You’re exhausted. You’ve finished another endless day with too much to do. After work, you threw dinner together and tried to do a few more things before crashing in front of the television. You feel mentally and physically worn out and long for a good night’s rest. But yet again, when you finally get to bed, you can’t sleep. Your mind races, and as the minutes tick by on your clock, you feel increasingly anxious about your inability to unwind from work and fall asleep.
If you regularly experience a busy mind that resists sleep, here are some things you can try to calm your thoughts and fall asleep with ease:
Slow your pace in the evening and intentionally wind down
If you race and push through your day and continue that pace into evening, it will naturally be hard for your body and mind to calm down. Be intentional in transitioning from a busy day to a calmer evening. Stay away from work and your computer after dinner, turn the lights down low and engage in quiet activities that help you relax.
Don’t check emails at bedtime
Research shows that people who use e-readers, tablets, laptops or smartphones in the hours before bedtime take longer to fall asleep, don’t sleep as deeply and feel less rested the next day due to the melatonin-suppressing effect of blue light. Checking email at bedtime is particularly risky, as discovering a stressful email or being reminded of challenging work situations right before bed additionally stimulates stress, tension and preoccupying thoughts. Try reading a book in bed to unwind from work, and choose a subject that relaxes you; pleasant novels that are easy to read do the trick for me.
Focus your mind on something specific and repetitive
Try counting backwards from one hundred, or recite something that you’ve memorised in your mind. I have some verses that I cycle through when necessary; it’s rare for me to repeat them more than once.
Write out your worries before bed
If there is a specific problem or worry that is keeping you up, try writing about it in a journal before bedtime. Worries seem less daunting once you put them on the page, and you might even discover some solutions in doing so. If something is really bothering me, I find it soothing to write my worry out. This can really help when you’re looking to unwind from work in the evening.
Practice guided relaxation or mindfulness
I struggled with insomnia as a child, and my mother taught me to progressively tense and relax all my muscles to help me fall asleep. Mindfulness meditations that focus on sensations in the body are also marvellous ways to get out of your head and relax. Try out one of the many meditation apps available to find a relaxation practice that works for you.
Use daytime exercise to unwind from work
When my husband experienced a period of insomnia, a wise doctor told him to exercise hard in the daytime. “Ask any man who does heavy labour,” he said. “They sleep like babies; our bodies were meant to move.” My husband incorporated regular cardiovascular exercise into his routine and discovered that his mind and body relaxed and fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
Do you have any tips on how to unwind from work in the evening? Let us know in the comments below.