Sleep is an essential part of one’s daily life. When it is affected, pretty much everything falls out of place on any given day. When we are stressed out and anxious about the future, it can easily keep us awake for hours.
The problem is that if it happens occasionally, once or twice, then it’s manageable, but if you are losing sleep day after day, then that can be an additional stress in itself.
Sleep anxiety is something that I keep hearing about a lot these days. Take a look at any self-help forum and you’ll be sure to find people complaining of not being able to fall asleep or waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back to sleep.
The fact is, the body enters a sleep state when the mind is relaxed. Since anxiety and stress agitate the body and mind, it’s no wonder that we are unable to sleep under such conditions.
The problem with relaxation is that it can’t be forced. By pushing the body and the mind to relax, we energize them, thereby rendering the whole action fruitless.
When we lose sleep, we can become agitated and start to worry about the day ahead. Because of this worrying, we lose any chance of falling back to sleep, creating more worries.
This soon becomes a cycle which can then morph into a habit of starting to worry as soon as we lie on the bed. You start thinking about whether you are going to sleep that night or not, and then just as you were dreading, an hour or two rolls by and you are still wide awake.
The tool that we need to break this cycle is understanding. We need to realize that the body desires sleep. It’s natural and it’s built into our circuitry.
For sleep to occur, we need to feel restful and relaxed. This means not worrying whether or not we are going to sleep.
Once we have this basic understanding, we can then see that it is our worrying that is preventing us from creating the relaxed conditions necessary for sleep.
Here are some tips to relax and gently invite sleep, naturally, without any medication. Tip #3 is what I rely on most of the time.
Tip #1: Read Something
Whenever I read a book, I become really drowsy. Even if it’s a compelling novel, I can’t read at night for more than 3 to 4 pages before my eyes start to close naturally.
This might not work for people who become excited if they read something.
Experiment for yourself.
Read something light, something that doesn’t turn on your emotional engines. Don’t read anything that stretches your imagination too much. The aim here is reading to tire the mind out and foster sleep, not to entertain or gain knowledge—you can do that in the daytime.
Tip #2: Guided Sleep Meditations
For those of you who don’t know, there’s a wealth of guided meditation for sleep that is available on the internet and almost always for free.
Even just five or six years ago these were really overpriced, but now YouTube has several of them for free.
I load one of these meditations on my laptop or on my smartphone, place it near my bed and listen to it via earphones.
The idea here is that as I am about to fall asleep, I don’t want to be bothered getting up and switching off my computer and speakers. Make sure the volume is on the quieter side.
Tip #3: Give Up Trying
In case you haven’t realized the paradoxical nature of sleep, it is when we are not trying to sleep that it comes to us naturally.
Taking the pressure off one’s mind to fall asleep kickstarts the sleep cycle.
How does this look in real life? If I can’t go to sleep, I tell myself that all I care about for the next few hours is to just lie down (on my bed). I tell myself that lying down is just as good as sleeping. By just lying on my bed I’m giving my body all the rest it needs. Even if for the next eight hours all I do is just lie there, then that is good enough for me.
I’m making it simple for my body and mind. I don’t force myself to sleep, don’t force myself to not worry or try any new sleep technique. Do you know what happens when I stop caring and stop worrying? The body automatically enters a restful state and suddenly I’m asleep.
This doesn’t happen all the time—sometimes I am just lying on my bed till the sun comes up. If that’s the case then I get up and get going for the day, just like any other. When it’s nighttime again, I get back into bed with the same attitude.
Again, all I care for is just lying on my bed. I don’t “try” to go to sleep. I just lie and wait for whatever to happen. Take the pressure of wanting to sleep and sleep will come.
Bonus Tip: Check The Thermostat
It is a well-known and well-studied fact that a cooler room is more comfortable to sleep in.
The ideal temperature, according to experts, is around 65°F, or 18°C .
Don’t forget to get yourself under some warm blankets or comforters when your room is cool. The aim is to keep the room cool while you stay warm. If you start shivering then you are not going to be able to sleep. Also, turn off the lights.
If you are particularly afraid of sleeping in the dark, use a very low power LED night lamp.
- Sleeping lion – https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/12461529093/
- Sleep reading – https://www.flickr.com/photos/timothykrause/5885747179
- Girl with headphones – http://a-l-i-e-nxx.deviantart.com/art/Music-send-me-to-sleep-139781420
- Relaxed raccoon – https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/6201314242