If you’re like many people, your busy life probably keeps you going until you hit the pillow. And if you are like many people, your head hitting the pillow doesn’t mean your mind stops racing—in fact, often the opposite is true. Somehow the moment you decide to get some rest, you recall that you forgot to make lunches for the kids, and Christmas is coming up fast, and you have got to put new tile down in the kitchen, and you should probably figure out retirement right now before it gets too late…
If this describes you, you've probably been struggling to figure out how the heck you can get some sleep when you're dealing with all this stress; what’s probably missing from your busy life is a moment of mental deceleration before bed. What is mental deceleration, you might be wondering?
You can think of it like this: you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) finish up vigorous exercise without a good cool down, right? The same principle is working in mental deceleration. Your mind needs a good transition between all the stimulation of the day and settling into the tranquil waves of sleep.
Sounds great, right? But what sort of activities can help you relax? Obviously that will come down to your preference, but here are just a few of the endless possibilities:
Listening to calming music or tuning in to a podcast (ideally a rather tame one).
Reading a chapter of a book, or a short story (make sure not to leave the light on too close to bedtime!).
Brew some herbal tea. Chamomile is a great option that’ll help you prep for sleep.
Luxuriate in a warm bath. Baths have the added benefit of raising your blood vessels closer to the surface of your skin (where they’re better exposed to the air), allowing for a post-bath body-cooling effect to set the stage for deep sleep.
Journaling about the day now behind you, which is shown to have proven positive effects for you mentally in addition to helping you wind down.
Trying meditation. While meditating might seem a little “out there” to some, it really can be something as simple as focusing on calm breathing. Meditation lowers stress hormones, increases “feel good” hormones, and reduces inflammation in the body.
You want to make sure that whatever activity you do end up choosing, you try to keep it screen-free. The daylight-mimicking blue light found in most of our screens puts a serious damper on the release of melatonin which your body craves for sleep.
Protecting your bedtime
The most important aspect of mental deceleration is that you make sure you have some transition time between the busyness of your daily life and the calm sanctuary that should be your bedtime. This will help not only to settle your brain, but it also treats your brain to much-needed consistency and much-beloved rhythm. Keeping up the habit of mental deceleration will help your body to better know that it’s time for sleep, and bring some welcome peace to your life as well.