Today was one rough day – everything that could go wrong did. My son screamed through the whole morning routine, I was late to work, and of course, I forgot to get the fish out for dinner, so I guess that means takeout again. So when the house quieted down, and I finally had a moment to myself, I was all but craving a glass of red wine to soothe the stress away.
But alas, my wine rack was empty, and I was in desperate need of winding down. So what did I do? No, I didn’t throw on my slippers and run out for a bottle of Cabernet. Instead, I looked up wine-free ways to wind down and ended up learning more about stress relief and wine than I had bargained for.
As it turns out, drinking wine as a stress reliever or band-aid cure for a rough day isn’t the best way to wind down before bed. In fact, drinking wine before bed can cause sleep problems that will make tomorrow ten times worse than today’s “rough day.” As a result, sleep doctors don’t recommend using wine as a source of relaxation and instead recommend using other winding down techniques to ensure a calming, restful night of sleep.
Don’t believe me? Well, hold onto your wine glass, because I’ve got some information for you!
The Downside of Winding Down with Wine
I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy a glass of wine now and then. I love a good Cabernet every once and a while too! But, I am here to say that experts like the Sleep Foundation say there are several reasons you should get used to relaxing without wine. Here’s why:
1. Alcohol Before Bed Messes With Your Sleep.
I know, you’re probably thinking, “But alcohol makes me sleepy!” That’s true, sleepiness is a common side-effect of drinking wine and other alcohol, but you don’t get quality sleep from drinking.
You see, if you go to bed with alcohol in your system, your body won’t enter REM sleep, otherwise known as deep sleep. Instead, it stays in NREM sleep, or light sleep. What does this mean? Well, for starters, you won’t have good dreams. No, seriously, if you don’t reach REM sleep, you are more likely to have nightmares instead of vivid, fantasy-level dreams.
Additionally, people who don’t get enough REM sleep will suffer from poor concentration, memory, and emotional processing. Ultimately, missing out on REM sleep leads to more stress and anxiety when dealing with those consequences.
2. Drinking Alcohol Before Bed Can Slow Down Your Morning (Not In A Good Way.)
Okay, we’ve all wanted the morning to slow down so we can enjoy our cup of coffee and listen to the birds chirping, but unfortunately, that’s not the kind of slowness a glass of wine will get you.
Drinking wine the night before can lead to sluggishness and irritability in the morning, primarily due to the poor quality of sleep I mentioned before. You may miss your alarms, forget the coffee, and arrive at work with bedhead, all thanks to that relaxing glass of wine from the night before. (Trust me, I know, I’ve been there.)
3. Wine Before Bed Can Cause Morning Headaches and Dehydration
To add to your slow morning, you may wake up with the mother of all headaches and a mouth as dry as a desert, thanks to last night’s wine. Bedtime wine can also contribute to terrible cases of morning breath (yeah, I know, eww.)
It’s not uncommon for wine drinkers to suffer from morning headaches or dehydration, and many think nothing of it or assume it’s a normal health problem. Unfortunately, it’s not, and if you have them, try relaxing without wine at night and see if that improves your symptoms.
4. Wine Before Bed Can Create A Dependency
Perhaps the most significant risk you expose yourself to drinking wine at night is possibly developing a dependency. No, I don’t mean an alcohol addiction; that’s different than requiring a glass of wine to sleep. But you could develop the inability to fall asleep without alcohol in your system.
You see, the human body thrives on habits. It learns quickly what works and doesn’t work to achieve desired results. If your goal is to fall asleep quickly, and wine does that for you, then your body will remember that and think wine is the only way to fall asleep quickly. Thus, people with alcohol dependencies will drink wine like a nighttime vitamin instead of a recreational beverage.
Dependencies can take time and energy to break and sometimes require professional help or sleeping medication. So, it’s usually best to avoid creating them in the first place. If you’ve already started going doing this path, it’s not too late to switch lanes. Start relaxing without wine to reset and retrain your body.
7 Wine-Free Ways To Wind Down At Night
So how should we wind down for the night? In general, it’s best not to use wine as your source of “winding down.” While you can enjoy a glass with dinner or the occasional evening treat, constant use of wine as a relaxant can lead to unhealthy sleep patterns and dependency. Instead, experts recommend activities like stretching, reading, and other self-care practices to help you relax at night. Not sure where to start? Check out these seven popular methods for relaxing without wine to promote relaxation and calm in your evening:
1. Night Time Stretching
I am a firm believer that the mind can’t relax until the body does. One of my nightly rituals includes at least ten minutes of stretching to “get in the zone” for relaxation. Getting your body stretched out and limbered up before bed has some major benefits. It reduces toxins in the body and increases oxygen in the blood, decreasing muscle and joint pain and improving sleep quality.
If you aren’t sure where to start, try sitting on your bed and leaning over to touch your toes. Take deep breaths in this position. Then, try opening your legs into a straddle and reaching your hands forward until you get to a comfortable place. Continue to breath deeply and enjoy the feeling.
2. Guided Bible Study or Meditation
Who here struggles with quieting their mind after a long day? I know I do. One great way to prepare the mind for relaxation is to practice a guided meditation or Bible Study.
Guided meditations are an excellent option for beginners who don’t know how to meditate or experts looking for a night of reflection. Apps like Headspace or Calm walk you through breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, and meditative stories to lead you to the realm of sleep.
If you prefer Bible studies, you should check out the Abide or Whispers From God app. Both apps are biblically oriented, and they provide meditations, scriptural studies, and motivational prayer reminders for users. This can be a great way to be intentional with God’s word.
3. Enjoy A Soothing Snack
Did you know certain foods improve your mood? It’s true! Some foods contain dopamine, also known as the “feel-good hormone.” If you’ve had a rough day or are feeling a bit down, you should treat yourself to a soothing snack during your evening wind down.
So what snacks provide a happy boost for your evening? Nuts, protein-rich meats, strawberries, and chocolate (yes, chocolate!) all provide a surge of dopamine for your body. Just make sure you don’t eat too much. Overindulging can lead to stomach discomfort and disrupt sleep; a handful of nuts or an ounce of chocolate is plenty.
4. Read A Book
Studies show that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress by 68%. And, it doesn’t matter what you’re reading, either, as long as it engages your mind! So, grab that romantic comedy you’ve had on the shelf or pull out your daily devotional – no matter what you read, your mind and body will thank you! Relaxing without wine in this way can be so satisfying. Plus, who doesn’t love getting lost in a great book every now and then?
5. Organize Something
Am I the only one who gets a deep sense of satisfaction from an organized silverware drawer? I find organizing things so calming. It turns out that organizing, whether through writing lists, making the bed, or yes, even organizing the silverware, is a huge stress-reliever and helps women relax!
The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin reports that women who rate their homes as restorative, clean homes have lower cortisol levels. Furthermore, studies show that organizing helps reduce anxiety and promotes better sleep!
Think of it as mental feng shui, where organizing something externally, like a grocery list or your bedside table, represents the internal organization of your mind! I recommend organizing something small, like your makeup shelf or spice cabinet, and calling it quits after a single project. Organizing is great, but you don’t want to end up cleaning the whole house until 2 a.m. accidentally, am I right?
6. Treat Yourself To A Self-Care Spa Session
Seriously, who doesn’t want a spa at home? Self-care is important, and one of the best ways to wind down after a busy day is by giving yourself some TLC.
Okay, you probably hear “self-care is important” a lot. But why is it important? It’s simple, by giving yourself some attention sans kids, spouses, or work, you remind yourself that you matter.
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to bring the spa home with you. Taking a hot shower or bath with a few drops of essential oils in the tub can do wonders for your fatigue and stress levels. My favorite home-spa treat involves applying a clay mask, munching on chocolate, and reading a cheesy romance novel! Anything goes, so long as it provides the rest that you deserve. Relaxing without wine doesn’t sound too bad now, does it?
7. Start A Gratitude Journal
The Bible tells us to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (Thessalonians 5:16-18) Honestly, after a day of screaming children, work, and family drama, the last thing I want to do is give thanks.
But, putting yourself in the right mindset can bring you mental clarity and calm. It’s easy to collapse on the couch after a crazy day and recount all the crappy situations you went through. It’s a lot harder to remember the good things in our life. Starting a gratitude journal can help keep track of those positive things.
Mental health professionals regularly recommend journaling as a source of destressing. It’s also a great way to reflect on the day. A gratitude journal builds on these same benefits but frames the day and your life in a positive light.
I recommend starting by having a dedicated writing space for your journal. You can use your smartphone notes app, a college-ruled notebook, or a leather journal; it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that only reasons for gratitude go into the journal. Every day, write at least one thing you are grateful for in the journal. Write a list if you want, and reflect on why you are thankful for whatever you wrote down. Trust me; you’ll find yourself way calmer by the time you put the pen away.
Tips For Relaxing Without Wine and Successfully Winding Down
Successfully winding down and achieving your nightly dose of relaxation takes practice and the right circumstances. Consider taking these steps to improve the quality of your well-deserved R&R:
1. Ditch The Screens
Research shows that screen time two to three hours before bed can cause insomnia and poor sleep thanks to the blue light they produce. Plus, we associate cell phones and computers with school or work, so naturally, using them near bedtime can cause some inner stress. Therefore, it’s best to avoid using screens within three hours of sleep. However, if you do need your cellphone for a nightly meditation or yoga session, you should install a blue light filter app to reduce your blue light exposure.
2. Lower The Thermostat
Studies show that adults relax and sleep better at 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures. Lowering the thermostat increases the body’s production of melatonin, one of the hormones that help us relax and fall asleep. Plus, it reduces your electric bill, which is always a plus!
3. Set A Bed Time (And Keep It)
Ladies, we all know that we tend to stay up past our bedtime trying to squeeze in a few more moments of “me time.” However, that’s not beneficial to reducing our overall stress levels. The average adult woman needs at least seven hours of sleep a night to keep herself healthy and functioning. It’s an absolute must to pick a bedtime that provides those seven hours and stick to it. The occasional late night won’t kill you, but regularly cutting sleep can increase your risk of heart attack, raise your blood pressure, and make it hard to be a #BossBabe.
4. Make Winding Down Personal
Remember, not everyone winds down the same way. Some of us organize silverware drawers (Me!) while others enjoy luxuriating in a bubble bath with Frank Sinatra playing on the radio. Find what works for you and enjoy it! The best wind down is your wind down.
Relaxing without wine just might open the door to an even more satisfying, healthy, nighttime practice that soothes your mind, body and soul.