Stress not only makes you irritable and tense during the day—it can also make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. That’s because it puts you in a state of hyperarousal, causing your blood pressure and your breathing rate to increase.The key to combatting stress: relaxation. Luckily, these smart strategies can help you unwind your mind, so your body is relaxed at night and can ease into dreamland.
Make a List.
If tomorrow’s to-dos tend to race around your brain as you try to drift off, get them out of your head by jotting them down. Whether you prefer to use a pen and paper or type up a quick note in your smartphone, this strategy ensures that you won’t forget about anything the next day, which may help you stop worrying. Another option: Keep a nightly journal, where you can record any anxieties and frustrations—and then close the cover and leave them on the page for the night.
Take Five Breaths.
Even a few inhales and exhales can calm your nervous system. Place a hand on your lower belly and feel it rise and fall as you breathe in for a count of three, and then breathe out for another count of three. Repeat this cycle five times.
Tune in to Your Senses.
Doing so keeps you in the present moment, which prevents you from focusing on sleep-inhibiting stressful thoughts. Think about how the sheets feel against your skin, what sounds you hear out your window, and how the air smells.
Tense Your Toes.
Yes, you’re trying to relax, but by tensing and then relaxing your toes, you can help your whole body become calm. Lie on your back and close your eyes. Focus on how your toes feel. Now, tense and pull all ten toes up toward your face and hold them there for a count of ten. Then release them and count to ten. Repeat this exercise ten times.
For even more ways to relax, visit sleep.org by the National Sleep Foundation.