When it comes to bedtime, many of us like to sit on our computers, watch Netflix, or play with our phone before attempting to sleep. However, these activities can affect our sleep cycles, so it’s important to incorporate other healthy activities to do before bed that can help us fall asleep more quickly and feel more rested overall. Just as what we do during the day affects our physical and mental health, what we do at night has an impact on our health as well.
“It is important to wind down before bed because life can be insanely hectic,” says Dawn Wiggins, EdS, LMFT over email. “From the moment the alarm goes off in the morning, our minds and bodies are at work for us. Before bed, we have a great opportunity to take care of our minds and bodies by winding down so that we can have an easier time falling asleep, staying asleep, and having restful sleep.”
You may not put much thought into choosing what to do before bed, but your pre-sleep actions can have a big impact on how quickly you fall asleep and how alert you feel the following day. If you’re looking for some beneficial habits to adopt at night, consider trying these six healthy activities to do before bed.
“If you have spent hours at a desk or driving, bent over a stove or sink, your body needs to release some tension,” says Wiggins. “Taking five to 10 minutes to stretch and flex your body will assist in winding down before bed. Get to know the parts of your body that get stiff and hold stress or tension. Do specific things to increase flexibility and range of motion in those areas.”
2. Practice Gratitude
“To wind down we need to be peaceful,” says Wiggins. “One of the most effective ways to feel at peace is to feel grateful for what we have and where we are in life.” In fact, practicing gratitude at night can even help you fall asleep. A study from the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Beingfound that writing in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes every night helps people worry less at bedtime and sleep longer.
It definitely can’t hurt to crack open your favorite novel before bed. A study from the University of Sussex found that reading before bed can help reduce stress by up to 68 percent. Even reading for just six minutes can help improve your sleep
4. Take A Hot Shower
Do something relaxing before bed, such as taking a warm shower or bath. “The goal is to lower the level of stimulation and allow yourself to relax,” says Wiggins. As an added bonus, taking a hot shower before bed lowers your body temperature, which helps signal to your brain that it’s time to slow down, helping you feel more drowsy before bed.
Not only is the light from electronics harmful for your quality of sleep, but one study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that using technology before bed can increase your amount of stress. “Staring at the screen and ‘checking out’ teaches our minds to avoid its stresses not actually allowing the mind to release or relax,” says Wiggins. “This can be a difficult adjustment and also the most powerful.”
A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found thatmindfulness meditation can help fight insomnia and improve sleep. “If you can spend five to 10 minutes in a comfortable position breathing into your belly, inhaling and exhaling slowly and steadily, you will wind down and feel ready for bed,” says Wiggins. “If you need a little assistance, you can focus on a peaceful image or repeat a happy word or listen to a guided meditation or your favorite relaxing tunes.”
Creating healthy bedtime habits may take time, but it will be worth it when sleep starts to come more easily to you.