Most of us go through times in life when sleep eludes us. Often times we sleep less during times of stress and many of us have chronic sleep difficulties that may be due to past trauma, anxiety, depression or other concerns. The good news is that sleep therapy and sleep hygiene techniques can be hugely helpful for sleep issues. Regardless of what the cause of your insomnia is, I often hear people report the same things:
- I just can’t turn my mind off.
- I keep thinking and thinking about job/family/friends/the past.
- At night time I just worry about everything
- I start feeling anxious once I lie down to sleep
Although researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why we need sleep, it is clear that deep sleep is one of our basic needs. If our sleep needs aren’t met, it affects all aspects of our life and health. Here are a few sleep therapy tips to quiet your mind and help you get a good night’s rest:
1. Try not to use technology in bed.
I know this one won’t be popular since many people use phones/iPads/television to distract themselves, avoid worry, and induce sleep. Unfortunately, our brains begin to associate bed with activities other than sleep unless we’re only using it for sleep and sex! Research has also shown that technology that emits blue light (like your phone and iPad) tend to suppress melatonin and increase alertness.
2. Get out of bed if you aren’t able to sleep.
This is also one that people tend not to like! However, if you’ve tried for about half an hour to go to sleep to no avail, get out of bed. When you get out of bed don’t do anything stimulating (i.e. no TV!). Instead, read a boring book under low light, drink warm milk or sleepy non-caffeinated tea, or anything else relaxing that will encourage sleep rather than wakefulness.
3. Make yourself a bedtime routine.
Many parents do this for children to make bedtime predictable, and train their children to wind down and get ready for sleep. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you don’t need this! Try each night to have a “wind down” routine that works for you. For example: drink your sleepy time tea, check your phone for the last time and set your your alarm, brush your teeth and wash your face, listen to some of your favourite mellow music, and get into bed.
4. Use a mindfulness or calming technique
My favourite exercise to introduce to people with sleep difficulties is “5-4-3-2-1”. Once you’re in bed and trying to sleep, this is a good exercise to interrupt your thoughts or worries. Start by naming in your head:
5 things you hear (dog barking, wind in the trees, house creaking)
5 things that you see (my closet, the window in my room, my chair)
5 things that you feel (the blanket on my leg, my heart beating)
Once you’ve finished naming five things (you can repeat items as many times as you need), start all over again and name four things. Continue until you’re down to naming one of each item. Once you’ve finished the exercise, start right back at the beginning if you aren’t sleepy. Take your time with this exercise. Say the items slowly and calmly in your head, and pause between each item. Let your eyelids get heavy while you’re looking around your room for items to name.
5. Listen to a relaxation tape
This can be a part of your bedtime routine to help lull you to sleep, or use it once you’ve tried to sleep for half an hour. If a guided relaxation tape isn’t for you, YouTube has a variety of calming nature sounds, or Tibetan bells that you might prefer. YouTube for relaxation tapes is the one form of technology you’re allowed!
Therapy is a great place to figure out a sleep routine that works for you. For sleep therapy, contact us here.
Originally posted to http://www.kmatherapy.com/blog/overcoming-insomnia-night-time-worrying/