5 Wind-Down Techniques for a Good Night's Sleep
Anyone who has struggled with the perils of insomnia will know only too well the grave consequences that can come from not getting enough sleep. And it’s not just insomniacs who suffer; studies show that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, meaning we have bred a society of people who suffer from sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation can lead to a host of issues. Concentration problems, irritability and mood swings are on the ‘milder’ end of the spectrum and then on the more serious end we have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and tiredness that can lead to accidents. Psychologically, it can lead to an increase in depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
So sleep is not just essential for our daily functioning; it is also crucial to our mental well-being. Not enough emphasis is placed on the importance of sleep; we can eat well, exercise well, keep our stress levels low. But if our sleep is messed up, very often we can find ourselves back to square one in regard to our health.
It can be very tough breaking out of a poor sleep schedule. For some mind-boggling reason, our brains can be very stubborn when it comes to releasing us from what is bad for us. A person caught in insomniac tendencies and after struggling with them for so long may start to tell themselves it is normal, even when they know it is not – this inner conflict can bring great distress, mentally and physically. Those who struggle with racing thoughts and a mind that never shuts up may resign themselves to the belief that their brain is one endless chatterbox and simply put up with it.
But though it is tough, it is not impossible! It does require an enormous amount of focus, willpower and self-discipline but it can be achieved; there are several ways of making this happen in the form of wind-down techniques for a good night’s sleep. The brain cannot simply just shut itself down for the person who struggles with sleep, it needs to be gently eased into it, as if it were a wild wolf in the woods that, with time, care and attention, will eventually allow the human to pat it on the head. It can take several hours to settle the chatterbox mind so that it feels comfortable enough to switch itself off. Read on to find out about five helpful wind-down techniques you can implement into your day for a better night’s sleep!
1. Shut Off Electronics an Hour Before Bed
This is very important. Screen addiction is becoming more and more commonplace. Before you know it, you can spend hours in front of a screen and you would be surprised to discover how much of that turns out to be mindless browsing. Switching off laptops, tablets, phones and televisions at least an hour before bed is essential. Light from screens suppresses the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, tricking the brain into thinking it should be alert because of the brightness and because some kind of activity is going on.
The exceptions to this are when you may wish to meditate yourself to sleep (see point number 2!).
2. Meditate Yourself to Sleep
This is such a fantastic method of combating sleep deprivation that I hardly know where to begin. Probably the biggest challenge with this is training the brain to want to meditate in the first place. While lying awake for hours staring at the ceiling or scrolling endlessly through social media, a tiny voice in the back of your head may say, “Meditate!” But then the other part of your brain doesn’t want to; it wants to keep itself alert and it wants to keep browsing online. Be very firm with yourself or reach a compromise with yourself. Say something like “We can browse/keep thinking for the next fifteen minutes, but fifteen minutes from now we have to try meditation, OK?”
Reconciling both sides of your brain in this way can be a very successful technique in winding down.
You can meditate on your own using deep breaths, relaxation and visualization, or you can enlist the help of a YouTube video or an app that specializes in meditation. There are plenty of videos on YouTube dedicated to meditation, including meditation music and guided meditation. Eventually, you should find one that works specifically for you. Some may prefer guided meditation with an American accent, others might like a guided meditation with an Australian accent, some may like meditation music with rain pattering down; others may prefer meditation music with shamanic drums. There are many, so exploring them and discovering which one suits your own personal preference is highly recommended.
3. Essential Oils
Investing in an oil burner and using essential oils to help you drift off before bed is entirely worth it. There are certain oils that are specific to sleep, such as lavender, ylang-ylang, frankincense and jasmine. Scent can have a powerful sedative effect on us and, when combined with meditation, the relaxation effects can be extraordinary.
Read this next: How to Use Essential Oils in Your Daily Life
4. Write Down Your Thoughts
This can be a very helpful technique in winding down. Get yourself a diary and write down all the thoughts that are troubling you; write down everything that is making you feel anxious or anything that weighs heavy on your shoulders. Absolutely anything you can think of that causes you some kind of stress can go into your diary entry. Then, once you’re done, rip the page from your diary, scrunch it up and throw it in the bin while repeating a positive affirmation to yourself such as, “I release all negative thoughts from my mind.”
This is one way of training your mind to let go. One of the reasons it goes round and round with anxiety is because it simply cannot surrender. Letting go is a big lesson for the mind and this particular technique works well for that.
5. Hot Bath with Salts
This is a fabulous way to wind-down and prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep! Prepare yourself a hot bath and place some bath salts in the water. Then let yourself soak for about forty-five minutes. The bath salts can help relieve muscle tension as well as promote relaxation, combating stress and fatigue. Bath salts are very good at helping you unwind and assisting you in forgetting your problems. It gives the mind the opportunity to relax and drift away, preparing you for a pleasant rest.
As previously stated, tackling sleep problems is not easy. But it is certainly doable and the techniques above should help you in combating your sleep issues. Try one or try all five of them; keep going and don’t give up! Often, chronic sleep problems can be a sign of an underlining mental or physical issue (if the mind doesn’t want to switch itself off, then there must be a reason for it; it may fear going to sleep… but why?) It is certainly worth going deeper into it and getting any potential underlining issues addressed.
In the meantime, try the techniques above to help promote restful sleep. At times, this struggle can be disheartening and debilitating, but with enough willpower and fortitude, you can conquer your sleep problems once and for all.
Related Article: Sleep Debt: The Consequences of Sleep Loss on Your Mind & Body