Stress due to money worries and work is the main thing which people cite as both stopping them getting to sleep and waking up in the night.
‘Stress produces the flight or fight response in the body, raising our adrenalin levels, causing our muscles to tense and increasing our heart rate. At this point, our minds start to churn and our brain produces more beta waves, which keeps us awake and alert.’
Here are three ways to combat stress if you are finding it hard to relax at night.
1) Use your breath to relax you
Bring your hands onto your belly, and focus on visualizing the air coming into your lungs:
• Breathe in slowly for 4 seconds
• Hold your breath for 4 seconds
• Breathe out for 5 seconds
• Hold your breath for 5 seconds
This both slows your breathing down, and relaxes you.
2) Relax your muscles
Relax your muscles one at a time to bring you back ‘into your body’ and help you switch off. Start at the bottom of your body, then work up to your head muscle by breathing in and out through your nose as you tense and relax. Start by tensing your toes for 10 seconds then relaxing them. As you do this, visualize the muscle becoming tense, then relax it quickly and pause. Then move up to your calves, contract for ten seconds then relax for ten, then your knees, thighs, buttocks, back, stomach, hands, forearms, backs of arms, shoulders neck and finally, screw up your face and relax each muscle group in turn.
3) Calm your mind with the 4-7-8 technique
Slowing your breathing is also a great way of getting to sleep faster. Using a method called the 4-7-8 technique in bed, you can both relax your mind and reduce your heart rate.
• Lock the tip of your tongue behind your top teeth
• Hold it there as you close your mouth
• Breathe in for 4 seconds
• Hold the breath for 7 seconds
• Exhale for 8 seconds
Repeat this up to 5 times every night as part of your bedtime routine.