Health & Wellness Articles

6 Ways to Relax Before Bed

Take the Stress Out of Sleep

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Sleep is something that every body craves. So why does everyone struggle with it periodically? You’ve tried to do it right – you skip caffeine late in the day; you don’t eat a heavy meal right before bed; you make sure the lights are off; you try to follow a consistent bedtime schedule each day. Yet, as you lay in bed sleepless, frustration creeping in, none of this seems to matter. When insomnia hits, you could spend hours stressing, instead of doing a few easy things to slip gently into sleep.

Difficulty falling (and staying) asleep is a common problem. As an important source of fuel for the body, sleep is a valuable commodity. If you have been lying in bed for a while and can’t sleep, get up. Don’t stay in bed, worrying about not having enough energy for tomorrow. Do something to encourage a more rapid appearance by the Sandman.

1. Go for a soak
Relax in the bathtub. This soothes both body and mind. Try adding some sleep inducing scents into the tub like lavender oil. Caution: Don’t take a shower. This can awaken your body. Opt for a warm bath instead. Add some candles and calm music for heightened relaxation. A second hint: Sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow to pacify you in bed, too.

2. The old wives tale works
Have a glass of warm milk. You thought this was just an old wives’ tale, but it actually works! Warm milk has a tranquilizing effect on the body that can calm you down and prepare you for sleep. The same amino acid (triptophane) that gives turkey its reputation for causing drowsiness is also found in milk, and it causes more serotonin to be released in the body. Can’t stand the idea of warm milk? Add a drop or two of vanilla extract. Still not sounding tempting? Try some chamomile tea. A number of people think an alcoholic drink right before bed does the trick. Although this might initially make you sleepy, it doesn’t prep you for sound sleep. Chances are, you’ll toss and turn during the night.

3. Find an activity
Do something relaxing out of the bed. Try reading (pass on the action thriller, though). Watch something a little boring on television at low volume (think the Learning or Home Shopping Channels). Don’t watch anything that will wind you back up. Looking for other ideas? Sew, scrapbook, or write a letter. This activity should be easy, nothing that will key your nervous system back up. Once your eyes get droopy again, hit the sack.
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About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.

Member Comments

  • I can' see watching TV being very good as light stimulates the awake response, I was also surprised prayer wasn't mentioned, - 3/14/2016 7:49:27 PM
  • I have fibromyalgia and was only getting about 2 to 3 hours of sleep per night due to pain and restless legs but I've been able to increase it to 4 to 5 hours by coloring before bed with relaxing music on...warm epsom salt bath helps to relax your muscles. thinking of trying essential oils as well. Thanks for the ideas! - 1/8/2016 10:56:07 AM
  • i'm trying to get into a regular sleep pattern. I saw my pulmonary specialist ( I have muscular dystrophy) and he told that i suffer from sleep apnea. Now he wants me to sleep with oxygen but I think I'll work on going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time before i follow his suggestion - 11/19/2014 11:25:17 AM
    Reading, gets me everytime. My goal is is not use energy drinks anymore! - 6/1/2014 4:05:07 PM
  • The things that have helped me sleep better are:
    *Journal sleep patterns to see how much sleep i need
    *add up the hours i sleep then add one hour to that, then use that number to determine what time to go to bed (for example if i sleep 6 hous, on average for a week, give myself seven hors in bed. That means a midnight bedtime if i want to wake at 7am)
    *stay out of bed except for sleep
    *change attitude about sleep and how i will suffer with less sleep - 4/30/2014 11:42:17 AM
  • I can't sleep good at night if I don't have my fan on. I will go to sleep and sleep good if my hip is not paining me. My kids are the same way they all sleep with a fan. They too say it help them to sleep better. - 11/10/2013 7:24:56 AM
  • ive had insomnia since i was 14 and have grown accustomed to functioning off little to no sleep. i barely sleep every night. but on the nights when im really tired and just cant seem to get to sleep i either turn on a disney movie ive seen a billion times and it makes me sleep or i have a nature sounds lullaby channel on my pandora and i play that and it makes me drop off real fast. when i lived in my car i had an even worse time trying to sleep and i found if i played one song called mercedes lullaby from the pans labyrinth soundtrack over and over it helped me sleep. warm milk does nothing for me and i only start reading when its clear i wont be sleeping that night so i go to the living room and read and listen to music so i dont bug my fiance. - 8/29/2013 4:10:57 PM
  • I don't find that sewing is something to help me sleep. If I start sewing, I usually don't stop for two or three hours. Really, to me, any sort of crafting right before be is a no because I end up doing way more than I intend to do. Also, messing it up because I'm a little tired has happened to me before, and therefore makes me stress... - 8/29/2013 9:53:41 AM
  • I have found that having some calming music on a timer helps when I wake up and can't go back to sleep. I always have my iPod close by with headphones connected. I just set the sleep timer and some quiet relaxing music. Usually, I just concentrate on the music and fall right back to sleep.

    Smiley2U, there is a pillow called Chillow that helps when you are too hot. My husband takes some medications that makes him become my personal furnace! The Chillow is a lifesaver! - 6/21/2013 4:49:01 PM
  • Comfortable earplugs can help, too. I use them regardless of outside noise levels. When I put mine in it signals my mind that it's time to go to sleep. - 3/5/2012 11:56:49 PM
    My 3 tips: 1.) get a SleepComfort mattress. Because I'm obsese, my butt needs to be lower than the rest of my body to keep my spine straight. This mattress allows me to align my body properly and with a dual controlled bed, my partner can inflate/deflate his side to his comfort level. 2.) get a ChillPad. Again, you can get dual controls so you can heat or cool your side of the bed to your level of comfort. I was surprised to find that the mid-50's to mid 60's is most comfortable to me. No more night sweating! 3.) After getting in bed, I use the visualization technique of imagining my bones are becoming heavy and melting which causes me to relax my muscles.
    I know the first two suggestions are very pricy, but since we spend a third of our lives sleeping, I've found the cost worth it for me. Hope you can use one or all of the suggestions. - 3/5/2012 9:15:10 PM
  • Another tip for getting a good night's sleep is..... talking to your doctor. A discussion with my doctor prompted on overnight oximetry test which eventually led to a diagnosis of severe obstructive sleep apnea. I now sleep with a CPAP and my quality of life has greatly improved. Just a thought ;) - 3/5/2012 8:30:14 PM
  • I have difficulties not sleeping but getting rest. I go to bed and DO have a fan going (otherwise every creak freaks me out as I have high anxiety) and even wake up usually before my alarm (like yesterday I looked at the clock when I "woke" and it was exactly 1 minute to alarm time - this is common! Usually within 10 minutes. I have an excellent internal clock) but I'm still EXHAUSTED and feel like I've not slept. I had a sleep study done and since I do NOT have apnea they basically turned me out on my ear. I have interrupted delta sleep (old stage four, now stage three part 2) and I sleep but don't get the rejuvination and healing that normal people do. I have fibromyalgia and it is VERY common with us FMS folk (I have a theory that it's part of the cause!) and there is NOTHING I can do about it. If I couldn't fall asleep, or couldn't stay asleep, I could take meds, but nothing can make me go to the proper "level" and stay there long enough for it to take effect. - 3/5/2012 6:52:41 PM
  • The best white noise in the world is a purring cat (it's so soothing, cats will often purr when they are hurt or in distress to calm themselves). Unfortunately, I can't find a white noise machine that has that on it. When I went on my business trip last month, I stayed at a hotel that had iPod docks in the rooms. I downloaded some ocean sounds on my iPod, turned the volume down, and set it on repeat. It worked like a charm. I slept right through every night, which doesn't always happen when I'm on site. - 3/5/2012 4:55:44 PM
    These are great ideas, but having a routine is out of the question. Each week I work a different shift which stress my whole body and by the time I'm just getting use to the week, my shift changes. O well!! - 3/5/2012 1:35:45 PM

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