How Do You Slow Your Mind Down Before Bed? These 8 Science-Backed Tricks Can Help
Does it ever feel like right as you're getting ready to go to bed for the night, your mind is just waking up, and can't stop racing? If you nodded "yes," you're not alone. Over 40 million American adults live with a chronic sleep disorder (like insomnia) that is often caused, or exacerbated by anxiety disorders and stress, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Moreover, the National institute of Health estimates an additional 20 million people in the U.S. report having occasional sleep problems. If you're trying to figure out how to slow your mind down before bed, you're in good company.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aged 18 to 65 get between seven and nine hours of sleep to stay well rested and healthy. While anxiety disorders can cause a lack of sleep, Harvard Health reported that a lack of sleep can also play a role in developing an anxiety disorder. Meaning, creating a relaxing atmosphere and calming your mind before bed is super important to overall wellness.
Sure, the oldest trick in the book to relax before bed is counting sheep, but let's be real: When has that ever really worked? Here are eight science-backed ways to slow down your mind before bed, so you can get a good night's rest.
1. Make A To-Do List
John Shegerian, the CEO of Som Sleep, which makes a supplement-packed drink to promote healthy sleep, suggests making a list of your responsibilities for the next day if you want to sleep soundly. "Write down your to-do list for the next day. Seeing your tasks on paper can help make the next day seem more manageable, thereby calming your mind," he tells Bustle.
2. Do Something Relaxing (That Isn't On Your Phone)
"Things like reading books are one way to relax your body, while you're relaxing your mind as well. Other great tasks include puzzles, or coloring tasks that are not physically active tasks," Julia Walsh, a Certified Sleep Consultant and author with Good Night Sleep Site, tells Bustle. "If you are reading or doing puzzles, it is important to stay off of screens to do it, and use actual paper books or actual jigsaw puzzles to do those kinds of tasks."
Exposure to blue light from your phone, or computer has been proven by much research to be harmful to your sleep, and to disrupt your circadian rhythm. So read, draw, or puzzle it out the old-fashioned way if you want to ease your nighttime anxiety.
3. Take L-Theanine
According to Psychology Today, L-Theanine is an amino acid naturally found in tea, and in certain mushrooms, that helps you feel more relaxed. "Incorporate L-Theanine into your routine," says Rob Bent, the Chief Product Officer and Food Scientist at Som Sleep. "This ingredient helps promote relaxation before bedtime, tuning your brain to a 'sleep adjacent' state so it's ready to fall asleep." L-Theanine is an ingredient in Som Sleep for this reason.
4. Do Some Light Stretches
I know many people rant and rave about yoga, but studies have shown the practice to be extremely promising when it comes to decreasing symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. "A slow, five to ten minute yoga routine can help relieve tension before bed," explains Shegerian. Additionally, Walsh says "yoga is a way to calm many feelings you may be having so you can go back to sleep" if you often wake up from racing thoughts, or anxiety.
If you can't seem to slow your mind down before bed, try one of these yoga poses to promote restful sleep — like child's pose. As fellow Bustle writer Carina Wolff explained, "Holding supported child’s pose with your head rested on a yoga block or even some pillows will help your brain and body to rest after a long day. Repeat as many times as necessary, as child’s pose is always an option for rest and relaxation."
5. Use Progressive Muscle Relaxation
If yoga is just not your thing, Bent suggests to try progressive muscle relaxation, because "helping your body relax can also help calm you." The steps of progressive muscle relaxation are pretty straightforward: Find a quiet place (or just get in bed), close your eyes, and tense up one specific part of your body at a time. After you've tensed your muscles for around five seconds, release the tension, exhale, and relax your body. Then, you repeat the process for other parts of your body. Simple as that!
7. Drink A Cup Of Hot (Decaf) Tea
"Chamomile tea does not contain caffeine, so it won't keep you up at night. Instead, it can naturally promote relaxation to help soothe you to sleep," says Shegerian. Though chamomile tea's effectiveness when it comes to insomnia is still up for debate, The Detroit News reported a 2009 study found the popular tea helped ease the symptoms of mild and moderate anxiety. People also swear by hot golden milk, or turmeric milk, which you can also infuse with other sleep-enhancing adaptogens like ashwagandha or CBD.
8. Practice Mindfulness
"Close your eyes, and focus on your breath in the present moment. It's okay if your mind wanders — just return your focus to your breathing to help clear your mind," says Bent. If you'd rather practice guided meditations, try downloading a meditation app on your phone.
As for breathing exercises before bed, Bent suggests to "Breathe in through your nose for four to six seconds, filling your belly first and then your chest. Hold for three to five seconds, then exhale slowly for another four to six seconds. Then, repeat."
If you're having trouble sleeping because you can't seem to calm your mind, try to incorporate a few of these expert-approved tricks and skills into your nightly routine.