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How to Destress Before Going to Sleep

Posted on 29 April 2020

As if the grind and rigours of every day life aren’t stressful enough, the recent wave of chaos and uncertainty bestowed upon us with the force of a tsunami is enough to blast the needle of anyone’s stress-o-meter through the stratosphere.

As sentient beings we react to traumatic events with a range of physical and emotional responses, shaped primarily by upbringing, experiences and genetic disposition - after all we’re only human.  The most common reactions to stressful events include disbelief, shock, fear, sadness, numbness, frustration and helplessness.

However we are resilient creatures that have the ability to apply some basic measures to manage and cope with stress.  First and foremost that starts with getting a good night’s sleep.

We’ve compiled a list of things you can do before you turn in for the night to make sure your rest is as blissful as possible.

Take a load off:  Start to gradually relax an hour before going to bed.  Avoid anything that will over-stimulate senses, such as blaring heavy bass music or TV programs that are intense and depict disastrous plots and storylines.  Detach from the news or any headlines during this time, close your laptop and put your phone away.  Instead engage in some light uplifting reading that will direct your mind to something positive or watch an old sitcom that you love and know will make you feel good.

Make a cup of tea:  Chamomile tea has been used as a natural remedy to treat anxiety and insomnia.  Its calming effects may be attributed to an an antioxidant called apigenin which in abundance works as a sleep inducer.  Sipping on herbal tea is calming and studies have shown drinking chamomile tea over a two week period promotes overall better sleep quality.

Take a warm bath or shower:  Studies have shown that a warm bath or shower for at least 10 minutes, 1-2 hours before bedtime, greatly increases the chance for a restful night, due to the body’s circadian rhythm preparing for a drop in body temperature usually an hour before we typically go to sleep.  Researchers say timing is key.  Dunking yourself in warm water enhances blood flow to the extremities and helps heat dissipate from the body.  Doing this too early before bedtime or too close may interfere with the body’s ability to fall asleep. 

Deep Breathing Exercises:  There are breathing techniques you can try before bedtime that are known to reduce pre-sleep anxiety and help you fall asleep faster and should be done at the very end of the day when you’re lying in bed in a cool, quiet room, according to The Sleep Doctor, Michael Breus of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in Los Angeles.  One such technique is the 4-7-8 deep-breathing exercise and here’s how it can work for sleep:

Step1: Make sure your day is finished and you’re laying in bed ready for sleep

Step 2: Slowly inhale through the nose for a count of 4

Step 3: Hold your breath for a count of 7

Step 4: Exhale slowly via the mouth for a count of 8

Repeat the technique for 5-7 cycles, breathing deeply, slowly and steadily inhaling and exhaling.

The technique promotes deep diaphragmatic breathing which lowers the heart rate substantially, ultimately lowering the anxiety associated with higher heart rates.

Applying some of these tips to your night time rituals will eventually promote lower pre-sleep stress levels and have you drifting away to a perfect night's sleep.

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