Special to Palmetto Counseling’s Blog | April 17, 2019 3:30 PM EDT
This issue features an article by Laurie L.
It is easy to get caught up in daily activities right up until bedtime. It is also easy to get caught up with worrying, analyzing, and figuring out what you didn’t get completed each day on your to-do list, even after you put your head on the pillow.
At night, your mind and body are both tired, so why can’t you fall asleep immediately once you lie down? It takes a wind-down routine where your mind gradually lets go of the day and the next day’s concerns, in order to relax and reset.
You owe your mental health a good wind down routine, but what exactly is a wind-down routine?
What is a wind-down routine?
A wind-down routine is simply a transition from daily activities to a transition to sleep. Your ability to slow down at night is just as important as accelerating in the morning and being productive during the day.
Prioritizing wind down time is just as important as any other priority during the day. The benefits of winding down for mental health are many. Through improved sleep quality and increased number of sleep hours due to a wind-down routine in advance of bedtime, you can keep your mood balanced, boost your ability to learn, remember, and problem solve, enhance creativity, and improve attention span.
According to the National Institute of Health, a lack of sleep or sleep deprivation impacts healthy brain function, emotional wellbeing, and daytime performance and safety, all of which are direct outcomes of mental health-related concerns. If you are often anxious, have trouble staying asleep, are tired when you wake up, or just think you need more overall self-care, consider a wind-down routine for these reasons. Just think, wouldn’t it be nice to fall asleep easier, stay asleep easier, and wake up more relaxed?
A good wind-down routine starts 1.5 to 2 hours before the youngest family member’s bedtime is or if you are on your own or with a partner, 30 to 45 minutes. Remember that a good routine involves planning that becomes a habit. Use these tips to help inform a solid routine that helps your family collectively wind down each night:
- Turn off your screens. This means to turn off not only your television but all handheld devices, including your phone. The blue light emitted from these screens we hold so closely to our faces has been demonstrated in research to disrupt our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns.
- Try mindfulness exercises. About ten minutes before bedtime, practice mindfulness in a chair in a dimly lit room. Take five minutes to be aware of your body and being present in it. From head to toe, be aware of your body’s relationship with the chair and the environment around you. Research shows the impact of mindful-based therapy for insomnia.
- Breathe deeply. Pay attention to your breathing and increase awareness of the air that enters your body and leaves it when you exhale, even if this means taking just a few minutes to breathe in and inhale deeply. As breathing awareness is deeply connected with mindfulness practices, be aware of your breathing, where every time you find your mind wandering, find your breath and focus on your breathing to bring you back into the present.
With the right planning and techniques to wind down at night, you will take significant, active steps to help maintain and improve your mental health.
About the author
Laurie L. is a writer who enjoys practicing mindfulness and writing about ways to help others balance their mental health.