6 Quick Nightly Habits To Help You Unwind From The Day In Minutes
The human body doesn't come with an on-off switch; it takes time and effort to unwind from the day and prepare for sleep. With that being said, some wind-down routines work faster than others. For days when a long, leisurely bath or extended bedtime meditation aren't in the cards, it helps to have some speedier relaxation hacks in your repertoire. Here are six ways to quickly prepare your body for deep sleep—all of which can be done in mere minutes:
Make your to-do list for tomorrow.
If you're someone whose mind tends to race with lingering tasks, quickly jotting your to-do list down on paper may be helpful before sleep. That way, if the tasks keep coming up when you're in bed, you can tell yourself that they're already written down so you don't have to think about them anymore.
If seeing everything on one list just gives you more anxiousness, psychologist and behavioral sleep medicine specialist Shelby Harris, PsyD, DBSM, recommends splitting the list up into "need to get done," "would like to get done," and "doesn't have to get done" columns to take the pressure off. If there's one task in particular that's causing you stress, you also might want to spend a few minutes journaling on why it's such a trigger for you before you go to sleep.
Take a sleep supplement.
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Play relaxing music.
Think back to the last time a sentimental song made you cry, or a fast-paced track got you through a tough workout. Clearly, music has a powerful, near-immediate impact on mood.
Smell something soothing.
Certain smells can also activate our relaxation response almost instantly, and lavender, chamomile, and bergamot all have research to back them up. Smell these essential oils from the vial or place them on your wrists (safely, with a neutral carrier oil) and sniff for a soothing ritual you can do in bed. A pillow spray can serve the same purpose here.
Put devices away.
Looking at your phone can rev you up during the hours you want to be winding down. Put it away so you can start to disengage from constant pings and focus your attention on sleep. You can either place your phone facedown, put it in a different room of the house, or set it aside in a box if you're tempted to peek. Switching over to a separate alarm clock can help you resist the urge to set your phone alarm (and then, inevitably, start scrolling).
Finally, many health experts recommend using those last few minutes before bed to visualize the future you want to see. This quick practice can involve picturing how you want the next day to go, how you want to end your year, or anything in between. By ending the day with a visualization, you'll drill these positive images into your subconscious mind—and you may even set yourself up for some constructive dreams in the process.
If you're low on time and want to get ready for bed fast, making a to-do list, taking a sleep supplement, listening to soothing music, sniffing a relaxing smell, putting your phone away, and visualizing can all help. And the faster you fall asleep, the more time you'll be able to spend in deep, restorative rest.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.