3 ways to relax your brain before bed

Bedtime should be relaxing, but it's often when the brain becomes more active. Thoughts can run through the mind. It's easy to second-guess words that were said and worry about tasks left undone. Those ruminating thoughts can lead to poor sleep.

Finding ways to clear your mind at bedtime can help you get a good night of rest. Here are 3 techniques from Mayo Clinic cardiologist Stephen Kopecky, M.D.

Practice gratitude. "I like to practice a ritual of being thankful for three things at the end of my day before I go to sleep," says Dr. Kopecky.

Gratitude increases optimism and, if practiced regularly, reduces the risk of heart attack after a few years. It's also easy. Just think about things to be grateful for. You can also write them down in a gratitude journal or share them with a partner.

"Focusing on gratitude also relaxes me and helps me forget about the things I didn't get accomplished that day," Dr. Kopecky says.

Mindfulness. "This stress-reduction technique can be so simple that people often don't realize its effectiveness," Dr. Kopecky says.

The idea is to bring your attention to the present moment and to let go of everything else. That means bringing awareness to your 5 senses.

Notice how your body feels sinking into the bed. Feel the softness of your pillow. Recognize the slowing of your breath — and notice how keeping your attention there helps stressful thoughts float away.

Schedule worry time. If worries about work, family or other concerns keep you awake at night, try to deal with them before bedtime. Set aside a dedicated time to write down your concerns and brainstorm possible solutions. That way you have your list ready for the next day, and you can face it with a fresh, rested perspective.

  1. Kopecky S, ed. Step 3: Prioritize sleep. In: Mayo Clinic Live Younger Longer. Mayo Clinic Press; 2021.