Relaxing for Sleep

Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. So, today I’m going to be talking about some of the things that you can do to help with your sleep.

  • If anxiety or chronic worrying dominates your thoughts at night, there are steps you can take to learn to break the mental habit and look at life from a more positive perspective. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime.
  • If the stress of work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you may need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
  • The more overstimulated your brain becomes during the day, the harder it can be slow down and unwind at night. During the day, many of us over-stress our brains by constantly interrupting tasks to check our phones, emails, or social media. Try to set aside specific times for these things, and focus on one task at a time. When it comes to getting to sleep at night, your brain won’t be accustomed to seeking fresh stimulation and you’ll be better able to unwind.

Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Try:

  • Deep breathing.
    • Sit or lay comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
    • Breathe deeply from the abdomen
    • Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
    • Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
    • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
    • Before practicing progressive muscle relaxation, consult with your doctor if you have a history of muscle spasms, back problems, or other serious injuries that may be aggravated by tensing muscles.
    • Loosen your clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.
    • Take a few minutes to relax, breathing in and out in slow, deep breaths.
    • When you’re relaxed and ready to start, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
    • Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
    • Relax your right foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and the way your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
    • Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
    • When you’re ready, shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
    • Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the muscle groups as you go.
    • It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.
  • Visualization
    • Imagine your restful place. Picture it as vividly as you can—everything you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
    • Visualization works best if you incorporate as many sensory details as possible, using at least three of your senses.
    • When visualizing, choose imagery that appeals to you; don’t select images because you think they should be appealing.
    • Imagine yourself moving around this place.
    • What do you hear? Smell? See?
    •  Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place that’s calming and peaceful. Concentrate on how relaxed this place makes you feel.

Create a “toolbox” of relaxing bedtime rituals to help you unwind before sleep. For example:

  • Read a book or magazine by a soft light
    • Read something that is relaxing
    • Consider listening to an audio book
    • Bibliophiles beware! For those who are really into reading, this might be an energizing rather then relaxing activity.
  • Take a warm bath
    • Keep the lights low
    • Use a relaxing scented bubble bath
  • Listen to soft music
    • Something without human voices can be more helpful
      • our brains are programmed to listen to other people when they talk
      • when hearing a human voice, we become alert enough to identify whether or not we need to listen to it
    • Sound machines with nature sounds or white noises can be helpful too
  • Do some easy stretches
  • Wind down with a favorite hobby
  • Make simple preparations for the next day
  • Dim the lights in the hours leading up to bed
  • write in a journal to express your worries and get down the to-do list
    • give your self a short window in which you can worry and write down your thoughts
    • try to make this the same time and place every day
    • worry at least 1 hour before bed time
    • limit your worry time to 15-20 minutes
    • If an anxious thought kicks in while trying to sleep, jot it in your journal and remind yourself you can take care of it later.
      • often just writing it down is enough to banish the worry

There are numerous other ways to relax. Keep trying things. Adjust the times of day and the amount of time you spend. Small changes can make a big difference. Don’t get discouraged if your first try isn’t helpful. It can take time for your body to adjust to new rhythms. If you keep at it, you will find a combination that works for you.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

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