I love to sleep! I love getting a good solid 9 hours. This rarely happens but I love those mornings I wake up and feel like I have been gone from the world since yesterday. For so many of my clients, this is not a reality. Sleep problems occur in most mental health conditions and often, this is one of the first red flags. For many, they are so exhausted, they can fall asleep but wake up frequently throughout the night. For others, they lay in bed tossing and turning, their brain racing, and watching the clock as it ticks away the night. Without good sleep, other symptoms can become intensified. Mood worsens, motivation is lacking, and some will go through out their day looking forward to getting to lay down to sleep only to remember that they don’t know how to fall asleep. If you are one of these individual struggling with getting a good night sleep, relief can come. You can train your brain to fall asleep again but it takes time and patience. Here are just a few tips that may help if you’re having trouble sleeping:
1- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day EVEN on weekends. The most important element of this tip is the WAKING UP. It’s so hard to wake up, if you don’t have to, when you haven’t had a good night’s rest. However, getting up early and not try to catch up will help reset your internal clock and leave you tired around bedtime.
2- Do something relaxing before bed. Don’t watch intense TV before going to bed if this revs you up. Take a warm bath. Listen to soft music. Do an imagery exercise. Find something you like that is easy for you to do and then do it every night. This will help the brain to clear your mind and teach the brain that every time you do this at bedtime, over time is becomes a signal to your brain that it is time to fall asleep.
3- Have a moment before bedtime to reflect on the day. Make this an hour or so before going to bed. Write your lists, think of what you need to do tomorrow, think about what you would have changed from your day, and all other topics that tend to enter your mind when you’re trying to sleep. For many people they run all day long and their brain gets accustomed to this type of “processing” in bed. This becomes part of your “non-sleep routine”. If you’re brain is needing to process, find another time to do it.
4- If you’re tossing and turning, get out of bed. Go sit on your couch in the dark. Pet your cat. Get a small drink. Do your relaxing thing again. Try again to go to bed. Don’t allow your brain to associate being awake and being in bed. If this happens over and over, get up and try again. This pattern of getting up throughout the night if you’re not sleeping, might just wear you out.
5- Don’t focus on sleep, focus on rest. This is my favorite tip. For so many, as they watch the clock count the hours, their anxiety actually increases getting in the way of falling asleep. This is the strategy I use when I am not having success falling asleep. I remind myself that I can rest without sleeping and make this my focus rather than the sleep part. I make sure the clock is no where where I can see it and I will say in my mind that “I’m resting”. When my mind starts to race, I remind myself that I am resting. I do this over and over and eventually I fall asleep.
Of course these are not all the tips in the world, but if you’re having trouble sleeping, this can get you started working on something!
Until next time,