Why Wind Down Shouldn’t Always Mean Wine Down

There is nothing better than a nice glass of wine after a long stressful day. You work hard, you should be allowed to relax as you see fit. However, too much alcohol can seriously affect your ability to get things done around the house that needs doing and it can also lead to poor sleep quality, making you feel more tired the next day. A study on how alcohol can disrupt normal sleep found that drinking alcohol before going to sleep led to poorer sleep outcomes. Participants in the study fell asleep faster and slept deeper for the first part of the night; however, they woke up after about 4 hours and had disrupted sleep for the rest of the night. The sleep disruption was worse in female participants than their male counterparts as well. All test participants rated having poorer sleep quality vs the placebo control group. The facts don’t lie: Alcohol and sleep make for poor bedfellows.

We are not saying that you should not drink at all; one or two drinks with dinner or in the tub is perfectly fine. Just don’t overdo it. This begs the question: What are some better alternatives for relaxing after a long day? Well, we have some mindfulness exercises that can help you ease tension, wind down before bed, and help you get a better night’s sleep.

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In recent years, mindfulness has become the frontrunner when it comes to easing tension and relaxation. That said, a lot of people confuse mindfulness with meditation. You can practice mindfulness through meditation, but there are also many other ways to practice mindfulness. So, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness in its simplest form is merely the act of being present in the moment and letting all worries go. The most important thing about mindfulness is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. So, do not get discouraged if you feel like you are not “doing it right.” Simply acknowledge that feeling and let it go. Here a few mindfulness exercises that are easy and enjoyable:

  • Mindful Walking: This exercise is self-explanatory, go for a walk. The important part, however, comes from being present, enjoying nature, and getting out of your head. Think about your five senses. Focus on each one in turn and just let go.
  • Mindful Music: This one works best if you use a piece that you do not know. The point of this exercise is to get lost in the music, not sing along. Pick a piece of music (classical and complex music are preferred) and focus on a certain instrument at a time. Notice the nuances to each one and how they compliment the other instruments. Periodically switch instruments and do the same until the piece ends. Before you know it, all that tension and stress will seem like a distant memory.
  • Mindful Eating: Have you ever enjoyed your food, and I mean really taken the time to appreciate it completely? Have a small snack and savor every part of it. Focus on the flavors, textures, and aromas. Let everything else go and enjoy your food, don’t rush through it.
  • Body Scan: This exercise has to do with focusing on each part of your body from the bottom of your feet to the top your head. This can be done on your own, but it is best when guided so you can focus solely on your body and not what you are supposed to do next. Here is a guided 30-minute body scan video from the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat Zinn. It is a bit long but well worth the time.

If you want some more ideas for different ways to practice mindfulness, this website has some awesome exercises to suit most situations. If mindfulness is not your thing, that is perfectly OK. We give our take on how to effectively wind down after a long, tiring day.

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