Have you ever laid in bed and said to yourself, “OMG, I’m so tired, how can I relax and go to sleep?”
Lately I’ve been struggling with falling asleep. I may be tired as heck, but sleep’s just not happening. My brain is all wound up and my muscles just don’t seem to want to relax. The result? A wide awake me and a racing brain and aching tense muscles.
Mind you, this is something I’ve totally done to myself. I’ve slipped back into bad sleep habits, been letting stress get to me, plus I’m doing stuff at night that’s revving up my mind.
That’s a tough wall for sleep to break through!
So now I’m getting back to the basics: cleaning up my sleep hygiene, relieving stress, and doing exercises to fall asleep before I go to bed.
How can I Relax and Go to Sleep?
A racing mind and an inability to relax have always been my downfall when it comes to sleep. Back when I first started fighting my insomnia naturally, I found activities and exercises to do that relaxed my mind and body which helped.
I love swapping sleep and relaxation tips with people. Sometimes I’ve never tried what’s worked for them and vice versa. I add them to my ever growing sleep arsenal to keep in my back pocket for when I’m having trouble sleeping or if someone’s asking for advice.
So here’s some of the best relaxation tips and techniques I’ve got in my sleep arsenal. I hope you’ll find one that helps you to relax and fall asleep easier.
Practice Relaxing During the Day
Stress and tension build up during the day, and if it doesn’t have an outlet you’re going to bring them to bed with you at night.
If you don’t relax during the day, you’re sure as heck not going to be able to relax before bed. Relaxation is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, it will be weak and won’t function right.
So what relaxing activities should you do during the day to make sure you can relax at night?
This can be tricky because what I like to do to relax could drive you bonkers and stress you out.
Here’s an exercise for you:
- Take out a piece of paper and write down what activities you find enjoyable and relaxing. It doesn’t matter what it is, reading, golf, video games, if it’s something you like to do and it helps you blow off steam, write it down.
- Take a look over your list. Do they relax you physically and/or mentally?
- If they do, make it a point to do at least one of them every day.
- When you do your activity, focus on what you’re doing. Pay attention to how you feel, the environment around you, and the enjoyment you get out of it.
I know mindfulness is a buzzword nowadays, but I think it’s just a new way of saying, appreciate life, grab each opportunity that comes your way, and savor each moment.
Related: 7 Totally Doable Ways to Reduce Stress and Sleep Better
Breathing Exercises to Fall Asleep
I know, the minute you ask someone “hey, do you know how can I relax and go to sleep,” the first thing they almost always suggests are breathing exercises.
You want to know a secret? I used to want to just scream when they told me that. Seriously? I breathe 24/7 and it’s not doing a thing. Leave me alone. 😛
I thought just doing these exercises at night would knock me out, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s important to remember that breathing techniques like these are meant to take you to a deeper level of relaxation so you can fall asleep easier.
The most popular breathing technique is the 4-7-8 exercise. It helps to relieve stress and anxiety and promotes relaxation. This cartoon is aimed at helping kids learn how to cope with anxiety, but it’s the best tutorial I’ve found on how to do the 4-7-8 correctly.
A breathing technique I’ve learned about recently is diaphragmatic breathing. It sounds complicated, but basically you’re just breathing from your belly. (apparently I’ve had this breathing thing wrong all my life!)
Breathing from your diaphragm is a good technique to do if you have anxiety about sleeping which is causing insomnia. It has a calming effect on the mind and body, plus releases muscle tension and stress.
What I’ve Tried These Breathing Exercises and They Don’t Work for Me?
If these didn’t work for you, don’t give up on them. Believe it or not, these exercises require practice to get good at them. Experts say it can take up to a dozen sessions of practice before you get the hang of it.
Now a word to the overthinkers. If you’re already having trouble with a racing mind at night, you may not find these type of exercise helps you at all.
I tried the 4-7-8 exercise aaannnnnnd……it made me worse. The counting revved up my brain because I became so focused on counting and getting the breathing right. I had to just give up on these.
But last year someone recommended a Dodow to me. It’s just a little gadget that projects a pulsating light on your ceiling that you breathe along to. All I have to do was breathe in when the light gets bigger and exhale when it gets smaller. It required no brain power at all, and you know what? It helped!
It calms my mind and it relaxes my body, and most nights it helps me fall asleep pretty quickly.
Related: How I Used a Dodow to Relax my Mind and Sleep Effortlessly
Guided Imagery: An Easy Relaxation Sleep Activity you can Do
I have to admit, this is one of my favorite exercises to fall asleep to. I guess because I have an active imagination and guided imagery takes me on a journey.
Guided imagery is also known as guided meditation. It’s nothing new age or hokey about it. You’re basically listening to a relaxing bedtime story that’s very descriptive. It keeps your mind from racing on random thoughts and helps you achieve a level of calm and relaxation.
My favorite thing to use for guided imagery is an app called “Calm.” They have what they call sleep stories. I very rarely can get to the end of one of these without falling asleep first! Here’s one they’ve put on Youtube.
If you’d rather have something you can download and play on your phone so you don’t have to watch a video, (blue light is bad for sleep after all!) I recommend the ones from Hypnosis Downloads.
How do you Get to Sleep Easier? Try ASMR
Not long ago, I asked my email subscribers what they did to help them relax before bed. One reader, Tiffany, shared that she found listening to ASMR videos to calm and relax her.
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response. Some people have a strong body reaction to certain everyday sounds. Fans love listening to mundane things like paper crinkling or fingers rubbing on fabric. Some just find the sounds calming, but other people say they feel a tingling or static electricity sensation they find relaxing.
I can see how you could find it relaxing. I consider ASRM kind of like white noise, you know, how some people like listening to nature sounds like rain or ocean waves.
Here’s the video Tiffany shared. Thanks, Tiffany!
But How do I Relax my Mind if I can’t Stop Thinking?
Fellow overthinker, I feel you. Having an overactive mind is like being strapped in the first car of a roller coaster. You’re just there along for the ride with no control over anything.
All of the previous exercises can help your mind to relax, but here’s some specific exercises you can do to calm your monkey brain.
Write your Thoughts in a Sleep Journal
Daily Sleep Journal & Workbook: A therapeutic one month workbook to track and record your daily activities and mindset that may be affecting your sleep.
Sleep journaling really helped me because the act of writing seems to materialize my thoughts and worries into a tangible object, which helps to get them off my mind.
It’s not hard to learn how to keep a sleep journal. You can use it to write down what random thoughts are running through your brain, what you’re thankful for, or even a to do list.
You can even use your journal to keep track of your sleep data so you can identify patterns and habits that may be keeping from sleeping.
I didn’t like writing things down in a blank notebook because it made it hard to look back at all I’d written. So I designed my own sleep journal that could track my sleep and give me room to write down my racing thoughts!
Do Mental Exercises
Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. A good way to stop your brain from overthinking is to give it something to think about. Focusing on these types of exercises keeps you from feeling overwhelmed or anxious because of your racing mind.
Some mind relaxation techniques or activities you can do are:
- Soduko or crossword puzzles
- Handcrafts like crocheting or knitting
- Mental games, such as thinking of as many animals as you can that start with the letter A, then B, etc.
- Count to 100 by three’s
- Recite the lyrics to every song of your favorite music artist
- Visualize your dream vacation spot. Get really descriptive and imagine the sights, sounds, smells and tastes there.
Give these Sleep Relaxation Tips and Techniques a Try
When you’re feeling stressed out and wound up, getting to sleep is pretty much impossible. Being able to relax is the first step to getting a good night’s sleep.
If you liked these relaxation exercises, you may like to check out Easy Relaxation Exercises for Sleep: A Beginner’s Guide. It has more ideas to help you get zen about sleeping. 🙂
So next time you’re laying in bed thinking “how can I relax and go to sleep” I hope you’ll give some of these tips a shot. Did I leave out something that helps you relax? Leave them in the comments below!
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