Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep in order to function well the next day. However, mental and physical stress can make it difficult to relax enough before bed to get a good night’s rest. Luckily there are steps you can take to help you relax and ensure you regularly get the rest you need.
Breathe deeply. If you regularly struggle with nighttime relaxation, getting ready for bed might itself be a source of stress. This leads to a vicious cycle where your nerves make it even harder to fall asleep. You can counter your nerves by practicing deep breathing techniques. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply through your nose, counting to five. Then slowly breathe out through your mouth, counting to five again. Continue for several minutes, until you feel your heart rate slowing down and your muscles relaxing.
2. Engage in progressive muscle relaxation. Tense and then relax each of the different muscle groups in your body one by one. This can be an effective way to relax you before bed or even while you are lying in bed. Tense the muscle by flexing and contracting them for around ten seconds. Visualize the muscle being tensed. Release the tension and allow your whole body to go limp before moving on to the next muscle group. Start with your toes, and then work your way up to your calves, thighs, back, arms, and face. You should feel more relaxed throughout your entire body and forget the troubles of the day.
- Focus solely on your breathing and try and clear your mind of all other thoughts during this time.
- Make this part of your regular bedtime routine so that you associate the deep breathing exercise with going to sleep. Soon the deep breathing exercises will signal to your body that it should prepare for bed.
3. Do some gentle yoga. Gentle yoga can also help your body relax as you prepare to go to bed. A slow and steady yoga routine of five to fifteen minutes can relieve physical and mental tension. Only use basic poses, no power poses that might energize you. Just do basic twists and stretches. Some examples are:
- Be sure to keep all other muscles relaxed while you tense a particular one.
4. Take a warm bath. Having a warm bath 15-30 minutes before bed can be a great way to help you relax before sleep. Ensure the bath is warm rather than really hot to get the best possible conditions for relaxation. Having a regular warm bath before bed can help your body to recognize that it is the end of the day and time to wind down.
- Child’s pose. For this, you sit on your heels, and with your arms out to the side, lower your body down over your knees, bringing your forehead down towards the floor.
- Standing bends. Lift your hands up above your head, stretching your spine and gently bend down, keeping your back straight.
- Jathara Parivrtti. Lie on your back with your arms out away from your body, palms down. Bend your legs and raise them so your hips and perpendicular to the floor. Lower your legs to right, bring them back up to the center, and then lower them to the left.
5. Steer clear of caffeine. Cutting down on stimulants such as caffeine can be very helpful if you are struggling to relax before bed. Avoid tea, coffee, or other caffeinated substances in the late afternoon and evening as they make it harder to fall asleep and can prevent the important deep sleep you need. The effects of caffeine can last up to 24 hours, so it can be an important factor in sleeping problems. Caffeine can also raise your heart rate, making you feel more nervous and jittery.
- You can couple a warm bath with soothing music and aromatherapy oils to help you relax even more. Use lavender or chamomile to create a relaxing aromatherapy bath.
6. Avoid alcohol. While many people experience sleepiness immediately after drinking alcohol, alcohol makes sleep overall less restful and restorative. Alcohol can also increase your chances of experiencing middle insomnia when you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep. Steer clear of alcoholic beverages if you want to feel fully relaxed overnight.7. Be physically active during the day. Keeping your body active during daytime hours can help your body be prepared to relax before bed. Exercise vigorously for 20-30 minutes daily by running, jogging, swimming, or biking. Make sure that you exercise in the morning or early afternoon. Evening exercise tends to energize the body instead of relaxing it.
- Replace caffeine with warm milk or herbal teas, such as chamomile or peppermint.
- Other stimulants such as nicotine,sugary foods and beverages, and heavy meals can also make it harder to relax.
- Having exposure to sunlight during the day will also help your body relax in the evening hours. Consider exercising during daylight hours to get a dose of sunlight.
Schedule time to wind down before bed. Rather than simply hopping into bed and expecting to be relaxed, give yourself at least 15-30 minutes to let your mind unwind after a long and stressful day. There are techniques you can use to let go of taxing or stressful thoughts so that you can relax overnight. For example you can: 
2. Distract yourself instead of stewing. If you find yourself unable to relax in bed, don’t let yourself stew for too long. If you cannot relax after 10-15 minutes in bed, get out of bed and do another relaxing activity. Your anxiety will not dissipate on its own. Instead, break the cycle by taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to classical music for 15 minutes or so. Then try to go to bed again. Just be sure that your distraction doesn’t involve bright light.3. Avoid electronic screens at night. Watching television, using a computer, or staring at a smart phone can all have detrimental effects on your ability to relax and go to sleep. In particular, staring at a small bright screen in the dark can disrupt the secretion of melatonin, which regulates our sleep cycle. Ensure you have a clear break between using technological devices and going to bed.
- Write a list of what you have achieved during the day.
- Check off your achievements from a to-do list. These can be mundane, everyday tasks which are often the cause of most of our stress.
- Write down your thoughts in a diary or journal.
- Write down your tasks for the next day so that they are not weighing on you in bed.
- Meditate for 15-30 minutes to clear your head.
4. Visualize positive images. Visualization exercises can reduce stress and anxiety. If you’re feeling tense before bed, try a positive visualization exercise. Imagine a place where you feel happy and relaxed. Imagine the sights, sounds, smells and tastes you want to experience. It could be an imaginary scene or a happy memory. Images you might visualize include:
- Evidence suggests that playing video games in the early evening is linked to loss of sleep, and teenagers who use their phones in bed are more likely to be drowsy during the day.
5. Do mental exercises before bed. If you have trouble letting go of stressful events from your day, try to distract yourself with mental exercises. These could be word or number puzzles, or even something as simple as trying to memorize a poem or a song. These mental exercises should be simple enough to help you to feel relaxed but distracting enough that you do not have the mental energy to stress out about your day. For example, you might try:
- A warm beach.
- A cool forest.
- Your childhood backyard.
- Crossword puzzles
- Reciting your favorite song backwards
- Naming all the authors whose last name begins with a certain letter, such as B
Have regular bedtimes. Sticking to a schedule is very important if you want to send relaxing signals to your body at the right time. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule works because you follow your body’s circadian rhythms. It is not just children who need a good bedtime routine; adults also need to relax and unwind before they go to bed. Try to have regular times when you go to bed and wake up every day–even on weekends.2. Don’t use the snooze button. The snooze button might be tempting, but it does not lead to high-quality, restful sleep. Instead, it makes it more likely that you will be overtired in the mornings and overenergized in the evening hours when you should be relaxing. Try to resist the urge to hit “snooze” in the mornings and instead make yourself get out of bed.3. Avoid long naps during the day. It’s important to avoid long naps during the day as much as possible. If you can restrict your sleeping to night-time only you will likely have a more relaxing bedtime.
4. Wake up at the same time every morning. It can be difficult, but if you want to stick to your schedule you have to try to avoid sleeping in as much as possible. Set your usual alarm during the weekend as well as during the week. If you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day you will program your body to sleep better.5. Stick to a nightly bedtime routine. Develop a relaxing routine that you perform every night 15-30 minutes before you go to bed. Take a warm bath. Stretch your body. Read a book. Listen to relaxing music. Doing these things every night will help your body know when bedtime is approaching. Incorporating a relaxing activity into your routine will help you fall asleep (and stay asleep). Eventually these activities will signal your body to begin relaxing and preparing for good sleep at the same time every night.
- If you absolutely have to nap, be sure that you nap for less than 30 minutes and that you nap in the mid-afternoon while it is still light outside. Napping for too long or napping in the evening hours can disrupt your ability to relax at bedtime.
Use your bed only for sleep and intimacy. Avoid doing work, making phone calls, or paying bills in bed. Instead, get used to the idea that your bed is for sleeping or romantic activities. You want your bed to be a place of relaxation–not a work desk. Keep your bed free of clutter, and never perform work activities in bed.2. Create a relaxing atmosphere. Your bedroom should be a relaxing safe haven, one that is free from stress, distractions, or anything nerve-wracking. Try to avoid doing work or anything stressful in your bedroom. Keep your bedroom free from electronic screens or noisy items such as televisions, computers, and phones.
3. Keep it dark. Having a dark room is very important for relaxing and sleeping well in bed. The sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is very light-sensitive. Check to see if your room is too light by turning off all the lights at night. Wait for your eyes to adjust: if you can clearly see objects, there is too much light. Now you can look for areas where the light is leaking in.
- Other ways to have a relaxing bedroom space include painting your room a calming color such as light blue or light gray, using lamps that create soft light, and using calming essential scents such as lavender oils or potpourri. Essential oils can help you sleep better.
4. Keep your bedroom cool. A room that is too hot will stop your core temperature from dropping, something which is necessary to switch on your body’s sleeping mechanism. Your body drops to its lowest temperature when you are asleep so keeping your room cool can help. You should aim for a temperature of around 18 – 24 degrees Celsius, or 64 – 75 Fahrenheit. Being overheated can make you feel dehydrated, anxious, or restless at bedtime.
- If you are in a city with lots of street lights outside your window, consider getting a blackout lining for your curtains or buying an eye mask.
5. Choose the right mattress for you. A mattress that is made of breathable, hypoallergenic materials will help your body relax more effectively at bedtime. Be sure that your mattress is also your desired firmness and size. Choosing the correct mattress for your body type and sleeping style will contribute to a relaxing environment.6. Use a white noise machine to cover up stressful sounds. Noise is one of the great sleep disruptors, and it can make you feel stressed out before bed or overnight. White noise is a calming, ambient sound that can help cover up stressful noises such as voices, cars, snoring, or your neighbors’ music. White noise machines can be specifically purchased, or you can use a fan or dehumidifer as a white noise machine. There are also white noise generators to be found online.
- Keeping a window slightly open, if it is safe to do so, can help by ensuring there is a good circulation of air. An oscillating fan can also help create the proper temperature in a bedroom during the warmer months.
- Be sure to keep your extremities warm. If it’s cold opt for a warmer duvet rather than leaving the heating on, which can dehydrate you. It is especially important that you keep your feet warm, so you might want to wear socks to bed.