Wouldn’t we all love to have better and more sleep?
I know so many people who suffer from some type of insomnia these days. Some who cannot fall asleep. Others who wake up in the middle of night and lay awake for hours – falling asleep again shortly before the alarm goes off . And a third group who wake at the crack of dawn – too early to rise – but they cannot get back to sleep.
Having had experience with all three problems, I have lots of advice on how to tackle insomnia. But I never thought of sharing my experience, until I saw this article: 101 Stress-Busting Ways to Chill Out at Night — And Get Better Sleep on the HuffPost Healthy Living site. Having read all 101 ideas, I thought they were all excellent suggestions. I am not going to start my own list here. I recommend instead that you read Rosie Osmun’s list and think of, or add a few of your own.
A simple Zen-approach
From my experience the concept of getting better sleep is simple. It requires you to “relax”and stop “thinking”. It’s the thinking part that generally gives me insomnia. I cannot turn my brain off – therefore I cannot fall into, or return to a deep slumber.
Getting past the insomnia stage means that you need to get yourself into a Zen-like state – defined in the Oxford dictionary as: “relaxed and not worrying about things you cannot change”. (See also Defining Zen on this blog.)
Many articles might tell you about having the room dark and at the right temperature, sleeping on a comfy mattress, and having no electronic stimulation prior to bedtime. I can do all those things and still have trouble sleeping because my brain is engaged in thinking about my life. Once I come to the conclusion that there is no point in worrying about the current issue because I cannot change anything at 3 am, I soon find it easier to relax.
Sometimes we need other methods to stop the brain from processing our days, our lives, our children, our work challenges, or our unfolded laundry – in the bedroom. I always wondered why these issues don’t turn off with the light switch that I just flicked.
Four ways to aid relaxation
My favorite four ways to handle the problem of an over-active brain are: drink, write, distract, or meditate.
- DRINK – Before I go to bed, I drink a cup of soothing and non-caffeine tea. My favorite has become Celestial Seasons Sleepytime Extra because it has Valerian which I have found is effective for me. I first discovered Valerian in a Mexican tea while traveling in Texas and loved that it actually worked. Other soothing teas are chamomile, mint or special herbal mixes.
- WRITE – My second coping mechanism is a notebook and pen beside my bed. When my brain is on overload, I reach over and scribble whatever is on my mind. Sometimes it is the grocery shopping list or a reminder to check the time for an upcoming appointment. Occasionally it is a story idea that has come to me. And sometimes it is a problem I need to solve. Once it is down on the paper, I know I won’t forget it and it will still be there in the morning. So now I have released it from my mind and can relax, and “stop worrying” about it. This simple act works wonders. I have had a notebook beside my bed for decades now. A notebook beside the bed also allows you to journal before you get some shut-eye. If you need ideas on what to write, check out this article on 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery.
- DISTRACT – If I am still engaged, I try distracting my brain with music, reading or white noise. My favorite is classical or alternative music, occasionally jazz, playing softly in the room. This works so well that I have trouble going to live concerts now because as soon as the lights go down and the orchestra starts playing, I doze off and start snoring and it disrupts the other patrons. I also find reading puts me to sleep – but it is usually a trashy novel (so I don’t get engaged or start thinking again). A boxed set of dog-eared short stories, always on my bedside table, is my “security balanket” just in case – so I don’t have to stumble in the dark trying to find a good book on the coffee table or bookshelves. And my last alternative is a white-noise machine on my nightstand. The monotony is sure to put anyone to sleep – and surprisingly I find it works as I pretend there are waves splashing up against the beach that I am lying on under the moonlight in paradise. A girl has to dream!
- MEDITATE – When it is hot and I have restless legs syndrome, some of these other tools just don’t work. It takes mega power to relax me enough to see ZZZZZZs. This is when I use meditation or yoga breathing. It not only relaxes me but it also distracts the brain cells while I am focusing on the breathing and the progressive muscle relaxation. This process requires 100% concentration. And it is boring as heck, so again I think I just doze off because I am bored to death.
If my four suggestions do not work for you, then think you should definitely read the HuffPost article to see if any of the other 97 ways work for you.
Did any of these wok for you? Which ones were best? Please let us know what helps you sleep better.