reading a book
- Listening to relaxing music
Do this consistently before going to sleep and very soon you will have a bedtime routine. I recommend you stop all other activity at least 30 minutes before going to sleep, making sure to at least dim, but preferably turn off, the light from your devices.
Only Using The Bed For Sleep
Sometimes it may be difficult, but if you can, try to only use your bed for sleep. This helps with creating that association I was just talking about. Your brain develops the connection between the two, making it easier for you to relax your mind and fall asleep when you are in bed.
What does this actually look like? Well, you will need to stop doing these in bed:
- Making phone calls
- Scrolling on social media
- Watching TV
- Using your computer
Practicing Relaxation Techniques
We’ve talked before about how relaxation techniques can reduce anxiety, but they can also be used to relax your mind before sleep.
Here are some examples, which you can also find on the Pocketcoach app:
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Autogenic training:
Keeping Physically Active
I can certainly feel the difference in my sleep quality and my ability to fall asleep after a physically active day compared with a less active day. Existing research suggests that morning and daytime exercise is beneficial for sleep, but there is also one study that found that exercising right before sleeping is still beneficial for the quality of sleep, if you allow yourself to cool down appropriately.
In general, being physically active helps to improve mood and reduce both stress and anxiety. This is likely to help when trying to relax your mind.
Keeping A Worry Journal
Keeping a worry journal can help to remove the intensity of your thoughts from your mind when you are trying to relax. Being worried about something is natural, but if it is impacting your ability to get sleep, then you may want to try starting a worry journal.
This just involves writing down all of the worries and concerns you have in a journal, in any format. You don't have to have a solution to them if you can't think of one. The idea is to write down worries as they come up. Because when you're laying in bed, and the thought comes up, you know you’ll have a record of it and you can let it go for the moment.
Pocketcoach can help reduce your general anxiety and stress levels and therefore make it easier for you to relax your mind. A lot of the relaxation techniques mentioned above, such as progressive muscle relaxation and breathing techniques, are included in our courses. The app also includes other techniques and ideas for you to relax and manage your emotions better. Check it out:
Other General Practices To Relax Your Mind And Reduce Anxiety:
- Mindfulness meditation, loving kindness meditation or body scan meditation
- Pranayama breathing
- Gratitude journaling
- Eating the right foods
Check out the video below for a summary of these tips:
Learn to manage anxiety in only 5 minutes per day