It's 9 p.m. and you've just finished taking a shower. You put your pajamas on and climb into bed in hopes that your night slumber is just a few moments away. Alas, your hopes turn into fears and your anxiety visits for a "nightcap." Finding ways to reduce your anxiety has probably been on your radar if your nights sound like this. Getting a full night's rest seems nonexistent when your tossing and turning in bed, remembering everything you did wrong since you were a kid. But why does your mind go from zero to 60 the minute your head hits the pillow?
“Anxiety is an emotion that actually wakes us up,” said clinical psychologist and author of Stop Worrying and Go to Sleep: How to Put Insomnia to Bed for Good Steve Orma, PsyD, to the Huffington Post. "There are all kinds of physical changes happening that ramp you up, which is the exact opposite state of what you need to be in when you’re trying to fall asleep.” Even if having a hard time going to sleep may be a common occurrence, resulting to a quick and easy fix (like sleeping pills) can do damage to your body in the long haul. However, there are other more natural methods you can try that can help ease your night anxiety. To find out what these methods entail, I had the pleasure of talking with CEO, DeCluttering expert & speaker Alison Kero and clinical psychologist and author of Growing Up Mindful Dr. Christopher Willard, PsyD.
So without further ado, here are nine simple bedtime rituals that can significantly reduce anxiety.
1. Go To Bed At The Same Time Every Night
When you set yourself in a daily routine, your body can become familiar and know when to fall asleep. According to Daily Mail, having a stable bedtime routine allows the heart to filter out stress hormones, which in the long run, can prevent cardiac issues in the future, too. "Your body will start to adjust to the new bedtime schedule and it will be far easier to fall asleep each night. You'll also sleep better and get more done during the day," says CEO and decluttering expert & speaker from ACK Organizing Alison Kero in an email with Bustle.
2. Use Lavender In The Bedroom
Lavender is known to help with sleep anxiety and stress. With just a few uses of this essential oil, you can relax your nervous system and have a better night's rest thanks to its calming properties. "Spray some on your pillow or put some essential oils on your pulse points to help you relax and fall asleep faster," says Kero.
3. Remove All Clutter From Your Bedroom
There's something about going to sleep in a clean room that can make you feel at ease. The stress that is induced from just stepping over a clothes-covered floor can be quite overwhelming. "[Your bedroom is] where you relax and rejuvenate. This is your sanctuary so you need to treat it as such. Remove any and all clutter, especially information from your bedroom. This clutter is literally keeping you awake at night so put it in any other room and you'll find you sleep better," says Kero.
4. Cover Or Remove Electronics From Your Room
Looking at your electronic devices a few hours before bed has been proven to affect your sleep cycle, because they can suppress melatonin and keep you awake. Essentially, if you want to reduce your anxiety, you should probably read a book instead of watching that last episode of New Girl, just sayin'. "Electronics all emit energy and that energy will keep you awake and feeling as though you're supposed to be working on something. When you cover or remove them, this allows your body and mind to truly rest," says Kero.
5. Clear Your Mind
While you don't want to do a full mediation session right before you go to bed because it can keep you up, you do want to try light relaxation practices an hour or so beforehand to help get your body and mind ready for bed. "Try breathing, meditating or light yoga right before bed. It will help your body, mind and spirit prepare for a good night's rest," says Kero.
6. Develop & Use The Same Routine Rituals Every Night
In addition to going to bed the same time every night, doing the same bedtime rituals can help trigger your brain to realize that it's almost time to go to bed. "Not only will [using the same routine rituals] help your mind relax because you don't have to think too hard about what you have to do next, the rituals will help prepare you mentally and physically for bed time," says Kero.
7. Practice Gratitude
Our anxious thoughts can control our mind when we begin to focus on our worries and not the things we're grateful for. Try to write in a gratitude journal about what made you happy that day before you go to bed for a more restful night. "You can also take a few minutes and just ask yourselves 'what went well?' today, looking back with gratitude over the positive moments and appreciating the people and events in your day that made you feel good," says clinical psychologist and author of Growing Up Mindful Dr. Christopher Willard, PsyD, in an email with Bustle.
8. Bring Nature Into Your Bedroom
According to Psychology Today, Jonathan Kaplan, Ph.D., said that plants are known to lower blood pressure, improve well-being, lower levels of anxiety during recovery from surgery, and improve perceptions of the space. "Feeling good around plants is probably not surprising. After all, we surround ourselves with plants during celebrations and tragedies (i.e., weddings and funerals, respectively). We also set aside 'sacred' green space for parks and community gardens in our cities and communities," said Kaplan.
9. Do Relaxation Exercises
Working out at night, right before you go to bed, can awaken your mind and keep you alert. According to Psych Central, if you want to feel more calm at night, try to do relaxation exercises that involve progressive muscle movement. They usually will help reduce anxiety and racing thoughts. Take it up a notch by using oils or scents that you could breathe to help you relax while you do these exercises.
Having your mind race right before you head to bed is a total bummer and it can completely ruin your bedtime routine. Remember that doing these practices will become part of your routine if you're diligent and do them every night. But don't worry more if you don't succed at falling alseep right away. Things will work out. Just practice and be patient!