With 10 million working days lost to stress every year, we asked our favourite bloggers and experts for their top tips for unwinding at the end of the day.
1. Sleep o’clock
“Swap your phone alarm for an alarm clock. When I’m ready to get 40 winks, I leave my phone outside my bedroom. I don’t like to look at my phone in bed because the light it omits can affect the production of melatonin (the hormone that helps you get to sleep).
“It also means I won’t get distracted by what’s going on in the outside world by answering texts, emails or looking at Facebook.”
2. Run for it
“I try to keep to a bit of an evening ritual: I usually do a 5km run. By the end of the day, your head is filled with all the things that have happened. I find running in the evening helps me to de-stress and I can go over a few things in my head to ‘clear it out’. I also find that thinking of these things takes my mind off running so you complete 5km without really knowing it. It’s a win-win for me!”
3. Have breakfast for supper
“What you eat has a big influence on the quality of your sleep. While most people think of oats or porridge as a breakfast food, I suggest it as an evening snack. Carbohydrates ensure a calming release of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. It’s low GI too, so you won’t wake up in the night with a blood sugar crash.
“A cup-size portion is enough – you don’t want to be busy digesting at night as this can interfere with sleep quality.”
4. Get moving
“The exercise I love to do before bed is an inversion, which involves sitting down and putting your legs up against the wall. This will reverse blood flow and improve circulation, which is important before you spend the whole night lying down. It also helps to relax you by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces feelings of calm.”
5. Ditch the vices
“Steer clear of stimulants such as cigarettes or caffeine in the evening, and remember that this includes chocolate and cola as well as tea and coffee. A nightcap can also do more harm than good. Although an alcoholic drink before bed may make your feel relaxed and help you to drop off, it will give you poor-quality, shallow and disturbed sleep. It’s also a diuretic so will probably mean you’ll wake up to go to the toilet in the night.”
Dr Dawn Richards, Vitality GP
6. Jot it down
“Get yourself a Packing The Day Away notebook. Set aside 20 minutes at the end of each day – but not right before bed – to bullet point the main events of the day.
“Write down what you felt good about, then write down any worries about the next day. With these worries, try to decide if the worry is a Hypothetical Worry (a possible problem in the future that you can’t do anything about now) or a Practical Worry (one that often relates to a problem you are experiencing now).
“For Practical Worries, schedule some time in your notebook to attempt problem-solving the next day. For Hypothetical Worries, schedule some time where you can continue worrying about this concern (if you still need to when the next day comes – often Hypothetical Worries ‘evaporate’ overnight).
“If worrying thoughts occur before bed, remind yourself you have dealt with the day’s issues and documented them in your notebook.”
7. And… relax
“Before bed, have an Epsom salt bath – most health food shops stock them. They’re great for relaxing your muscles and nervous system. I then get into bed with my Sleepy Tonic made with warm almond milk, which contains tryptophan – an amino acid that promotes sleep. I also try to do 20 deep breaths every night before bed to help me drift off.”
Still having trouble getting a peaceful night’s slumber? Read our nine golden rules for achieving better sleep.