If you want to live your best life, you need to master the art of sleep and relaxation. The reason is simple: sleeping well, relaxing, and de-stressing are critical parts of any wellness journey.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18-64 need at least seven hours of sleep a night, but an estimated one-third of US adults get less than that amount of sleep every night.
Fortunately, great sleep and relaxation can be made, not born. In this article, we’ll share a few of our favorite time-tested and proven sleep and relaxation techniques to help you unwind, recover, reduce stress, and restore at the end of the day.
Let’s dive in.
The 5 Best Sleep and Relaxation Techniques to Start Today
Whether you’re an athlete training toward a fitness goal, or just an average person wanting to feel more rested and less stressed, these five techniques can help:
1. Mind Relaxation Exercises
Stress and anxiety are often to blame for sleep issues because our body’s stress response is activated. Fortunately, research has shown that there is a way we can turn off the stress response. By activating mind relaxation, we can calm the mind, relax the body, and help ourselves drift off to sleep naturally. Here are just a few techniques you can use to calm your mind.
Sleep meditation aims to bring about overall relaxation that helps prepare the body for sleep. On a mental level, meditation techniques are intended to promote a more relaxed response to a person’s stressful thoughts and feelings.
Meditation styles often incorporate the idea of mindfulness by focusing on the present moment with an open, non-judgmental mindset. Meditation may also incorporate concentrating on a repeated phrase, a visual image, a sound, or a sensation, such as breathing, to help reduce distractions.
Biofeedback is a bit more involved than other relaxation exercises because it relies on technology. This technique uses electronic devices to help users monitor processes within the body that are normally unconscious, like brain waves, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature.
When presented with the word “hypnosis,” most people conjure up the vision of a psychiatrist hypnotizing a client on a sofa. Unfortunately, that vision misses the versatility of hypnosis and how self-hypnosis, specifically, can be used to encourage sleep and promote relaxation.
Hypnosis involves creating a state of consciousness where someone is very focused on a single idea or outcome, which makes the brain more receptive to new ideas and thoughts. In self-hypnosis, a person induces a hypnotic state by listening to suggestions that focus on a particular desire or symptom, such as feeling relaxed or getting sleepy.
In many ways, self-hypnosis sessions mimic guided meditation sessions, with more of a focus on sleep or relaxation. To try self-hypnosis from the comfort of your bedroom, check out Reveri – a clinically-validated self-hypnosis app that makes it easy to get started.
2. The Power-Down Hour Ritual
The power-down hour is something everyone can benefit from – regardless of what your sleep and relaxation goals may be. Essentially, this ritual allows you to complete the day’s to-dos and get ready for sleep before bedtime. The practice is broken into three 20-minute chunks.
Here’s how it works:
- The first 20 minutes. Take care of any unfinished tasks, including light housework, pet care, or preparations for the following day.
- The second 20 minutes. Do something relaxing, like taking a bath, completing a self-hypnosis or guided meditation session, or journaling. Avoid screens since the blue light they emit can inhibit your body’s natural melatonin production.
- The last 20 minutes. Take care of personal hygiene. Brush your teeth, complete your skincare routine, get into your pajamas, and get into bed.
What we love about this practice is that it’s part of a consistent, healthy bedtime ritual. Studies have shown that having a night-time routine is one of the best ways to get a good night of sleep each night and feel more rested when you wake up.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive relaxation, also known as progressive muscle relaxation, is a great way to prepare your body for a restful night and help promote physical recovery. Additionally, this technique is a great way to get in touch with your body and become more familiar with any places you may be holding stress or tension.
Here’s how it works:
Find a relaxing place to lie down. Now, focus on the muscles in the bottom of your feet. Tense them for 5-10 seconds and then relax them, exhaling as you do. Relax for ten seconds, then move to the next muscle group. Repeat that process until you’ve worked all the way up your body.
In addition to being a great way to relax, this is an excellent exercise for anyone living with old sports injuries or coping with chronic pain or discomfort.
4. Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment
If your bedroom isn’t a restful environment, all the relaxation techniques in the world won’t help you get a restful night of sleep. With this in mind, practice good sleep hygiene. Here’s what we recommend:
- Keep it dark. Light is the most powerful cue for your circadian rhythm; too much of it in your bedroom will keep you awake. Invest in blackout curtains or light-blocking shades to decrease exterior light. Use dim lighting, like a bedside lamp with a low color temperature, to illuminate your pre-bedtime ritual.
- Banish screens. Keep all screens out of the bedroom, including cell phones, TVs, and tablets. Blue light exposure before bed negatively impacts sleep quality, can disrupt your circadian rhythm, and will activate your mind, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Keep it quiet. Loud external noises will make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. In fact, external noises have been linked to reduced sleep quality and poor overall health. With this in mind, invest in a white noise machine to drown out external background noise and enjoy a deeper, more restful sleep.
- Keep it cool. Last but not least, keep your bedroom cool – somewhere between 60-71 degrees is ideal. Excess heat can disrupt sleep and make it harder to wake up feeling rested. If you don’t have a thermostat in your bedroom, use a standing fan or open a window to adjust the temperature.
5. Eat A Healthy Snack Before Bed
Did you know that eating before bed can promote a deeper, more restful sleep? It can, as long as you choose the right foods.
Enjoy a soothing, warm drink like a cup of herbal tea to help your body relax and prepare for sleep.
You may also want to stave off nighttime hunger by consuming a snack that’s high in protein, calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan, like low-fat yogurt topped with berries and a banana.
Better Rest = Better Recovery
For athletes, quality rest is critical to recovery and effective training. For everyone else, getting adequate sleep, relaxing, and de-stressing promotes overall wellness and a healthier, happier life. Also check out our article Stress Management 101.
Fortunately, the five tips in this post can help you become a master of sleep and relaxation. Whether you choose to focus on improving your sleep hygiene or practicing the power-down hour each night, you’ll feel more relaxed and better rested in no time.