In addition to relaxing the mind, relaxing the body before going to sleep can also have benefits. Throughout the day, we accumulate stress on our body; whether it is from the long hours sitting at our desks to the activities we participate in. Lets not forget that, although the bed is a comfortable place to be, we are about to lie down for a number of hours with little to no movement. Light stretching or gentle yoga can help alleviate some of the accumulated stress throughout the day. Likewise some mild stretching and movement after waking up can also help you get started for you day.
Focusing on your breathing can also help you fall asleep. Breathing directly influences the reactivity of our sympathetic nervous system, which generates our fight-or-flight response. Slowing down our breathing rate reduces the sympathetic activity in the body, making it easier to transition to sleep. Try it now. By taking slow deep breaths with a long inhale, a pause, and a slow exhale, you will begin to feel more relaxed and calm. On the other hand, quickening your breathing in a hyperventilation way will make your body feel more on edge and alert.
In the evening before bed, spending time gently releasing the tension from the body and focusing on slowing down your breath can help your body relax from the day and let your mind wander into slumber.