How to Get a Good Nightâ€™s Sleep
Everyone has a sleepless night here and there; however, persistent sleepless nights are your body’s way of telling you to either change your behavior, your thinking or both.
The body and mind are not separate entities rather they are one organism, the body/mind. Your beliefs, thoughts, and attitude directly affect how you feel emotionally and physically. Your thoughts and feelings affect what you do and what you do manifests in your environment. Your perception of your environment reinforces your beliefs, thoughts and attitude. I call this The Physiological Loop.
The inability to fall asleep and/or to stay asleep is a stress related symptom, and all stress is mental in nature. Your body is a master teacher and always reflects your conscious and unconscious beliefs about yourself and the world. If I believe that the world is unsafe, then according to the physiological loop, I will feel unsafe in the world (nervous, anxious, afraid etcâ€¦). In turn I will be drawn to negative stimulus, such as the evening news, which will feed my belief that the world is unsafe.
Because we are empowered by the awareness of the unity of the body/mind, we have three choices: We could challenge the belief directly, we could use medication (which is a wonderful short term solution for many people), or we could change some behaviors that create nervousness, stress and sleeplessness.
Below are some tips that will help you to fall asleep and stay asleep, but remember that not sleeping for extended periods of time becomes a habit, and breaking a habit takes time so be patient with yourself.
- Stress builds over minutes, hours, days and weeks, so breaking the stress cycle that’s causing you not to sleep begins first thing in the morning. When waking up, don’t jump out of bed and race out the door instead take a few minutes becoming aware of the body in the bed. Take a couple of deep belly breaths feeling the warmth of the bed and stretch. This is a great way to start your day.
- Take a few deep belly breaths three times a day (morning, noon, evening). This is another great stress reducing technique that you can do in the car, in a meeting or in the grocery store.
- Take a fifteen minute break or nap in the middle of each day. This is a very important step in retraining your body/mind to sleep. Again, since stress builds taking a 15 min. breather in the middle of the day is like releasing a pressure valve.
- Keep a journal. Writing is a wonderful tool to purge the mind of stressful thoughts. If you’re upset with a particular person write that person a letter telling them exactly how you feel then tear up the letter and throw it away.
- Cut down or cut out caffeine and alcohol especially before bedtime.
- Set a specific and reasonable time for bed that will allow you 6-8 hours of sleep, and create a bedtime routine that involves a cup of herbal tea and activities that do not stimulate the body/mind.
- No local news or world news for two weeks. I have had more people tell me how much more relaxed they feel when they stop watching the news. If you think you must watch the news in order to stay informed set a 10-20 min. limit for watching the news on television and read the paper selectively. The flashing images of car bombings, assassinations, and general despair are absorbed into the body/mind. Sleep restores the nervous system and a healthy nervous system will help you to withstand environmental stressors so until your sleeping patterns have improved you may want to curtail your news intake.
- Make a to-do list of all the things you’d like to get done the next day and leave it next to the bed. That way if you’re in the habit of waking up with a laundry list of things to do the next day remind yourself that it is already on the list and lie back down.
- Make a gratitude list. This can be done either first thing in the morning or the last thing before bed. Positive thoughts and feelings transform stress.
- Meditate 10 to 20 minutes before bedtime.
- Stop complaining. If you’re awake in the middle of the night or unable to fall asleep worrying about all the things you need to get done the next day, worrying about being tired and general thoughts of dismay are only adding to the problem. Instead do something different, take some deep belly breaths, turn on a meditation CD, white noise or soothing music, but most of all remind yourself that you are in the process of retraining the body/mind to sleep.