18 Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety Before Bed for Better Sleep

Manage Stress and Anxiety Before Bed

Feeling stressed or anxious before bed is common, but can significantly impact your ability to fall and stay asleep. When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol and adrenaline, which are hormones that energize you and interfere with relaxation.

This can cause tossing and turning throughout the night as your mind races. Over time, lack of sleep from stress and anxiety can take a major toll on your physical and mental health.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take in the evening to manage stress and promote relaxation so you can sleep better. In this article, we’ll explore 18 effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety before bed.

1. Practice Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and mindfulness meditation activate the body’s relaxation response. This counters the stress response, lowering cortisol levels and heart rate so you feel calmer.

Try spending 10-15 minutes before bed doing deep breathing. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat several times. You can also try alternating nostril breathing by holding one nostril closed while inhaling, then switching nostrils on the exhale.

2. Listen to Calming Music

Soothing, relaxing music eases anxiety by influencing brainwave activity to promote serenity. Try ambient, classical, nature sounds, or instrumental music. Create a bedtime playlist of songs you find calming to help your mind unwind. Having music on in the background as you get ready for bed sets a peaceful tone.

3. Take a Warm Bath or Shower

Warm baths and showers before bed relieve muscle tension and stiffness that build up during the day. This promotes overall relaxation. Add Epsom salts or lavender oil to your bath as these are known to have calming properties that can reduce anxiety.

4. Avoid Caffeine and Nicotine

Consuming caffeine close to bedtime can heighten stress and anxiety, making it hard to fall asleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that raises heart rate, adrenaline, cortisol and alertness. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least 6 hours before bed.

Nicotine can also stimulate the nervous system. It’s best to avoid smoking for 1-2 hours before bed to prevent nicotine withdrawal from disrupting sleep.

5. Do Light Yoga Poses

Light yoga is an excellent way to release muscle tension and calm your mind before bed. Try gentle poses like child’s pose, legs up the wall, or reclined butterfly. Hold each pose for 5-10 breaths, focusing on taking slow, deep breaths. Yoga reduces anxiety by lowering heart rate and blood pressure.

6. Write in a Journal

Journaling helps process emotions and thoughts from the day that may be causing anxiety, “unburdening” your mind so you can relax at bedtime. Even 5 minutes of writing about what’s on your mind can aid stress relief. Jot down any worries or racing thoughts and re-read what you wrote to help achieve perspective.

7. Limit Exposure to Screens

Screens like TV, smartphones and computers emit blue light that suppresses melatonin, a sleep hormone. This delays sleepiness. Screens also expose your mind to stimulating content that can heighten anxiety when viewed before bed. Turn off screens 1-2 hours before bedtime.

woman using phone in bed at night

8. Read a Book

Reading a book, preferably print rather than digital, is a calming pre-bedtime activity for many. Reading allows your mind to focus on the story rather than ruminating on stressful thoughts. Choose light-hearted fiction or non-fiction books rather than intense material.

9. Have a Light Snack

Hunger can keep you up at night. Have a small, protein-rich snack like nuts, cheese and crackers, or peanut butter on toast. This prevents nighttime drops in blood sugar that can disrupt sleep. Avoid heavy meals too close to bed that can cause indigestion.

10. Take a Magnesium Supplement

Magnesium deficiency is linked to anxiety and sleep problems. Taking a magnesium supplement improves sleep quality by reducing cortisol levels and promoting muscle and nervous system relaxation. Take up to 400 mg before bed with a glass of water.

11. Try Aromatherapy

Essential oils like lavender and chamomile have potent anti-anxiety and sleep-promoting properties when used in aromatherapy. Add a few drops of oil to a diffuser and place by your bed to scent the room. You can also add oil to a warm bath or apply diluted oil to your temples and wrists.

12. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Having a consistent bedtime routine trains your body to wind down and prepares your mind for sleep. Perform relaxing activities for 30-60 minutes before getting into bed like taking a warm bath, reading, or listening to calm music.

Keep lights dimmed and avoid emotionally charged conversations, work, and screen time. Transitioning between tasks with relaxing rituals tells your brain it’s time to sleep.

13. Make Sure Your Bedroom is Dark, Quiet, and Cool

An overly bright, noisy or warm bedroom environment can heighten stress and disrupt sleep. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block outside light. Ear plugs or a white noise machine can mask distracting sounds.

Keep the temperature between 60-75°F. Make your bedroom solely for sleep by removing TVs and desks so it’s associated with rest.

woman sleeping in bed in night time

14. Deep Breathing

When you’re stressed and anxious, breathing becomes rapid and shallow, reducing oxygen intake. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering heart rate and blood pressure.

Inhale through your nose while contracting your diaphragm. Feel your belly expand. Hold for a few seconds. Slowly exhale while relaxing your diaphragm. Repeat for a few minutes.

15. Write Down Your Worries Before Bed

Racing thoughts can keep you tossing and turning. Jotting them down “unloads” them from your mind so you don’t ruminate on them. Maintain a notepad by your bed. Before getting in, write down any nagging thoughts or things you’re worried about.

Review what you wrote and make a plan to deal with them tomorrow. Writing them out brings perspective so they’re less anxiety-provoking, letting you detach at bedtime.

16. Avoid Working or Checking Email in Bed

Using your bed for anything other than sleep teaches your body it’s not just a place for resting. The mental stimulation of work and screens hinders relaxation.

Keep your bedroom work-free. Put away electronic devices for at least 1 hour before bedtime. Light evening reading is ok, but avoid anything that revs up your mind.

17. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This technique releases physical tension that builds up during the day. Tense each muscle group individually for 5-10 seconds, then relax for 15-20 seconds.

Breathe deeply as you alternate tensing and relaxing your feet, calves, thighs, hands, arms, back, shoulders and facial muscles. Finish by envisioning your entire body as loose and limp.

18. Guided Imagery

Visualizing peaceful, calming images reduces worry by distracting you from stressful thoughts. Close your eyes and imagine somewhere relaxing like a beach. Focus on the details – sounds of waves, warmth of sun on your skin.

Picture yourself breathing slowly and feeling your body sink comfortably into the environment. Use imagery right before bed.


Simple bedtime rituals that help you unwind both mentally and physically can significantly ease anxiety and improve sleep quality. Relaxation techniques, avoiding stimulants, getting cozy, limiting screen time, light exercise, journaling, and aromatherapy are great options.

Be consistent with your evening routine, even when you’re not feeling stressed or anxious. This builds habits that prime your body and brain for restful sleep. See your doctor if you continue struggling with stress, anxiety and sleep despite lifestyle changes.

They may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy or medications to help manage symptoms. With some adjustments to your pre-bedtime self-care routine, you can minimize anxiety and get the quality sleep your body needs. Learn here more about better sleeping tips and guides.