What do you do before bed? If you're like many people, you probably stare endlessly into your phone, watch a bunch of stressful reality shows, or scroll through social media for forever. And then (unsurprisingly) you probably struggle to fall asleep. Am I spot on? If so, how about trying some soothing hobbies before bed?
While the aforementioned hobbies are OK to do during the day, you definitely want to tone it down when trying to get to sleep. "A relaxing hobby can slow our heart rate, decrease our rate of breathing, and decrease the frequency of our brain waves," national sleep expert Dr. Robert S. Rosenberg tells Bustle. "This is because with relaxation we increase the production of GABA, the major down-regulating neurotransmitter in the brain. This allows us to transition to sleep more easily."
So turn off your TV, close that laptop, and put your phone in the other room. Then start adopting some meditative, relaxing, and repetitive hobbies instead. It may be an adjustment at first, but I promise it'll be so worth it. Read on for a few great examples, as well as some (surprising) explanations as to why these hobbies are the perfect thing to do before bed.
1. Get Your Knit On
Knitting kicks off the list not because it's everyone's go-to quiet activity, but because its very nature can help put you to sleep. "Activities that involve repetition, such as knitting, allow the body to enter a slower, more meditative state," says Karishma Kripalani, MA, CYT, RCST, a nervous system specialist. Give it a try and see how long you can stay awake.
2. Sing In The Shower
Singing — whether in a band, choir, or alone in the shower — can also make you ready for sleep in a surprising way. "Activities that support heart rate variability and high vagal tone (an indicator of how easily and quickly our bodies can shift into 'rest and digest' mode) can help us get a better night's sleep," Kripalani says. Pretty interesting, right?
3. Grab An Adult Coloring Book
If you've yet to get your paws on one of those adult coloring books, I highly recommend you give 'em a try. As NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells me, coloring can help you focus in a way similar to meditation, which allows your mind to shut off stressful thoughts. Perfect for sleep.
4. Join A Meditation Circle
Of course you can meditate alone in your room, but there's an added benefit to group meditation. As Kripalani says, "... the group aspect supports feelings of connection and belonging that support the parasympathetic nervous system." Really, it's the perfect combo to slow the body down and prepare it for sleep.
5. Read Some Poetry
Just like coloring, reading poetry can be a relaxing meditative activity. "It is the rhythmic patterns of rhymed verses that make me very relaxed in an almost meditative way," Dr. Svetlana Kogan tells Bustle. Choose one of your favorites and get to reading.
6. Try Restorative Yoga
Any type of slow yoga, as well as movements like the kind you find in Tai chi or Qigong, have a way of slowing down the body and the mind, Kripalani tells me. You don't have to do them perfectly. Just pull up a Youtube video and give it a go.
7. Exercise (Lightly)
Of course you don't want to do an hour's worth of hardcore aerobics right before bed. But having an exercise routine can help put you to sleep. As Dr. Robert A. Lebby says, "Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep."
8. Sink Into A Bath
If you know anyone who's into baths, then you know it most certainly can be a hobby. The relaxation of it all can help put you to sleep, but so can the routine. As NYC-based psychologist Dr. Paulette Sherman says, "A relaxing hobby can signal the transition from the work day to that peaceful liminal state of the netherworld." Sounds pretty good to me.
9. Walk Your Dog
If you have a dog, start making a habit of walking him before bed. The habit of a light walk, especially if you're with a family member (cough, your dog) can be incredibly soothing, Lebby tells me. If you don't have anyone to take along, call a friend or ask to borrow your neighbor's dog.
10. Read A Great Story
If you're anything like me, you only get a page or two into a book before falling asleep at night. (Seriously, it works like magic.) But if you have the ability to read for hours, make sure you choose an engrossing novel. As licensed professional clinical counselor Lisa Bahar tells me, a real page turner can help keep your mind off your problems. Always helpful when trying to get to sleep.
11. Zone Out To NPR
If you've been having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, make a habit of listening to the likes of BBC or NPR. As Bahar tells me, the monotone voices will have you snoozing in no time.
12. Write In That Journal
By now we all know the benefits of journaling, so if you haven't started doing it yet, now may be the time to give it a try. "Not only is it therapeutic, but getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper means more room for sleep in your head rather than racing thoughts," says clinical therapist Lynn R. Zakeri, LCSW.
13. Sip Some Tea
As with baths, starting the ritual of a nightly cup of tea can signal to your brain that it's time for sleep. Plus, certain teas — like chamomile, peppermint, passionflower, and lemon balm — contain chemicals that can help enhance levels of the relaxing brain chemical GABA, naturopath Dr. Taryn Forrelli tells me.
Whether it's coloring, taking a bath, or sipping tea (or, you know, coloring in the tub with some tea) there are plenty of soothing hobbies that can help you get to sleep. Choose the right combo for you, and I promise you'll be passed out in no time.
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