We’ve all been there at some point. Tossing and turning at some insane hour of the night wallowing in our own frustration and getting further and further from the allusive sleep that we crave. The next day we’re left like a zombie, stumbling through the daily routine. While, we might function, we certainly are not at the top of our game and definitely not having the highest quality of human interactions.  The knowledge of what’s in store for the next day just feeds the frustration and makes sleeping even more difficult. I’ve never had much luck with counting 4-legged wooly creatures myself, but you’re welcome to try.

Get Some Sleep Without the Sheep
Credit: Angela Brower Hobbs

What else is there?

  1. If you’re plagued by thoughts of things you need to do or brilliant ideas you need to remember or you’re in the midst of a conflict with someone, take a moment to get up and write down the thoughts. A sticky note reminder to follow up with that colleague, a list of the billion dollar business ideas you’ve been struck by, or writing a letter to someone who has hurt you gets those jumbling thoughts out of your head and focuses them on paper. What you do with your scrawling in the morning is up to you. Getting the thoughts out of your head so you can focus on sleep is the main purpose.
  2. Now that whatever plagues you is out of your head, get back in bed. Imagine yourself somewhere peaceful. In the world of meditation, it’s often called visualization. Take yourself to that place where you’ve felt most at peace. Don’t just visualize that place, but think of how that place spoke to all of your senses. I always remember what it felt like as a child to climb to the very top of the tree in our backyard. With my legs draped over the branches and my arms wrapped around the trunk of the tree. The tree swayed back and forth as the cool breeze lifted the ends of my hair and rustled the leaves.  It’s one of my favorite memories and bringing it back to life in my mind, clears out all other thoughts. It lowers my stress levels and slows my breathing, getting my body in the right physical state to sleep.  
  3. Now that you’ve gotten your mind relaxed, focus on the different parts of your body starting with your toes and working your way up to your head. Are they comfortable in that position? Are they relaxed? Are your legs tired and heavy? There are free videos online with guided progressive muscle relaxation, if you’re interested in it as a relaxation technique. The idea is that tightening the muscles makes you appreciate how good a relaxed muscle feels.
  4. Focus on your breathing. Inhale and hold the air in. Exhale and hold before inhaling again. Don’t hurt yourself. Inhale however much air is comfortable and hold it for as long as is comfortable. Just make sure there is a noticeable pause before you exhale.

These tips will help the average person with the occasional sleep issues, but there are people out there who struggle with chronic sleep issues. Having a good sleep routine and environment is a challenge for people who work odd hours or who have to sleep where there is noise or bright light. The best they can do is attempt to sleep at the same time each day, black out the windows, wear earplugs, and get a white noise machine.

If you’re an average person with a regular work schedule and you go to bed at the same time each night, you’ll have to examine other factors like your diet (too much caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sugar, etc.), exercise levels, working in a dark room during the daytime (you need sunlight), stress levels, medications that might disrupt sleep, and your evening routine (too much stimulation close to bedtime). There are also health issues that interfere with sleep like tinnitus (ringing in the ears), restless leg syndrome, and breathing issues.  See a doctor if you think you may have a health condition interfering with sleep or if you can’t pinpoint what is causing your sleep disturbance.

Good luck on your journey to a better night’s sleep. Good night, sleep tight.