We spend a lot time in the morning getting ready for class; taking a shower, putting on makeup, choosing an outfit that’s right for the weather. It seems like after running across campus, focusing in class, and writing essay upon essay, it should be easy to just jump into bed and fall asleep within five minutes. However, we all know it’s not that easy. Our minds can keep us awake, thinking about things we have to do or problems we have to solve, and soon enough it’s midnight and you have an 8 am the next day. If you’re looking to calm your mind and prepare yourself for the best night’s sleep, here’s how.
1. Write a to-do list
We’ve all been kept awake at night, thinking of all the work that needs to be done the next day. In order to relax and put these things aside, it’s helpful write a list of what you need to accomplish tomorrow and when you’re going to get it done. This way, you can let go of the stress you’re holding on to because you’ve planned out how you’re going to finish your tasks. Once you’ve written your list, put it on your desk or somewhere away from your bed, and forget about it for the rest of the night. Now it’s time to focus on relaxing.
2. Drink some tea
Decaffeinated teas such as chamomile and mint have aromatherapies that help you relax and get into sleep-mode. Tea is also a better choice than juice or other bottled beverages, which can have added sugars that give you energy and keep you awake. But be careful: caffeinated teas will keep you awake or make you use the restroom in the middle of the night. Although delicious, avoid adding sugar or honey to your tea because it can get you wired and keep you awake instead of calming you down. Here’s one list of teas and what they’re useful for, and another.
After a stressful day, it’s easy to be tense in your shoulders, neck, and back. After you’ve put on your PJs and brushed your teeth, do some calming stretches to release any tension you may be holding in your muscles (click here for a relaxing routine). Stretching your muscles before bed can help you sleep in a comfortable position, so you won’t wake up with as many kinks or cramps. Stretching is also a good way to clear your mind and tell your body that it’s time to sleep.
4. Make your bed into a throne of comfiness
Whether it’s by increasing the number of pillows and blankets, buying the coziest flannel sheets, or using a cushy mattress cover, turn your bed into the definition of comfortable. Going to bed will be more enjoyable and it will be easier to sink into a state of relaxation. In addition, make your bed every morning. This way, getting into a nice, neat bed at night will be a lot more satisfying. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the sheets getting all tangled up or spending an hour searching for the stuffed animals that fell under your bed.
5. Turn off unnecessary lights
Yes, this means phones, computers, iPads, and the TV. We all know that the bright, blue-ish light that comes from these electronics stimulate the brain and increase wakefulness. (Read more about how technology impacts your sleep cycle here.) Although it may seem relaxing to scroll on Pinterest for hours (trust me, I do that all the time), it’s much more effective to read a book, write in a journal, or color. Even if you’re not big into reading, a comic book or even a magazine can clear your mind and reduce disruptive screen activity. Turning off bright lights in the room also tells your body that it’s time to wind down. Plus, a bedside lamp is much more cozy that a bright overhead light. Sometimes, it’s all about the atmosphere.
- Listen to calming music
This can lower your heart rate and take your mind off certain stresses you may be struggling with. Although it may be tempting to listen to the newest pop song or your favorite 90s throwback, it’s important to stick to relaxing songs, especially instrumentals and acoustics, that will help you decompress. Nature sounds such as waterfalls or crickets can also be very soothing (these can often be found on free apps such as “Relax Melodies” and “White Noise”). Try to focus on the music and clear your mind of any other thoughts. While music works to calm many people down, for some, music can stimulate the senses and have an opposite effect. If you have trouble falling asleep, try this tactic, but if you find yourself awake after 20 minutes or so, switch to another technique. Music can help some people, but it’s not for everyone.
7. Breathe deeply
Breathing correctly can slow down your heart rate and ease anxiety, helping in a variety of stressful situations. Taking deep breaths is very calming before bedtime and can ease you into a state closer to sleep. If you continually focus on your breathing, it’s harder for your mind to focus on wandering thoughts. Continue to breath deeply for one minute (I usually inhale for four seconds, hold for one, and exhale for five seconds) and before that time is up, you should be asleep. The number of seconds people inhale/exhale for can vary from person to person, so although my technique may work for some, others may want to hold for longer or shorter amounts of time. Always do what feels best for you. Here are a couple different breathing techniques that have worked for me in the past. (Some of these will calm you down while some will help you wake up, make sure to check the purpose of each one.)
8. Write a letter to someone you love
Try to make it short and upbeat. Don’t go into the details of some feud you had with your sister (unless that’s keeping you awake and you need to get it out of your system). A simple thank-you note to mom or a checking-in on grandpa can reconnect you with your family and friends and leave you feeling positive before bed. This exercise is a reminder of the loved ones in your life and can ease anxiety, whether you end up actually mailing the letter or not. Coloring is another stress-relieving activity, so if you feel like it, add some doodles to your letter.