Don’t you hate it when you head to bed knowing that you’re probably going to stare at the ceiling for a while? You’ve been told countless times “just shut your brain off!”, or “just close your eyes”. While that works for some people, that’s just not doing it for you. You’re not alone! I’ve already shared my very favorite ways to get to sleep when I’m struggling with anxiety or just general wakefulness (where my body is tired/exhausted but my brain is wide awake ; if you haven’t already, you can download it here.
One of the tips I shared was to create a night-time routine:
“Think about the things that you do every night before bed:
Brush your teeth.
Comb your hair.
Wash your face.
Change into pajamas.
Pick out tomorrow’s clothes.
Over time our brain recognizes the routine and progression of activities as preparation for sleep, so use this to your advantage.”
For a lot of people, going thru the same activities every night before laying down can remind the brain that it’s time to sleep. Your routine doesn’t have to be long and complicated, but if you’re having trouble sleeping, you can leverage the advantages of that routine by including things that help you wind down and settle in. Now that you’ve had a chance to try out my very favorite sleep tips, here are some additional ideas to explore:
Create a peaceful place to sleep
Especially for someone who is easily overstimulated, having a clean, restful place to sleep is important. Spending too much time in vigorous cleaning right before bed maybe counterproductive to your new sleep routine, so think ahead and maybe pick up a little before dinner. The goal is to have a place to sleep that is clean, dark, and quiet.
Hot tea (especially a chamomile, or chamomile blend)
While I find warm teas to be especially relaxing, the temperatures outside are already in triple digits in some parts of the country, so you may need to convert this to a cool, refreshing drink. The chamomile in Sleepy-Time type teas has a relaxing effect. My favorite is a vanilla blend rather than a straight chamomile.
Quiet reading 30 min prior to bed
It is definitely 10x better for your brain than watching TV, but the fact is that reading may or may not help you sleep. Some people find that the 30min of quiet helps them nod off. Personally, I tend to get so wrapped up in a book that I have to be careful what I read: if the adventure is too exciting, I might not want to put it down; if the thoughts are too provoking, when I do put the book down, I might not stop thinking about it (which is kinda the opposite effect we’re going for here).
Don’t bring your work to bed with you
So maybe reading helps you relax, but I plead with you: don’t bring your work to bed with you. In the age of smartphones, tablets & e-readers, this happens very easily. It is important to create healthy boundaries in your life between work and relaxation and sleep.
Jot down things that are occupying your mind so you can come back to it later
That said, you might have something come to mind that you know you will forget later but is really very important. Keep a notepad by your bed or use your smartphone to take voice-to-text notes, and then put it back away as soon as you have it recorded, and don’t check social media or your email before you turn the screen back off.
Massage (foot/back/neck)/hot compress
Some of us are lucky enough to have an appointed resident masseuse. Ask, beg, or bribe your partner to use your favorite lotion (or just some coconut oil) and gently rub the stress knots out of your shoulders. An alternative to this might include a self-massage (don’t you wish you could effectively reach your own shoulders, though?) or using a hot pad. My physical therapist tells me that the reason I’m cold before I sleep is because my body is working harder to keep my core warm, and once I relax and release that tension, it will warm my extremities. Sometimes I kickstart that process by heating up homemade hot pad (I take a long sock, fill it with a couple cups of rice, and knot the end; then I heat it in the microwave for 1min at a time until it’s warm enough).
Use white noise during sleep. Or earplugs.
This one is going to depend highly on how your mind responds to sound. Some people find that the constant noise of a box fan or “white noise” sounds from a sleep machine or app are very helpful, and will lull them to sleep. Others find that their minds are distracted by the underlying patterns of sound in the white noise, and will start composing overtop. These individuals may be more interested in utilizing earplugs to help block out distracting noises.
Use dim lights. Or a Sleeping mask
Here, again, make choices depending on what suits you best. Do you sleep better in total darkness? If you don’t live in a rural area, chances are there are streetlights outside your window that may be keeping you awake. Using room darkening shades and/or a sleep mask will block out those extra rays of unnatural light. If you find this helpful, you might want to be sure to set an alarm; the natural lights won’t be waking you up tomorrow.On the other hand, if having your room pitch black makes you wide-eyed and anxious, a couple of cheap nightlights or a very-dim 11watt bulb in your bedside lamp should cast enough light to push the worries into the shadows and let you relax. In fact, having a dim light in the bedside lamp is a good idea for everyone. Turning on bright lights for bathroom trips in the middle of the night can create disruptions in your sleep and make it more difficult to go back to sleep.
Wait, we got to 8 already? Oops! Here’s one more:
Some families co-sleep and most couples share a bed. But the fact of the matter is, if you’re having a difficult time going to sleep, you might just need to sleep in your own space for a bit. Not everyone has this luxury (there aren’t always extra places to sleep), but this might be just the thing you need to jumpstart your body back to healthy sleep patterns. I also recommend this option if you find yourself grumpy and resentful that every time you are almost asleep, your partner breaths (or snores!) or turns, and wakes you right back up.
Get a copy of my very favorite ways to get to sleep! Download it here:
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