Over 40 million adults have an anxiety disorder, a sworn enemy of good sleep. The anxiety you feel during your day often carries over into the night. Leaving these emotions unaddressed can turn into mental hyperarousal, making it difficult to fall asleep. You may be familiar with the feeling when you're laying in bed looking up at the ceiling, unable to doze off. Suddenly, minutes turn to an hour and the later it gets without rest, the more stressed you feel.
Unfortunately, stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand. It's a vicious cycle as the lack of sleep causes stress, and stress causes a lack of sleep. However, there's power in a calming bedtime routine; Dedicating time to relax at the end of your day helps reduce anxiety and de-stress, so it's easier to fall into a restful sleep. No matter who you are or what you may do during your day-to-day, everyone is entitled to some "me time" in the evening to unwind and practice self-care.
For more ways to get better sleep, here'sor less and .
Steps to include in your self-care bedtime routine
Here is a nine-step self-care bedtime routine to practice an hour or two before bed, including science-backed tips that have proven to help lower cortisol levels, your body's primary stress hormone, and promote relaxation.
1. Put your phone on 'do not disturb'
Devices like your laptop, TV and cell phone emit blue light that's not noticeable to the human eye, but it's able to delay the release of melatonin in your system. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for regulating our sleep cycles and is heavily influenced by darkness. Without melatonin, it's more difficult for your body to recognize it's time to sleep.
Notifications from your phone, such as texts or emails, can also keep your mind stimulated when it should be winding down for bed. Our recommendation is to put your phone down an hour and a half before bed and turn it on "do not disturb" mode to limit distractions.
2. Diffuse essential oils
Aromatherapy can be used as a helpful tool for sleep. Set the mood in your home or bedroom by diffusing essential oils with scents that have been shown to have sleep-inducing properties.
One study published in the National Library of Medicine found that the smell of lavender can help promote better slow-wave sleep, otherwise known as deep sleep in stage three of non-rapid-eye movement. Other good oils for sleep include chamomile and jasmine.
3. Take a warm bath with dim lighting
There are two things at work here helping you get a better night's sleep. By taking a bath before bed you trigger your thermoregulation system, which will increase the circulation of blood from your core to your hands and feet. This causes a drop in body temperature, which is a sign to your body that it's time for bed because your body's temp is at its lowest during sleep.
By dimming the lights in your bathroom or using candlelight, the darkness helps signal to your body that bedtime is approaching and prompts the release of melatonin to make you feel sleepy.
4. Read a book
Reading before bed is a great way to get lost in your imagination and a good alternative to using your phone before bed. It has also proven to be an effective way to help promote better sleep, as a short reading session can reduce stress by up to 68%. Just make sure you choose a book that doesn't trigger anger, sadness or other strong feelings that can keep you stimulated.
5. Practice a skincare routine
Washing your face (even if you don't wear makeup) and moisturizing your skin before bed is important because it removes bacteria and pollutants and promotes healthier skin. Incorporating this into your bedtime self-care routine is not only great for your skin, but it can also help you relax and wind down. Humans are creatures of habit. Once you get into a groove with your routine, washing your face becomes another signal to your body that it's time for bed.
6. Apply lavender lotion
As I mentioned above, the smell of lavender has a calming effect and can help promote sleepiness. Knowing this, applying a lavender lotion after your warm shower or bath can simultaneously help you hydrate your skin and fall asleep. Our wellness editor Nasha uses Lush's Sleepy lavender lotion before she goes to bed and swears by it.
7. Practice meditation or gentle stretching
Meditation is simple but has a strong impact on your quality of sleep. It helps reduce stress and anxiety and can even ease insomnia. It's a way to practice mindfulness and learn how to cope with negative feelings that otherwise might keep you awake at night. It can also lower your heart rate and cortisol levels and promote more theta brainwaves, simulating a mind-state that's similar to when you're falling asleep.
Gentle stretching before bed also has a relaxing effect. It helps relieve tension in your muscles, relieve stress and prepare your body for sleep.
8. Write in a journal
Journaling isn't just for your high school English class. Writing in a journal before bed is a great way to release stress and anxieties, organize your thoughts and plan out any goals and/or responsibilities you need to accomplish. We spend a lot of time with our thoughts while lying in bed, and writing them down in a journal beforehand helps you unshackle them from your brain and relax your mind, so it's easier to fall asleep.
9. Ask a loved one for a massage
As you might be able to tell from the theme here, feeling relaxed and calm before bed makes a difference in your quality of sleep. Aside from the simple fact it feels nice, a gentle pressure massage releases serotonin levels, decreases cortisol and stimulates the part of your nervous system in charge of relaxing your body. It also can keep you distracted from anxious thoughts.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.