We’ve all been there—lying in bed, staring at the clock, telling ourselves, “If I fall asleep right now, I can still get four hours…three hours…two hours.” It’s a terrible feeling, and watching the minutes tick by is not a productive way to promote sleep. We’ve discussed the importance of sufficient sleep before, and we’ve offered specific techniques to promote a restful night. But what if you have done all of those things—the tranquil yoga sequence, aromatherapy, shut off screens for an hour before bed, and you are still torturously awake?
Here are some techniques to try in the moment that can help you fall asleep:
- Focus on your breath.Lie still and think only about the air you are inhaling, follow it as it travels down your throat, into your lungs, and then think about the exhale in the same manner. Do not allow any distractions from this thought process, slowly breathing in and out. Hopefully, your awareness clocks out quickly and you fall asleep.
- Clench and relax. Starting with your toes, isolate and tighten up your muscles. Hold this for a count of five, then relax for a count of ten. Continue the process, moving slowly up your body–feet, ankles, calves, thighs, etc.– until you are completely relaxed. Start again with your toes and repeat the sequence until you fall asleep.
- Focus on completely relaxing your scalp. Visualize it becoming limp and collapsing into the pillow. Once your scalp is totally relaxed, move to your forehead. Concentrate on relaxing your forehead; once that is accomplished, move to your eyes. Travel down your body until you reach your toes—or better yet, you lose consciousness somewhere around your ribcage.
- Count. The old wives tale about counting sheep actually has some merit. You don’t have to envision sheep—bunnies, basketballs, or bulldozers are just as good. Or, you can count backwards from 100, count up by threes, whatever works to bore/distract you from your insomnia.
- Check the temperature of the room. Is it too warm? Remove some blankets. Too cold? Add some layers or don warmer pjs. If your extremities are cold, it is harder to fall asleep, so consider putting socks on your hands and feet if they are chilly.
- If all else fails, get up. Lying in bed fretting about sleep is neither restful nor productive. If you are fixated on something that has to be done, try to complete some facet of it that will give you a sense of control—pay a bill, make a to-do list, email yourself an idea about a project at work. Then do something restful: take a lavender scented bath, read a calming book, write in your journal, meditate. After some time out of bed, hopefully you will begin to feel tired again, and be able to retire to a more restful night—or what is left of it.
It is important to maintain a positive attitude about sleep; avoid identifying as insomniac, or “a terrible sleeper.” Each night is a new opportunity to give yourself the restoring, nurturing, reviving rest that you deserve. Embrace that notion and hold onto it. Set yourself up for success by practicing healthy, sleep enhancing strategies throughout the day, and place yourself in the best possible position for optimal sleep at night.
Your mood, your health and your well-being will thank you.