You can barely keep your eyes open, but as soon as you go to bed your brain seems to kick into overdrive…worrying about everything, reliving old mistakes, and dreading future problems that may or may not actually happen.
It’s not just you. Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in the division of sleep medicine for Harvard Medical School, has some relaxation techniques you can use to get your brain to stop keeping you up at night. She says these exercises are “tools in your tool kit for better sleep.” The five techniques:
- Controlled deep breathing – A way to calm your body and mind that has science behind it. Deep breathing techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, as you breathe in deeply through your nose to a count of six, then breathe out for a six-count. Stay “in the moment” and focus all of your senses to follow the air in and out, and if your mind wanders…that’s okay. Just bring your focus back to your breathing.
- Meditation – This centuries-old practice can do more than just help you sleep. A study found that just 30 minutes of meditation every day over the course of two weeks changes the function and structure of the brain.
- Visualization – Picture a calm, peaceful spot in your mind and fill it with detail, picturing the feeling of the sun on your skin and the smells in the air. You can also visualize your body relaxing.
- Progressive muscle relaxation – You’re tense when you go to bed and you might not even realize it, and this technique can help your body relax. Starting at your head you tightly tense your muscles for ten seconds while breathing in, then relax while breathing out, then move to the next lowest muscles.
- Set up a ‘worry time’ before bed – Get your worry out of the way. Experts say that scheduling a time to worry about the things you usually worry about while trying to go to sleep will help you avoid the worry when you lay down, including making a list of things you need to do tomorrow and emailing it to yourself before bed.