How can I relax my mind to sleep?
To relax your mind and help get to sleep, turn off any screens early in the evening as these can keep you awake. Make lists to let go of worries or try a natural sleep remedy like Dormeasan. Other than this, you could do meditation, gentle stretching to relax the body, deep breathing exercises or reading.
1. Put screens away
I'm not trying to deter you from reading the rest of this article, but you really need to stop looking at a screen if you are going to fall to sleep. Once you've got to the end of this article, switch your phone/tablet/laptop/T.V off. Blue light omitted from these devices stops our body from producing melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep cycle.
It's ideal if you can switch these devices off early in the evening so your body and brain get the signal it's time for sleep. Get yourself an old fashioned alarm clock so you don't need to keep your phone by your bed. Your brain is super-sensitive to incoming information at night, due to our time as cave people when a tiny noise could be incoming death via something with jaws/claws/paws! The last thing you want are Instagram notifications interrupting your sleep and sending your nervous system into a spin.
2. Make a list
If worrying thoughts are causing your mind to race, or you are already anticipating a massive to do list when you wake up tomorrow. Quickly jot down a list of worries or to do's on a piece of paper. Fold it over and place it outside your bedroom. Don't let those thoughts back inside the room. They will be there for you to pick up again tomorrow so let them go for now.
3. Take a remedy
If you have a bottle of Dormeasan, now is a good time to take it. This remedy is a blend of valerian and hops that will help relax your body and your mind. It is fast-acting and should have a nicely sedating effect that won't leave you drowsy in the morning.
My favourite way to switch my mind off when I can't sleep is to listen to a meditation or visualisation recording that focuses on sleep. There are plenty of these online and lots of apps you can download to your phone or recordings on CD. Here are a list of some of my favourites:
Obviously this requires having your phone by your bed so be mindful about how you use these sleep apps. Remember to turn sleep mode on your meditation so it switches off at the end and you are not tempted to pick your phone and stare at a screen again. Make sure your phone is on silent too.
5. Relax the body
Where the mind goes the body will follow, and vice versa. Paying attention to the body and endeavouring to ease tension there will also ease mental tension. Some simple ways to relax the body:
- Gentle stretching – by easing tension in your muscles and connecting movement with your breath, you will not only ease tension in your body but in your mind too. You can follow along with a video online (but remember to put the screen promptly away afterwards).
- Magnesium – applying magnesium oil or cream is a great way to ease muscle tension and aid relaxation. Magnesium supports deep sleep by restoring levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. Magnesium night spray by Better You is my favourite.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation. This process involves tensing and relaxing each muscle group. A quick google search will bring up guided versions of this or simply take your awareness around your body, slowly tensing and releasing each body part as you go.
6. Breathe deep
Another of my favourite ways to tame the monkey mind is focusing on your breath. There are lots of ways to do this:
- Deep belly breathing is great for relaxing the mind and it tones the diaphragm too. All this requires is to expand your belly on your inhale a little bit further each time. Exhale and let your belly relax and descend towards the spine.
- 478 breathing lengthens your exhalation which has a cooling, calming effect on your body and mind. You breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 7 and release for 8. You may need to find your own pattern if these numbers don't feel comfortable for you. However, make sure you breathe out for longer than you breathe in.
- Square breathing evens out each breath and focuses your mind. You breathe in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4 and hold on the out breath for 4. Continue like this and feel waves of peace ripple through your body. I like to imagine I am drawing a square in my mind while doing it.
- Another simple trick is to count each breath back from 14. If you get lost, start from the beginning.
It doesn't really matter which technique you try, they will all refocus your attention away from not sleeping while lengthening your exhalation to induce calm.
7. Read a book
Grab a boring, unstimulating book and have a read. I'm not joking! Having something to focus your mind on that won't cause your brain to overstimulate and race off into thought will help you to fall asleep. I won't list suggestions for fear of insulting anyone but let's just say I have some pretty dense books on my nightstand for this exact purpose.
8. Give up
If none of these things are working, you may as well give up. No, seriously, give up trying to get to sleep and you will probably fall asleep within minutes. If you feel as if you've been lying in bed for ages and sleep is not coming, get up and do something else outside the bedroom for a while. Go back to bed and start again.
Remember, if you don't fall asleep, it won't be the end of the world. If it's just one sleepless night you will wake up feeling a bit groggy tomorrow but your body and mind will still function reasonably well. We have some handy tips on how to bounce back after a sleepless night here.
That said, if the sleepless nights continue, you might need a bigger overhaul to improve your sleep long term. For information on sleep and how to improve it check out the sleep section of our blogs.