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5 Ways to Relax & Sleep Better

Do you struggle to switch off from work at night?

Are you laying in bed every night, unable to stop thinking about what you’ve done today, what you need to do tomorrow, and how you’re going to do it?

Sleep is an extremely important part of getting into the best shape of your life, and being at your best. The problem is, the majority of people are unable to get good quality sleep.

Nutrition can play a huge part in improving your sleep, but this is but one part of the equation. What is often forgotten in this discussion is how to relax before bed, so you can fall asleep quickly and enjoy deep, restful sleep.

Here are five strategies you can easily implement tonight. These are extremely popular with our clients, whose busy lives means sleep quality often suffers if they’re not too careful.

1. Deep Breathing/Meditation

These two practices help people fall asleep because of their ability to induce a greater parasympathetic state (calm, as opposed to the fight or flight sympathetic state).

If you’re typically stressed with poor posture from years of desk jockeying, it’s highly likely you’re a ‘chest-breather’.

Excessive chest breathing has implications on your body, creating muscular and systemic dysfunctions which manifest themselves as headaches, neck pain, and upper back pain.

Proper breathing should be done with the diaphragm, so that when you breathe in (through your nose) the air should go all the way down to your stomach.

Many meditation practices focus on the power of breathing, making the combination perfect for a pre-bedtime ritual, clearing the mind of stressful thoughts and creating a greater sense of calm overall.

UP Recommends: Headspace – a mobile gym membership for the mind

Here’s What to Do:

  • Lay in your bed, with your hand on your belly
  • Breathe in deeply through your nose, feeling your hand rise
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly
  • Repeat

To enhance the meditative effect, you could play some classical music or sounds from nature, all whilst focusing intensely on how your body feels as it is breathing.

Another great option is to use a guided meditation app such as Headspace, which uses deep breathing as its central focus. 

2. Gratitude Journal

This is a great tip made popular by Charles Poliquin, Oprah, and Tony Robbins, who all recommend its use.

When you’re grateful, you can’t be fearful or anxious. They are two opposing feelings that cannot exist at the same time.

Gratitude is very calming, preventing the mind from racing around thoughts all night. All you need is a diary and a pen. Here are some examples:

“I am grateful for my best friend who never fails to make me laugh.”

“I am grateful for my colleague for lending me a book which will change the way I work for the better.”

Be creative, mix it up and most importantly, give it a fair chance. Stick with it for a month at least and see how it positively impacts not only your sleep but your life too. 

3. Eliminate Electronics

Arguably the single greatest contributor to sleep problems is the use of artificial lighting and electronics at bedtime.

Specifically, research suggests that the blue light emitted by screens and monitors disrupts the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Getting blue light (especially from the sun) in the daytime is important, but at night it tricks your brain into thinking it’s still light outside. Consequently, it inhibits melatonin production, negatively affecting your ability to fall asleep.

Most advice recommends you to stop using all electronic devices 2 to 3 hours before bed. This is unrealistic for most people, we find – especially if you have a habit of working late. Instead, we advise cutting out the use of electronics at least 30-60 minutes before going to bed.

If you do find yourself working late on the computer, downloading F.lux can be useful. F.lux is a tool that works by automatically adjusting the colour temperature of your screen, making sure to match the light of your screen to the levels of natural light outside.

If you’re an Apple product user, activating ‘Night Shift’ on your iPhone, iPad or Mac works similarly by reducing blue light emission. Android has the exact same feature, only it is called ‘Night Light’ instead.

4. Read Fiction

The key with reading before bed is that it absolutely cannot be non-fiction, which will only stimulate your brain with ideas and future planning. Immersing yourself in great fiction works incredibly at reducing stress levels and relaxing the body.

Reading can put your brain into an almost meditative state, as the present state attention and concentration required creates a complete distraction from everyday stresses.

By reading before bed, it allows you to disengage with all the work you’ve done in the day, making for the perfect environment to help you fall asleep. 

5. Go for a Walk

Exercise right before bed needs to be relaxing. An evening walk around your neighbourhood is the perfect prescription. Like reading, it’ll help you switch off from your day and allow you to reflect inwards.

A good tip to really ‘lose yourself’ in the walk is to pick the same route, so the directions become automatic. Anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes works great, depending on your availability.

This may seem like a lot to get through, and completely unrealistic to implement. However, the key with these tips is to try them one at a time, slowly building up your sleep routine.

Whilst it may seem like you need hours, in reality, an hour is all you need at the most.

Give each strategy a go, and let us know which ones you found most useful.

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