It can be really difficult to get to sleep with thoughts whizzing around your head. In this article, I give ideas and suggest techniques for occupying the mind and harnessing distractions to help set sleep in motion.
There's nothing worse than lying in the dark. It can make you feel like the only person left in the world. That is, unless, you have a husband who is snoring next to you. If you are anything like me, this can fill you with irrational rage. Busying your thoughts with revenge fantasies is not particularly restful! Resenting your lovely husband for snoring is also quite a lonely preoccupation. When I have landed in this unfortunate mental space, I like to try to engage my rational brain. At this time, here are some things I like to think about and consider to help me sleep:
Am I comfortable?
What will make tomorrow better?
I hope that this will give you some ideas about how to improve your sleep. Read on to find out more about these and other self-help tips to aid sleep.
Am I comfortable?
We spend a large part of our day ignoring discomfort. The vast majority of the sensory information that is sent to the brain is disregarded. This is for a good reason. Think of how you feel right now. Can you feel your socks on your feet? The pressure on your soles, the slight tightness on the ankle. Is the fabric just a tiny bit scratchy? Are your toes a bit cold? If I were sensitive to every sensation that my body experienced, I would not get a thing done! Our brain chooses to focus on other things, in order to achieve results. This is a learned skill; we become better at it the older we get. This is just as well, because as we age we can get lots of aches and pains. The distractions of our busy lives can desensitise us and stop us being distracted by listening to our body's complaints. When you are lying in bed with no distractions, all these pains and aches can become decidedly noticeable. Throw in a bit of worry and it creates a right mental cacophony.
There's a technique that is really good for dealing with this scenario. It's called PMR (progressive muscle relaxing). It magically shuts down my resting bitch face (that has trouble un-crinkling at times. My poor husband)!
It takes a bit of practice, but as you are lying in the dark anyway......
You start in one part of the body, flex just one muscle. Then you relax it; then flex and relax the muscle next to it. Work your way around the body, purposely checking every part of it. It actively makes you shut down, relax every muscle and it occupies your busy mind. It's been proven to help with chronic pain. It can transform cranky-face into something far more dignified and beatific.
My self-care tip: How to use your senses to help you get to sleep.
This video gives my tips on using sensory comforts to self-sooth yourself into a restful night's sleep.
What will make tomorrow better? Some things to think about, to help you fall asleep
We are in lockdown in Ireland, at the moment. The days are very samey and repetitive. The weather has been horrendous. It could get you down, if you let it. Try not to let your bedtime thoughts be negative or full of needless worries, though. If your brain is active, put it to work. I like to plan my tomorrows in my head, while I am lying in bed. I look for some small thing to look forward to. A nice lunch; a walk; a phone call to a friend. Try to think of one nice thing that can be done for somebody else. It doesn't have to be a big event, just a small act of kindness. Perhaps eye contact and a smile to a hardworking shop worker. Contact with a friend you haven't seen recently. A hug and a cup of tea for your partner. Kind behaviour has been proven to increase happiness, even in teenagers1!
Decide to do something that you have been putting off. We all have small jobs or tasks that are waiting in the wings. A messy cupboard, a trip to the dump, tax returns or tons of weeding. Boredom can be very demotivating. A job may seem purposeless if it's perceived to be too insignificant to make a difference, or too overwhelmingly big to attempt to take on.
Everything small thing counts. It may take a week of 10 minutes a day to clear out under the stairs. 10 minutes a day is more than an hour a week - four and a half hours a month! This is a powerful force that you have at your disposal. Set yourself a '10 minutes for 10 days' challenge. Think about what you can achieve. If you feel apathetic, a flower remedy like Revitalising Essence may help boost feelings of invigoration and motivation. It can work on the emotions (rather than the physical body) to help promote positive thoughts.
Other habits and tips for helping you sleep better
Some nights, despite all your best efforts, it may be difficult to fall asleep. A herbal sleep remedy like Dormeasan Sleep may really help. Herbs like valerian and hops can help relax the mind and the body.
If your thoughts are too exhausting, read a book or get up and have a cup of chamomile tea. Don't stress about being tired in the morning.
If you know that you are going to bed too late, plan to gradually change your bedtime. Wean yourself to an earlier night by just 10 minutes a week. This will allow your body to adapt to an early bedtime. Aim for shuteye that begins well before 11pm.
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