How to help your sleep – some general advice
If you can’t get so sleep in about 15 to 30 minutes do not panic. Instead of trying to sleep it is better to do something that helps you to calm down your mind. Consider reading a book or some magazine, but do not start to chat or write emails. Sometimes it is better to get up and walk into another room, drink a small glass of water, and maybe sit down on a chair and listen to relaxing music until you feel sleepy again. You may even look at television, but do not watch any exiting and activating programs. Note that television should not be in the bedroom unless you are a good sleeper and you do not suffer from insomnia. Do not try to sleep. This should help to associate you own bed and your own pillow with sleeping – and not with being awake in your own bed. If you stay in bed for extended periods of time, your system begins to associate staying awake and lying in bed together. Many people who suffer from sleeping problems begin to connect their anxieties and pains with lying in bed. The longer you stay awake in your bed, the stronger this habit becomes. It is known as harmful conditioning.
It can be difficult to get up from the comfortable warmth of your bed. You may feel very tired – but at the same time overactive, being unable to fall asleep. But remember. Do not stay in bed and let your mind to be active.
If you suffer from insomnia, make rising up at night easier and as comfortable as possible. Prepare yourself for a possible need to get up already the previous evening:
- Leave a dim light in the next room and leave a blanket on an armchair or the sofa. You can also take along your own pillow and duvet.
- Prepare something warm to drink into a thermos, maybe some water, milk, or caffeine free (e.g. herbal) tea.
- You can listen to some music, maybe read or do something relaxing, but nothing that will awaken you more.
- When you feel sleepy, go back to bed. If you still have trouble falling asleep, repeat the previous.
- Keep following the instructions until you fall asleep.
- Follow this protocol also if you wake up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to fall asleep again.
- Short naps are healthy, but if you suffer from insomnia you should avoid having a long nap during the day and dozing off on the sofa or the armchair in the evenings.
A dedicated moment of worries works for both anxieties and sleeplessness
It is better to accept that you may have a tendency to worry about various things. It is better not to fight against such worries. Dedicating a moment for these worries is especially beneficial when you tend to think over the daily events, recent happening and/or the future as you go to bed. The goal is to end the daily events and happenings or future plans already in the evening. This should help you catch up your sleep. It is easier to sleep when you interrupt those chains of thoughts.
Reserve about 15 to 30 minutes to sit down, about two hours before going to bed. Take a sheet of paper and a pencil and write down things that worry you, how you feel, emotions and solutions that you think about – or even just daily events and things you have been doing. Make a note of any thoughts you have, even if no solutions have presented themselves. When you find a solution or suggestion even to a problem, work your way to solve it as far as possible. Do not worry overly much if it is something you cannot help yourself. You may need help from others, or just let time take care of it.
Doing this should help you feel in control over matters. You can decide yourself what you do with the notes. You can destroy the notes if you fear someone else will read them. Maybe burn the note to symbolise that you will not let the worries control you. You might want to read them out loud to give them some distance.
Don’t worry, if you get new ideas or plans into your mind as you are going to bed. Keep a note pad and pencil by your bed. Write down the ideas or plans and return to them the following day. When you process various thoughts already during the daytime, it is easier to let go of them when you are settling down for the night.
If you wake up during the night and begin to think too much about something that has been worrying you, tell yourself, that now it is time to sleep and not ponder things. Tell yourself that you will get back to the matter the next day.
Think of stopping recurring/circling thoughts like you were applying a roadblock. If you have recurring thoughts in your mind, you may find a stop-word useful. It works most effectively when you have recurring, meaningless, and random thoughts going through your mind. These may crop up during the evening as you are settling down for the night or when you wake up in the middle of the night. To stop these thoughts bounding about in your head, decide on a stop-word. It should be something neutral and mostly meaningless, e.g. ‘and’, ‘that’, ‘but’, or something like those.
When you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to use the word right away. This helps to block the thoughts before you wake up fully and the alertness makes falling asleep difficult again. To stop random thoughts, there are three simple steps:
- Repeat the stop word every two seconds or so keeping your eyes closed.
- Do not say the word out loud. Repeat it soundlessly in your mind.
- Keep repeating the stop word for about five to minutes, as necessary.
Using the stop word should help you block the thoughts from penetrating into your mind. A person cannot think and say the word simultaneously. That is why the word must be something neutral and meaningless as it must not affect your feelings in any way.
Do not try too hard to get to sleep
Some people can’t fall asleep simply because they are trying it just too hard. Attempting to get to sleep too hard can cause grumpiness and frustrations; and they keep you from falling asleep. It is understandable that you want to sleep, and therefore you try to sleep even more. But – the harder you try, the more likely it is that you can’t fall asleep, or your sleep will not be sufficiently deep. Trying too hard can help your body to enter a hyperalert state. You can try concentrate to a specific relaxation method or reading, you can listen to music or try the paradoxical intention. You have slept well sometimes. We all have the talent by nature. It is now just time to learn it again.
- Take a comfortable position, switch off your lights. Keep your eyes open
- Stop trying to fall asleep
- Forget all your worries but remain awake
When your eyelids start feeling heavy and you want to close them, just think gently: “I’m staying awake for a few more minutes until I fall asleep naturally, when I’m ready.” If you can leave out the thoughts of falling asleep and sleeping, you will find that the sleep comes by naturally.
This technique will help you end forcing yourself to sleep. It also reliefs the anxiety about not falling asleep – again. When you are tired and follow this instruction, you will fall asleep naturally. It is good to wake up in morning that you fell asleep even after giving up. This should help you develop your self-confidence and aid in retrieving the natural sleep.