9 Simple But Effective Ways to Wind Down After a Long Day

9 Simple But Effective Ways to Wind Down After a Long Day

Some science-backed ways to relax so you can get a better night’s rest.

By: Maressa Brown

Even when we’re tired, it can still be difficult to flip the switch from get-up-and-go mode to relaxed and ready for bed after a long day. Most of our jam-packed schedules leave us all wound up, and winding down is a process. And when that restful frame of mind feels so evasive, so too can sleep. But you can decompress and bridge the gap between busy day and restful night with these nine science-proven strategies.

1. Put away your gadgets: Setting a curfew for your tech devices or simply trying to minimize your screen use is key, studies show. Researchers from the British Psychological Study concluded that compulsively checking texts and updates on your smartphone, even ones that didn’t have to do with work, is associated with stress. At the same time, limiting TV at bedtime can reduce sleep debt, notes a study published in the journal SLEEP.

2. Kiss: Snuggling up with your spouse on the couch is good. Smooching? Even better. That’s because kissing releases the “love hormone,” oxytocin, which can reduce levels of the “stress hormone,” cortisol, according to research presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Lower cortisol in the evening makes it easier to go to sleep.

3. Light a lavender-scented candle: The essential oil is famous for its relaxing effects, but research also shows the scent can lead to better sleep. In one study conducted at Wesleyan University, subjects who sniffed the oil just before bedtime slept more soundly. What’s more, they also felt more energetic the next morning. Nice!

4. Try progressive muscle relaxation (PMR): Consider a round of this study-proven technique, which involves tensing specific muscle groups and then relaxing them to create awareness of tension and relaxation. Start with your feet and tense the muscles, holding for a count of five before relaxing. Then proceed with every other muscle group in the body, working your way up to the top of your head.

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5. Watch a funny movie or TV show: Staying away from electronics as you get closer to bedtime is smart, but in the earlier evening, you may do well to enjoy entertainment that cracks you up. A study published in the journal Humor found that laughter is effective at reducing psychological stress. The reason: Laughing can lead to lower levels of cortisol.

6. Write in a journal: Releasing stressful thoughts from the day by writing them down can be therapeutic. The reason: Journaling helps us focus on the positive instead of the negative aspects of the day, note researchers in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.


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7. Take a warm shower or bath: The drop in your body’s temperature after the bath or shower can help you feel sleepy. Not to mention that the experience itself may help you clear your mind.

8. Drink chamomile tea: It may sound like an old wives’ tale that this herbal brew calms the nerves, but science has confirmed its powers. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology notes that chamomile tea can actually address general anxiety, so you can get to a soothed state.

9. Go for a walk: Experts from the National Sleep Foundation say that any exercise (no matter what time of day!), contrary to popular belief, can help you sleep better. Not to mention that aerobic activity (walking, using an elliptical, swimming) can be a fantastic way to combat stress by reducing cortisol levels.

What helps you decompress after a long day?

Maressa Brown is a senior staff writer for The Stir. She loves writing about and reading up on health/fitness, relationships, and pop culture -- preferably on a beach somewhere.

Image ©iStock.com/stevecoleimages

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