We all have the odd sleepless night, especially when something is worrying us, or we are under more stress than usual. But sometimes that odd sleepless night can turn into many sleepless nights and this almost creates worry for us about going to bed. But this is in fact the very place where we should feel the safest and the most relaxed.
So, if you feel yourself tossing and turning in the dark, don’t give up — small changes in mindset and routine can help you to let go of wakeful tension and worry and get back on track for a restful night. Consider some practices to explore and no, they do not involve counting sheep.
1) Create some space in your mind. Consider settling yourself and your mind after a busy day. Before you go to bed:
Say goodnight to your devices: The first thing we need to pay attention to is getting our screens out of the room. If you have your phone or a tablet lighting up your bedside table, it’s going to disturb your sleeping patterns. It’s best if it’s not in your room at all. It’s creating activity in your mind that you have to pay attention to.
Don’t force it: We have to stop trying to fall asleep. Our brains are too smart for that. The moment we’re trying to do something, we’re creating stress on top of it. So we don’t want to try and fall asleep. See if you can let go of the notion of trying to fall asleep at all.
Try a body scan meditation: Bring mindfulness into the sleep experience. You can do a gentle body scan practice where you’re being curious about just noticing sensations in your body and your breathing. When your attention wanders or becomes frustrated, see if you can just take note of that and gently come back to being with what’s here. When we allow ourselves to be with what’s here, the body naturally goes to rest, which is what it wants to do.
2) Undo the tension in your body. Just 10 minutes of gentle stretching and breathing, can bring calm to your whole body — paving the way for sleep to happen more naturally. If you want some ideas, try this link - guided practice.
3) Observe your sleep struggles. Do you identify as “someone who struggles to sleep” — and then you struggle more? You can release this self-fulfilling mental pattern by cultivating 7 non-judgmental attitudes toward your sleep troubles suggested by Jason Ong, a sleep Psychologist from Rush University Medical Centre.
· Beginner’s mind
· Remember: Each night is a new night. Be open and try something different! What you have been doing to this point is probably not working well.
Sleep is a process that cannot be forced but instead, should be allowed to unfold. Putting more effort into sleeping longer or better is counterproductive.
· Letting go
· Attachment to sleep or your ideal sleep needs usually leads to worry about the consequences of sleeplessness. This is counterproductive and inconsistent with the natural process of letting go of the day to allow sleep to come.
It is easy to automatically judge the state of being awake as negative and aversive, especially if you do not sleep well for several nights. However, this negative energy can interfere with the process of sleep. One’s relationship to sleep can be a fruitful subject of meditation.
Recognizing and accepting your current state is an important first step in choosing how to respond. If you can accept that you are not in a state of sleepiness and sleep is not likely to come soon, why not get out of bed? Many people who have trouble sleeping avoid getting out of bed. Unfortunately, spending long periods of time awake in bed might condition you to being awake in bed.
Trust your sleep system and let it work for you! Trust that your mind and body can self regulate and self correct for sleep loss. Knowing that short consolidated sleep often feels more satisfying than longer fragmented sleep can help you develop trust in your sleep system. Also, sleep debt can promote good sleep as long as it is not associated with increased effort to sleep.
Be patient! It’s unlikely that both the quality and quantity of your sleep will be optimal right away.
Want to know more about setting up a great wellbeing routine for yourself, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a credentialed Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness practitioner. Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.