Have you ever lain awake in bed and tried to will yourself to sleep? “Come on!” You might say. “I know I’m tired. I know I need to sleep. I know tomorrow is going to be awful if I don’t get to sleep now. Why am I awake!?”That inner voice can sound desperate and anxious. Unfortunately it doesn’t help you sleep. Want a better way to get some Zzzs? Read on!If it’s your child that’s no sleeping well, I have good news for you. Most of these tips work great for parents. They help many kids in my parent coaching practice go to sleep more easily and sleep more soundly too!
Humans are creatures of habit. We associate different actions with specific moods and activities. Do you ever sit down to watch a movie and immediately want popcorn? That’s habit and association at work. You can put habit and association to work to improve your sleep. Creating rhythms and routines before bed that soothe your body, mind, and spirit invite in better sleep. Here’s how.
- No screen time in the hour before going to sleep. Images from movies, TV and the internet are stimulating for your brain. Even though you might think you are relaxing when you watch them, your brain is not. The more time you give yourself before sleep with no images, the better.
- Do something physical and relaxing. Do something physical to get into your body, but keep it relaxing so you aren’t waking yourself up. A run or intense workout can be great earlier in the day, but keep the pre-bedtime exercise mellow with something like light yoga, dancing, or walking. Even 10 minutes sends your body the signal that it’s time to stop thinking so much and time to transition to bed.
- Eat enough to not be hungry, but don’t load up on calories before bed. Nighttime is the time to rest your whole body including your digestion. Some foods may also be stimulating or wakeful during the night. For instance, eating sugar or drinking alcohol before bed causes some people to have more frequent and intense dreams and to wake up feeling less rested.
- Review your day. Take a few minutes to think about your day. What went well? What felt satisfying? You can also think about the things you didn’t like, but make sure to end your review of your day on positive notes considering the successes of your day.
- Make a plan for tomorrow. What do you need to do tomorrow? How early do you need to get up to have a fairly relaxed start to your day and still be on-time? What are your priorities? Taking time to think about tomorrow in a clear way, can allow your brain to not need to hold that information during the night. This can also allow your brain to relax and let you sleep.
- Journal. In The Artist’s Wayauthor Julie Cameron advocates for everyone to take time to hand write three pages every morning. One advantage of this is to get out everything your mind is holding that might interfere with creativity. I suggest that doing a similar exercise before bed allows your brain to let go of anything it’s holding that might interfere with sleep. You can even combine the review of your day and the plan for tomorrow in the journaling.
- Zoom out. Think about your life in broad terms. Are you happy with your life? Do you love your job? Is your spouse someone you would chose to be with if you met them today? Are you someone you’d chose to be with if you met yourself today? Are relationships with your children harmonious?
- Set an intention. Everything that you do before bed, say to yourself “I do this (action) with the intention of creating good sleep.” As you brush your teeth, wash your face, and turn back the covers on your bed repeat this intention over and over to yourself.
- Meditate. Breathe deeply for 5 minutes. On the in breath say to yourself “I am relaxing.” On the out breath say to yourself “Sleep is easy, restful, and coming soon.” This is a good thing to do after you lie down and turn off the lights. You can keep doing it as long as you like until you fall asleep.
- Turn on quiet music. The part of your brain that likes to think and problem solve can keep you awake. Music gives this part something to attend to but can also help it relax. Try soothing music in a foreign language. Your brain may listen to the words, but the words are in a language you don’t speak and the rhythm is soothing. The combination may allow your mind to relax into sleep.
Make Peace With Yourself
If you find the review of your day, the plan for tomorrow, or the zoom out exercises to be difficult or emotionally laden, you may have sleep troubles that come from some part of you wanting change. What are you longing for?
Your mind is smart. It knows that your defenses are lowest in the night, especially in the middle of the night when no one else is awake and you aren’t supposed to be doing anything else. This is the time your mind will use to think about what should be different, on how life isn’t turning out the way you wanted, on fantasizing about what could be better, or just on idling around with distraction. When your life is in alignment with your own goals, purpose, and values you are much more likely to sleep soundly and awake refreshed.
Would you like help reflecting on your life and implementing some of these tips into your life? Would you like to create more harmony, purpose, and ease? Do you have tips to offer for better sleep? Share with us in the comments below!
Kassandra Brown is a parent coach, yoga and meditation teacher, and lover of good sleep. She works with clients from the comfort of their own homes over phone and Skype.