It's now the first official weekend of June and I will be honest I do love sleeping in on Saturday morning.  Why?  Since I get up at 3am to do my show prep, I need to get to bed early at night, and there are certain routines I do before bed to get ready for sleep.

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I love to get ready for bed with a warm cup of herbal tea. Also, before bed, my girlfriend and I read a daily devotional together over the phone, which I find very special.  With our busy schedules, constant beeping of our phones, many times we fall into bed and can’t sleep because our bodies are still wound up from our crazy days.  Here are 5 suggestions (that do not involve technology or alcohol!) –some to do occasionally and some to do every day-- to add to your evening routine to help you relax before you hit the hay.

1) Sit around a fire or go outside and look at the stars. The fun part of camping is sitting around the campfire at night, right? Well, even if you aren’t camping, you can still sit around a fire with loved ones or by yourself. There is something totally captivating and relaxing about staring into flames. For hundreds of thousands of years, humans capped off the night by staring into the very same fire you have today. As time has gone on, the radio, the TV, smartphones, tablets, and laptops have replaced fire as the glowing source of energy we stare into at night, but fire still works best. Plus, firelight is naturally low in blue light that disrupts our circadian rhythms. Use the fireplace, build a fire pit out back (keeping safety first!), light a bunch of candles – just make it a point to look at fire. If it is unsafe to build a fire, go outside and look at the stars and you will realize how you do not miss that smartphone.

2) Tell Stories - People are born storytellers. No, we don’t all have the ability to paint verbal pictures or keep a crowd of thousands enthralled, but we can relay simple narratives. We can read out loud. We can build stories with a partner by trading off, one line at a time. Even the humdrum daily “how was your day?” chat we all have with our roommates and family members is a form of storytelling, so that will work, too. Storytelling or reading books to your children before will help them sleep better and have better brain development, and these benefits are maintained in adults who hear and tell stories at night. Whether you’re telling or hearing the story, you’re in another place – far from the daily stressors that make unwinding so difficult and so necessary.

If you don’t have any good stories handy, start by just telling someone about your day. And if you don’t have anyone to discuss your day with, keep a journal or write it down. It’s being in “storytelling mode” that probably matters, whatever the medium you use to tell it or hear it. My girlfriend Sherry and I take turns reading a daily Christian devotional book together over the phone every night…we never miss a day and it’s such a great way to end the day and it has helped our relationship grow.

3) Prepare tea. Hot tea is a wonderful, calming beverage to drink every night before bed, even in summertime. If you drink it every night, it will become a routine that can help signal bedtime to your body (provided you avoid caffeinated teas, of course). And that’s not even getting into the potential relaxing effects of various teas, especially chamomile, which can induce relaxation and sleepiness while reducing anxiety and stress. Try different herbal tea flavors until you find one that is your favorite and drink it every night (I like Tazo’s Wild Sweet Orange and Sherry likes Stash’s Peppermint tea and Tazo Rest Tea.)

4) Practice your breathing. To put it in technical terms, by inhaling oxygen and by exhaling carbon dioxide, we maintain homeostasis. But breathing also impacts our anxiety levels. Short rapid breaths both increase and indicate anxiety and stress, while calm, slow, deep breaths that incorporate the diaphragm – not just the chest – are soothing. Instead of chest breathing, try taking deep “belly breaths.” Focus on expanding your ribcage and settling into the breath. Relax your abs and don’t suck in your stomach. Take it slowly – this isn’t a race – and breathe deeply. Try to inhale and exhale smoothly, free of judders. You will find this definitely relaxes you.

5) Move around. Yes, some light exercise can help you relax before bed. But they key here is “light.” No half marathons, heavy lifting, or anything too rigorous!! Do some yoga poses, some stretches, or any type of movement that stretches your muscles and feels good. Even if you know nothing about yoga, it doesn’t matter, just move around and make up your own poses. Try different gentle exercises to see what fits and stick to it once you’ve settled.

[Source: Mark’s Daily Apple]