Sleep is one of the most important things we do. It helps our bodies function properly, levels out our moods, and even helps us heal from illnesses and injuries. While some people have no problem falling asleep at night, for others, bedtime is a battle. Those who experience regular insomnia or just can't fall asleep occasionally might find relaxation techniques can help.

The 4-7-8 Breathing Method

The 4-7-8 breathing method promotes relaxation and may contribute to a restful sleep. This breathing pattern primarily relaxes the nervous system and can help calm anxiety and stress. To follow this method, simply place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth and exhale with your mouth open. Next, close your mouth and take a deep breath while counting slowly to four in your head. Hold this breath for a count of seven, and exhale slowly for eight. Repeat this pattern as many times as needed, continuing to bring your focus back to your breathing if it wanders.

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Practice Yoga Nidra

Most people accept that yoga and meditation promote peacefulness and mindfulness, but many don't know it can also promote a healthy sleep cycle. Yoga nidra or yogic sleep is a guided meditation practiced while lying still in savasana or another comfortable reclined position.

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Revamp Your Bed

Research proves sleeping on a mattress that is too soft or too firm can lead to muscular discomfort, causing wakefulness during the night. Using an old pillow or one that is the wrong firmness or shape for your preferred sleep position can have a similar effect. If you find that you cannot get comfortable in your bed or wake up often throughout the night, replacing your pillow or mattress could help.

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Clean Your Bedroom

There is a correlation between a cluttered bedroom and a cluttered mind, so it stands to reason that going to sleep in a clean bedroom can improve rest and reduce racing thoughts. Take the time once per week to clean your bedroom and remove both visible and hidden clutter such as stacks of books or laundry piles. It can also help your peace of mind to crawl into a neatly made bed at the end of the day.

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Keep Your Bedroom Free of Electronic Devices

Blue light from televisions, computers, and mobile phones can significantly affect sleep because they decrease the amount of melatonin produced by the body. Plus, the idea of being accessible by text, email, or social media all night is a major stressor for many people. Commit to putting away cell phones and other electronics an hour before going to sleep; try to wind down before bed in other ways, such as reading or meditating.

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Adjust the Thermostat

Falling asleep in a room that's too warm or too cold can be nearly impossible. Our core body temperatures decrease at night, meaning standard daytime room temperature becomes less comfortable and is less conducive to restful sleep. By dropping the temperature a couple of degrees, you may find you can fall asleep more quickly and reduce night wakings.

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Exercise in the Mornings

Waking up to a regular exercise routine is a fantastic way to promote healthy sleep at night. Adopting a regular fitness routine allows serotonin levels to rise while cortisol levels decrease, leading to a more level mood and reduced stress. Studies prove morning workouts are more effective for regulating these hormones than those done later in the day.

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Get Plenty of Sunlight During the Day

Exposing your body to ample amounts of light and darkness at appropriate times encourages circadian rhythms to stay on track and can help you sleep more soundly at night. The best way to do this is to ensure you are spending time exposed to natural light during the day.

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Listen to Soothing Music at Bedtime

Some music is specifically designed to promote sound sleep and relaxation. For example, Marconi Union's song Weightless has been proven to induce relaxation, and some even say the song is soothing enough to calm a crying baby. By listening to soothing music before turning in for the night, you may find yourself in a relaxed state and more easily drift off to sleep.

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Try Essential Oils

Aromatherapy is a common method for improving health and some essential oils, such as lavender and damask rose, can induce deep relaxation. Add a few drops of these oils into a warm bath before bed, or use a diffuser in your bedroom to encourage relaxation and deeper sleep.

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