If you’re like many Americans today, you probably are a big fan of scrolling through your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter feed before bed. Or perhaps you watch a little television. Or maybe you nod off while you read a good book? You will be surprised to learn, that even reading a book before bed can have negative effects on your health and well-being. For optimal health, your bedtime routine should consist of a fixed, calming set of events that properly ready the body for sleep.
Staring at a book or a screen over taxes your eyes before bed. As you are preparing your body for rest, it is best to relax the senses. This includes closing the eyes. If you are feeling like you are not ready to close your eyes, follow these steps.
Close Your Eyes
With your eyes closed, and lying on your back, start to listen to your breath. There is no need to slow it or force it in any direction, just notice the air coming in and out of your nostrils. Feel the air as it passes the top of your upper lip. Once you are tuned into your breath, you can begin a bedtime inventory of your body. This routine gives your active mind something to do, while allowing the rest of your physical body to be totally relaxed.
Bring your attention to your toes. Notice each of your 10 toes. Try to feel every part of them, including the toenail. Imagine all of the tension running out of them. If it helps, squeeze the toes and then release them to feel the full effect of the relaxation. Then, move up to the arches of your feet. Let all the potential cramps release. Now, on to your ankles. Feel a soft, caressing fluid nurture the tissues and let any tension melt away.
Move up to your lower legs. Bring awareness to your calf muscles, the shin bones and the sides of the lower legs. Feel these too relax. If you like, go ahead and squeeze the muscles and then let them release. Now on to the knees. Imagine a swirling fog encircling them, and then draining away any pain, tension or discomfort. Next, we proceed to our thighs. Squeeze your hamstrings and quadriceps and then release them. Feel them heavy as they melt into the ground.
Repeat this general idea, of letting go of tension for the following body areas:
- Lower belly, stomach, low back
- Up through the mid belly, sides of the torso, mid back
- Chest, heart area, upper back
- Retreat to the fingers, hands, wrist, lower arm
- Elbow, biceps, triceps
- Shoulders, trapezius muscles, neck
- Chin, jaw, tongue
- Cheeks, temples, forehead
- Crown of the head
If you’ve managed to stay awake this long, you will easily relax into sleep. Most likely however, you fell asleep partway through this process. Sweet dreams!