Now that you know how to prepare for sleep during the day and schedule it at night, you're ready for bed. But before you peel those sheets back, consider how you might prepare your body and mind for that relaxing and peaceful sleep for which you long.
The hour before bedtime is the most critical for good sleep. When used properly, the time right before bed can help you let go of the stressful, anxiety-provoking events of the day and promote a restful night's sleep. But if that last hour before slumber is not used properly, it can set the stage for a long night of tossing and turning. Try some of the following ideas to see which work best for you.
The key to preparing for sleep is to establish an atmosphere of peace and calm. Ease your mind and body with quiet yet pleasurable activities. You will create a sense of inner well-being that allows sleep to come quickly and easily. Most people find one of the following works well for them. Experiment with several if you're not sure.
- Read to relax. But choose your reading material with care. The idea is to read something light that won't stimulate your mind. In other words, you probably don't want to crack that new software manual. Better choices would be a popular magazine, a short story or perhaps devotional reading.
- Listen to music. Choose music that relaxes you. In general, soft instrumental music has the most calming effect. Hard driving rock and pop beats often pull you into the music, causing you to be more awake, especially if the tunes are familiar. Another sound alternative might be playing a tape or CD of nature sounds.
- Try meditation or prayer. These activities, which help many people relax, can also help you be at peace with whatever is on your mind.
- Watch television, but only if it helps you relax. Watching television is fine to prepare for sleep if you use some discipline. Falling asleep with the TV on is not the best way to start your sleep. In most cases, you have to awaken to turn it off, which forces you to have to fall asleep again. The idea is to stay asleep once you doze off. A better use of television is to watch it earlier in the evening and practice other relaxation techniques right before bed. If you must watch right before bed, don't watch in your bedroom.
Take a Warm Bath
Recipe for a Soothing Bath
Why not make your bath as relaxing as possible? Try dimming the lights or using candles to create atmosphere. Play soft music in the background. Add two cups of Epsom salts to the bathwater to ease sore or tired muscles. Use a towel or waterproof pillow to support your head, and stretch out. Some people enjoy reading in the tub. But only read pleasurable material that you find relaxing.
One popular way to relax the body and slow down the mind is a warm bath, and you may find it fits the bill for you. But you may want to do some experimenting with your timing.
Some people find a nice hot bath just before bed makes them drowsy and ready to drop into sleep. If you do, enjoy. On the other hand, some people find that a hot bath is actually stimulating or that it makes them too uncomfortably warm when they slip into bed.
If you find a just-before-bed bath makes it harder for you to fall asleep, consider taking the bath earlier, a couple of hours before bed. An earlier bath may enhance the gradual drop in body temperature that normally occurs at night and help trigger drowsiness.
Let It Go
You've just gotten off the phone with a relative who infuriates you every time you talk with him. First he calls you collect, then he launches into all the things he sees wrong with the way you're living your life. Flying into your bedroom like a whirlwind, you try to get ready for bed. You're glowing with anger. You lie down on the bed and repeatedly slam your fist into your pillow as you try to find a comfortable position.
But you can't fall asleep...you're on fire.
Too often people go to bed when their mind is a raging fury, agonizing over some event of the day. Don't make this mistake. You don't want your bed to be a place for anger or worry. Your bedroom should produce a feeling of peace and contentment.
When your emotions have boiled over, stay out of the bed and the bedroom until you cool down. Try journaling or writing your frustrations down on paper to help unburden your mind. Or try one of the relaxation techniques -- described on the page Techniques to Promote Sleep -- to unwind your tangled emotions. Once you've calmed down, then you can retreat to bed.
The best way to make your bedroom a peaceful retreat is by preparing your room (as well as yourself). Find out how on the next page.