What You Can Do When You Just Can’t Sleep
Sleep plays an important role in our physical and mental health. Not getting enough sleep results in a depletion of energy, productivity, and emotional balance. It can weaken our immune systems and affect our ability to function cognitively. Sleep is necessary to maintain optimum health and overall well-being.
And yet, sleep can be elusive.
You toss and turn without finding a comfortable position. Your thoughts are racing. You feel overheated under your heavy duvet. You’ve readjusted your pillow and checked the clock again while groaning about your lack of sleep. It’s frustrating when your mind wants to rest, but your body is unable to turn off.
So what can you do?
Set a Routine
Setting a routine is a great way to develop a consistent and restful sleep schedule. Making sure that you go to bed around the same time everyday (including weekends) ensures that you’re in tune with your body’s natural alarm clock. Another way to establish a routine is to develop a ritual before bed. Completing a relaxing activity such as reading a book will help you relax and drift off to sleep more consistently.
Disconnect From Electronics
While technology has made so many routine tasks easier and more efficient, it’s harder to disconnect from them. More often than not, it’s easy to endlessly scroll through our feeds before bed which can disturb our sleep cycle because the blue light that is emitted from the screens of our electronic devices alerts the brain to remain alert instead of drowsy. Opting to turn off electronic devices before bed, or choosing to leave your devices outside the bedroom, will reduce your exposure to blue light and therefore help you fall asleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night, try not to pick up one of your devices, as it’ll keep you awake in the early hours of the morning instead of helping you fall back asleep.
Adjust Your Environment
When we are preparing to sleep, we enter a relaxed state where our bodies do most of its healing and regenerating. If we don’t feel comfortable in the space we’re trying to sleep in, then our bodies and minds can’t relax, and falling asleep will become more difficult. That’s why it’s also helpful to check that your bedroom is a comfortable and relaxing place. Some environmental factors include how much light is in the room, if the room is cluttered or neat, or if the room is simply too hot or cold. Temperature is an important factor that affects everyone’s environmental preferences differently. In the summertime, your room could grow too warm, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night. In this case, sleeping with a breathable light blanket or woven towel can restore your comfort in a hot environment so you can sleep uninterrupted.
Try Breathing Exercises
So you’re comfortable in your environment, you have an established routine, you’ve disconnected from your electronics, and you find yourself lying in bed wide awake with your thoughts racing. Now what? If you struggle to relax your thoughts before bed, you can try different breathing exercises to calm your racing thoughts. For example, you can try diaphragm breathing where you breathe in slowly and deeply counting to four and then exhale while continuing to count upwards to eight. With practice, this can help relax and calm any racing thoughts that keep you wired and unable to sleep.
Get Out of Bed
Sometimes, sleep won’t come. You may find yourself tossing and turning. Your thoughts aren’t quieting down, or you’re simply overheated. If you can’t fall asleep after a half hour, try getting up and returning to another space in the house to do a relaxing activity such as reading or listening to music. Getting out of bed and doing something to get your mind off of the things that are keeping you awake will help you relax and conjure sleepy thoughts so once you feel tired, you can return to your bedroom and try to sleep again.
Embrace the Dark
Struggling to fall asleep is a frustrating experience for all of us. The endless tossing and turning, racing thoughts, and alertness in the dark have ramifications on our physical and mental health. Accepting and letting go of the frustration waives the pressure on yourself to sleep. Instead of counting sheep, you can use the time to work through your thoughts and feelings in an uninterrupted, dark, and peaceful space. It’s also a good time to remind yourself of all the things that give you joy and pleasure when you are awake. What fun place would you like to travel to next? Which new food do you want to try making on the weekend? Refocusing your thoughts on the things that make you happy can also help you sleep because when we’re happy, we’re more able to feel relaxed and drowsy. Sleep may come slowly, but when you let go of the frustration, it usually comes suddenly, all at once.
Written by Eleni Zaptses
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