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Time to relax: 3 ways to shut off your brain before bed

 

There's nothing worse than being utterly exhausted, but your brain won't let you fall asleep. As the wheels keep turning, it's easy to fall into a fitful sleep that only leaves you feeling more tired in the morning.

If this is a familiar feeling, you may want to consider developing a bedtime routine that helps you relax and fall into a restful sleep. Once your brain expects the routine, it will pick up on the signals that it should associate with sleep.

Here are a few simple steps to turn your mind off and take back the night:

 

1. Put down your electronics

You've probably heard this one before, but it's one of the most effective ways to turn your brain off at night. You're constantly connected throughout the day, so it does the brain some good to focus on something other than a screen before trying to rest. Plus, the light from the screen stimulates your brain, leaving you alert and awake. Set your sights elsewhere, such as a taking a hot shower or bath, reading a book, turning on a podcast or listening to calming music. Your new nightly goal: Put down your electronics at least 30 minutes before sleeping.

 

2. Translate your thoughts to paper

It sounds silly, but making an old-school list can help calm your stress and anxieties, which are likely keeping you awake at night. Make a to-do list for the next day, giving yourself time to prepare rather than worry about tomorrow's responsibilities. Keep a journal to reflect on your day or simply jot down a few words or phrases about what's bothering you at the time. Challenge yourself to a daily goal, such as writing a haiku or drawing a sketch. Don't worry about them being award-winning pieces of art. No one has to see them, but the creative expression will help you unpack the emotions that run through your mind each night.

 

3. Take a minute to breathe

The National Sleep Foundation recommended breathing exercises as a simple way to calm your mind and body before falling asleep. Close your eyes and focus on only your breathing, letting the air flow through your body. Do this for a few minutes until you feel the tension release. If you're new to this kind of exercise, try to focus of slow breathing to start. Aim for about five breaths per minute for a total of five to ten minutes. If the breathing helps, you may want to try muscle relaxation exercises, meditation or yoga stretches to involve your whole body in the process as well. If your mind starts to wander back to the worries, refocus on slow, deep breathing in and out.

Here's to a much better night's rest! Sweet dreams.