by Andrew Ross
Getting to sleep can sometimes feel like a battle. Daily stressors, changing routines, and our mental health all can have an impact on how easily we fall asleep. Fortunately there several simple steps you can take to drift peacefully into dreamland.
In most cases falling asleep should not take longer than 10-20 minutes. A key piece of advice is if you haven’t been able to doze off in 15-20 minutes it’s time to get out of bed. While this may seem like giving up, it is actually a very strategic move. Often when we can’t fall sleep we’re going to find ourselves getting frustrated, which will just make matters worse. Getting out of bed will allow you an opportunity to not only reduce tension, but also prevent you from psychologically conditioning your bed as a “thinking space”. The last thing you want to do is associate being in bed with rumination or figuring out life problems. So instead of rolling around, get out of bed for 10-15 minutes and do something boring or with little emotional investment. This means reading the newspaper or folding laundry, not tuning into Netflix or texting on your phone. If there’s a problem you need to figure out try journaling out possible solutions, or better yet set the intention to think about it at a suitable time the next day. That way if it pops in you can remind yourself you’ve scheduled a time to deal with it and it does not need your attention right now.
Meditation can also be a helpful skill to utilize when struggling with racing thoughts that are keeping you up at night. Meditation is a process of learning to relate to our thoughts differently, to observe them without having to respond or react to them. While it requires time to understand and build one’s mindfulness muscles, practicing a breathing space or body scan can help you build the capacity to resist getting lost in thought or worries. You can find some links to helpful meditations below.
3-Minute Breathing Space by Pat Rockman
Body Scan by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Other practical tips for falling asleep include taking a short walk to clear the mind, gentle yoga, or a warm shower before bed time. A warm shower can be helpful since your body temperature will naturally cool down once you finish, which can trigger the bedtime phase of our circadian rhythm. You’ll also may want to consider your environment, ensuring your bedroom is dark and quiet as possible. Some may find the sound of a diffuser or white noise soothing, especially if you live in an apartment where noise travels. Lastly try to eliminate or minimize screen time before bed, since the blue light emitted from our electronics can throw off our circadian rhythm.
For most people these strategies will help – especially if you are able to establish a regular sleep routine which includes going to bed around the same time each night. If the issue persists it may be a symptom of another health issue like depression. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with your family doctor or a therapist.