Stress is one of the top contributors to insomnia, which impacts around 30% of adults at any given time. If you’ve experienced a nerve-wracked night, it’s not too hard to understand why: Stress makes it hard to mentally wind down and physically relax both before and during sleep.
The relationship between stress and sleep works both ways. Missing out on rest compounds stress and affects physical and mental health over time, which can create a cycle that exacerbates both problems. How a person responds to stress may impact the development of insomnia. Having a few relaxation techniques in your mental toolkit can be helpful for those times when stress rears its head and keeps you up. Here are four practices you can explore to ease stress before bed.
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness meditation can be simple: take a seat, pay attention to the breath, and when your attention wanders, return.
2. Deep Breathing
Since breathing is typically an autonomic function, it’s easy to overlook its role in relaxation. However, considerable evidence shows that depth and pace of breathing can affect things like heart rate and blood pressure. Certain breathing techniques involving deeper, slower breaths can be practiced for inducing relaxation.
- Diaphragmatic Breathing: This technique is easy to try: sitting or lying down, inhale through your nose, counting to ten and focusing on drawing breath from your abdomen rather than your chest. Exhale slowly through your nose at the same pace, counting to ten. Complete the cycle five to ten times, repeating as often as needed.
- 4-7-8 Breath: This technique was developed for inducing sleep and relaxation. To try it: place the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth. Exhale fully through your mouth, making a “whooshing” sound. Close your mouth, and inhale through your nose to a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth making the whoosh sound for a count of eight. Repeat three more times.
3. Listen to Music
Have you ever noticed how certain songs can make you feel relaxed? It’s not just in your head—music really can help you calm down and fight stress. When choosing music to relax at home, it’s best to pick instruments with a calming pace, including classical, light jazz, and stringed tunes as well as nature soundtracks, depending on what you personally find most appealing. Lie back, turn out the lights, and focus on the melody and beat of the music.
4. Mindful Movement
Meditative movements like those found in yoga can be a helpful at night for relaxation, with poses like forward bends, child’s pose, and legs-up-the-wall for gentle stretching and stress relief being beneficial.
Finding a healthy stress relief method that works for you and practicing it regularly can make a significant difference when life throws you curveballs. Coping strategies that help you process stress and induce relaxation offer a positive way to manage problems and work to prevent its negative effects, including insomnia.