A lot of my clients complain about sleep problems so I thought I would go over some solutions that have worked for myself, clients and friends.
- Create a calming sleep time ritual: Creating and following a bedtime ritual helps cue your body and mind that it’s time to relax and go to sleep. Going to sleep at a certain time and waking up at a particular time are helpful to create the sleep pattern you want. Avoid telling yourself you are going to bed, telling yourself you are going to sleep is an action your mind can agree to. Any of the following can be part of your sleep time ritual.
- Journaling: I know, I know – a lot of people resist journaling, including myself at times. That being said, journaling is one of the best ways to get to know yourself, discover the negative thoughts we have so you can work on eliminating them, and journaling tells your brain you’ve listened to it’s messages and that it no longer needs to keep your brain racing with those thoughts and keeping you up.
- Deep breathing: Have you ever looked at a new born baby? They have big bellies when they breathe in, before they experience a lot of fear and close down. Using the diaphragm when breathing sends signals up the Vagus Nerve which controls your parasympathetic system. This system controls your involuntary functions like how fast your heart beats. When the signals from your vegas nerve reach your brain from your deep breathing, it tells your brain you are safe and can relax. We can sleep better when we’re relaxed.
- Yoga or stretches: This works especially when applied to your neck and back muscles. Just like a baby stretching before falling asleep, this relieves tension in your muscles as well as breaks up stuck energy. Using your deep breathing can increase the relaxation, thereby increasing your ability to sleep.
- Meditate: Meditation involves, again, deep breathing. Almost all meditations involve this breathing. Then focusing on going within, connecting with the Divine, your guides, or even a guided meditation (there are a lot out there now) can increase your sense of inner calmness. I love focusing on going within and connecting with my divine self, getting to know myself better or connecting with the Divine to know God better are two of my favorites. The more I connect with myself or the Divine, the faster and easier it becomes in any situation. I not only sleep better, I am a better, more loving person.
- Create a safe sleep sanctuary: Create a bedroom for yourself that feels safe and sacred for sleeping. What to you embraces sleep? Soft lights? Soft music? Nature sounds? What colors? Blackout curtains? What temperature? Studies have shown cooler temperatures are helpful for sleeping. How about the scent of lavender? A sound machine? A weighted blanket? See what works for you.
- Nature: Clients have reported to me that spending time in nature can induce better sleep at night. Being out in nature lowers blood pressure and stress, and, there are studies showing that nature can reset our inner biological clocks.
- Movement: Above I mentioned yoga. There are studies showing that spending at least 30 minutes in motion is helpful for better sleep. Even walking in nature cuts it. Dancing around the house does too! You can break the time up if you haven’t moved around for a while. Start slow and do something you enjoy.
- Self-talk: How you talk to yourself really does matter. Saying “I’m going to bed” is less effective than “I’m going to sleep” as sleep is an activity. We say “I’m going to eat” not “I’m going to table”. You get the point. Also, what do you say when you think about sleep? “I don’t get enough”, “I wake up a lot, etc?” We now know that your thoughts are what you are creating. How about telling yourself things like “I look forward to sleeping through the night.” And, if you wake up during the night, I learned as a new mom to say to myself “When I turn over I fall asleep.” Then, I would turn over and fall asleep.
If you have issues like PTSD or nightmares that keep you awake, you can start resolving them by talking with myself or another therapist. I hope these tips help you in your sleeping endeavors!
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