7 Little Tweaks To Your Bedtime Routine That'll Make You Feel Less Anxious The Next Day
Your nighttime routine isn't just about getting ready to fall asleep; it's actually a really important aspect of preparing for the next day in full. If you have anxiety, your bedtime rituals can be even more important. Nighttime anxiety relief can be a very proactive form of self-care, potentially making you feel much less anxious the next day.
The key to tweaking your bedtime routine to help mitigate anxiety is finding ways to ensure better sleep. "What you do before you go to bed is what affects your anxiety the next day because it affects how you sleep," Rachel Wright, a licensed marriage therapist and co-founder of Wright Wellness Center, tells Bustle. "The chemicals that get released in your brain to help keep it happy and mellow are released during good, deep sleep. So, if you're not getting good and deep sleep, those chemicals aren't released and you're more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety the next day." And getting good sleep isn't all about regulating your bedroom's temperature or taking melatonin. There are a bunch of tiny changes you can pick and choose from that might help keep your mind at ease just enough to improve your sleep, and relieve some anxiety in the process.
Here are seven little tweaks to make to your bedtime routine that'll help you feel much less anxious the next day, according to experts.
1. Turn Off The TV
If you want to prevent anxiety in the morning, you might want to turn the TV off a good amount of time before you want to fall asleep.
"Not only is a screen messing with the ability to sleep deeply, but TV shows are stimulating and make you think, which is not what you want to be doing when you're trying to sleep," Wright says. "Finish your TV time in a different room, ditch the screen in the bedroom and try a meditation." Keeping TV and sleep separate can help improve your headspace before bed.
2. Try A "Brain Dump"
If you're someone who struggles with not being able to slow down your thoughts before bed, that might be impacting your anxiety levels during the day as well. Luckily, a "brain dump" can help.
"Part of the reason why we'll stay up at night and kill our quality of sleep is that we're going through what we need to remember the next day, or even a couple weeks from now," Wright says. "If you write it down and say to yourself 'I'll remember, it's written right here,' it allows your brain to stop playing your to-do list (or whatever is on your mind) on repeat and lets it relax to sleep well." Writing things down can help get some stress off your chest, and clear your head so you can get the sleep you need.
3. Try A Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets aren't just a self-care trend. They can actually be quite beneficial when it comes to making small changes that can support your mental health.
"Invest in a weighted blanket," Mayo Clinic-certified wellness coach Michelle Kalina, CYT, CWC, tells Bustle. "These blankets give you a soothing, grounded sensation which releases ‘happiness hormones’ that can improve sleep quality and help you sleep longer." Just the smallest change from a regular blanket to a weighted may possibly be the thing you need to feel a bit relaxed the next day.
4. Do 4/7/8 Breathing
Breathing techniques can seem daunting and forced, but even the simplest ones can help with anxiety.
"Practice '4/7/8 breathing,'" Kalina says. "This technique described by Dr. Andrew Weil as 'a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.'" In "4/7/8 breathing," you inhale for four seconds, hold for seven, and exhale for eight. Doing this breathing exercise before bed may help you regulate your anxiety enough to improve it the next day.
5. De-Stress As You Wash Up
You're going to spend time cleaning up before bed. So you might as well use this time to find little ways to de-stress, too.
"Set the stage in the bathroom," Kalina suggests. "Light an aromatherapy candle next to your sink (the best ones are lavender, chamomile, bergamot, jasmine, rose and sandalwood), and play spa music." Instead of listening to the news or a heavy podcast while taking your evening shower, changing your environment to something more relaxing can help prepare you for the day ahead.
6. Drink Hot Water With Honey
You don't have to buy any expensive teas or elixirs to get the extra boost your body needs to unwind before bed. A simple cup of hot water with honey may help.
"Honey contains the sleep inducing amino acid tryptophan," Kalina says. Plus, the drink tastes great and is easy to make. This little change may be your next favorite part of your routine.
7. Use Your Bed Only For Sleep
You may still want to read books or watch TV in the evenings, and that's just fine (as long as you're not doing these things right before shutting your eyes). What you can do, however, to help keep these habits from impacting your sleep patterns and anxiety levels, is to not read or watch TV in bed.
"To better improve your quality of sleep, one must set the intention that your bed is only for sleep," licensed clinical professional counselor and board certified registered art therapist, Dr. Molly Ansari, assistant Professor in Bradley University's Online Masters of Counseling Program, tells Bustle. "When we use our bed to eat, finish work, watch TV, it confuses our brains into not knowing what it is we are doing in bed, therefore making it more difficult to sleep if you carry out many other functions in your bed." If you move to your favorite chair, the couch, or anywhere else you find comfortable, you can help keep these things separate.
Tweaking your bedtime routine in order to help prevent anxiety doesn't have to be drastic. Even small edits to your nightly habits, from breathing exercises to new journaling routines, may prove incredibly beneficial when it comes to improving your sleep and feeling less anxious. Nighttime isn't just about ending one day; it's also about preparing for the next one. And if you have anxiety, it's worth it to make sure you're taking care of yourself in the ways you need.