There is nothing so frustrating as settling down to sleep after a long busy day, knowing I have an early appointment in the morning, and not being able to fall asleep. In my mind I replay random things from the day that are still stressing me out over and over, then I imagine all the stressful things waiting for me tomorrow. Who keeps pushing that replay button?
I try to get to sleep while knowing that tomorrow is going to be even worse because I’m not getting the rest I need tonight. Which stresses me out even more. It’s a vicious cycle. And maybe I fall asleep after practicing some easy relaxation methods, then wake up because something gets triggered in my brain. Here we go again.
Some of the research says we need 7-9 hours of quality sleep to function well. But wait…I know that’s the amount I need to be fully functional based on years of noticing what works for me. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. I know people who live creative, productive lives on 6 hours, and others who need 9 at a minimum. It’s important to know your own requirements for sleep so you don’t get in a wad about not getting the ‘recommended’ amount, which only leads to more stress!
When we’re stressed, our bodies naturally produce hormones including cortisol and adrenaline so that we are ready to fight or run from perceived threats to our health and safety. That’s very helpful when we need to run from a real danger. But when it’s just a story in our mind about our busy day, either in the past or the future, we’re not allowing ourselves to rest in the safe, comfortable present moment. Instead, we can choose to bring our attention to this moment, and to let the mind and body know that it’s safe to sleep now.
There are many proven ways to invite sleep. I have tried several methods with great success and so I can usually find sleep when I need it. I sometimes have sleep-challenged nights, but they are very few and far between now. I am thankful for that.
What can you do if you are sleep-challenged? The first thing you can do is to actually set aside the time for sleeping. Due to busy schedules, many of us tend to be the ones who suffer because we usually put ourselves last. “I’ll be able to sleep tomorrow…” If you know what time you need to get up, work backwards and decide that you’ll go to bed early enough to give yourself the number of hours of sleep that you need to function at your best. I know that’s not always possible, but you owe it to yourself to at least try, right? Make it a well-deserved gift to yourself.
And when you get into bed, leave the devices to charge in the other room. I know you’ve seen all the articles saying never to look at your devices in bed. There are lots of good reasons for that. And I’ve also noticed that even when I just charge my phone or tablet on the nightstand, my brain is on alert for the sounds, even when I’ve silenced them! It’s a wired habit that we learn, to listen for notifications from our devices, and if they’re near us, we’re on subconscious alert. I’ve been sleeping much better since I started leaving them in a different room to charge.
It’s also helpful to have a before-bedtime ritual. Create one that works for you. When you get into the habit of doing the same things before sleep, the moment you start doing them, it signals your brain to start to wind down and prepare for sleep. So think about what relaxing rituals you can create. Maybe a warm shower or bath, or a few minutes in a relaxing Yoga posture, or treating yourself by listening to a guided relaxation audio on your mat.
Once you’re in the bed, there are many easy breathing exercises you can try. It can be as simple as practicing awareness of your breathing patterns, noticing your inhalations and exhalations.
And of course there is EFT Tapping. By tapping on the body’s energy lines, we send a calming signal to the brain that all is well so we can fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.
I hope you choose at least one method to rewire your brain and break the sleepless night cycle. It IS possible. I’m thriving proof!