How to Turn Off Your Brain Before Bed, So You Can Finally Get a Good Night’s Sleep


Shot of a young woman sleeping peacefully in her bed

You may be physically exhausted when you get into bed at night, but if your mind is racing, there’s a good chance you’ll have trouble falling asleep. That’s why it’s so important to find ways to unwind before bed, so you can quiet those thoughts and get a full night of restful sleep. Melissa Bernbaum, MD, a neurologist who specializes in sleep medicine at Huntington Hospital in New York, told POPSUGAR that this process actually starts hours before bedtime.

In addition to avoiding daytime naps, Dr. Bernbaum recommends cutting off caffeine around noon if you’re typically in bed at 10 p.m. “There are some people who say that caffeine doesn’t prevent them from falling asleep, [but] it may actually decrease deep sleep,” she explained. Starting at least an hour before bedtime, power down any devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. You should also try to avoid anything that causes stress in the evenings, including work. “While some of us have jobs that require working from home at times, try to avoid any non-urgent work related activities prior to bedtime,” Dr. Bernbaum advised.

If you’re constantly on the go, you may only have time to worry once you’re lying down — so, to combat this, Dr. Bernbaum suggests picking a designated time earlier in the evening to work through anything that’s on your mind. “This may include making a to-do list for the next day or writing down a list of problems with a solution for each one,” she said. “This way, [when you’re] getting in bed, you can feel reassured that you have already dealt with your stresses.”

Once that’s done — and at least 30 minutes before bed — Dr. Bernbaum recommends switching to a relaxing activity, such as reading a book or practicing meditation.

You might also try yoga or light stretching, which can reduce stress and anxiety and promote sleepiness, explained Kent Smith, D-ABDSM, ASBA, president of the American Sleep and Breathing Academy and founding director of Sleep Dallas. More intense exercise may do the opposite, though, so wrap up those cardio sessions at least two hours before bed.

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