If you often find yourself tossing and turning at night, it’s time to reconsider your lifestyle. It can be so frustrating when you’re absolutely exhausted but just can’t drift off, and it’s easy to get trapped in a vicious cycle.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help yourself relax and sleep, and none of them involve counting sheep…
- Read a Book
Find something that relaxes your mind and distracts you from that destructive ‘if I fall asleep now, I’ll get exactly six hours and twenty-seven minutes of sleep’ thought cycle.
While many people turn to watching movies or numbing their minds with trash TV, screen-time is actually not at all helpful for insomniacs!
Using a laptop, phone or tablet may seem like a good distraction but actually encourages your mind to stay alert. This will make it much harder to fall asleep, and won’t give you good sleep either.
Choose a light book, potentially one you’ve read before if possible. The familiarity and comfort that a favorite book can offer lulls you into a relaxed state and doesn’t require much concentration, allowing you to drift off.
- Practice Some Yoga
Ideally, you’ll slot yoga or gentle exercise into your daily routine and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle. If it’s too late for that and you’re frantically Googling at 2 am, don’t panic.
There are some really gentle moves you can do from your bed that will relax your body and soothe you to sleep.
One of my favorite yoga positions involves lying on your back, with your feet placed on the bed and your knees bent. Start by gently widening your knees so they fall to the mattress, and touch the soles of your feet together. Your legs will form a diamond shape.
Place your left hand on your heart, and your right on your stomach. Focus on deepening your breath and notice how your body moves under your hands.
There are also plenty of YouTube videos to help you practice yoga from the comfort of your own bed. I know, I know – I said no screen-time. You can make an exception for this, provided you’re quick and don’t veer into a stalking session on Instagram.
Check out this channel for my favorite bedtime yoga tutorials.
- Acknowledge Your Thoughts
Think about why you can’t sleep. Sure, it might be the coffee you had at 8pm, but it may be something more. I like keeping a notepad by the side of my bed and jotting down any worries that come to my mind as I’m trying to drift off.
When I was younger, I used to keep ‘worry dolls’ under my pillow, the idea being that you poured your stress and anxiety out to thumb-sized figurines and let them deal with the problems for you so that you could sleep.
I’m not suggesting you need to buy anything like this, but the principle is the same – place your thoughts somewhere else and let yourself relax.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be kept awake by memories of accidentally saying ‘you too’ to the waiter who told you to enjoy your food. Three months ago.
Small things can really keep our brains whirring, and often develop into full episodes of panic and stress. Rather than trying to redirect our thoughts and frantically search for calm, it’s good for us to practice acknowledging how we feel.
Embrace whatever is running through your mind, and, if it’s not too painful, explore it a little. Then write it down and actively imagine yourself banishing the thought from your mind.
If it’s not serving you, try your best to leave it on the page. It’s most likely something that isn’t all that important or urgent, so you can either pick up where you left off tomorrow or let it go entirely.
If you’re stressing about something much bigger than a restaurant faux-pas, this practice can still work for you. These types of issues may require more attention, but save the stress for a time when you can really commit energy to addressing them.
- Set the Tone
Certain candle scents have been linked to an improvement in sleep. Off course, it’s important to remember to blow the candle out, but it can be nice to light one for a small amount of time in order to set the mood.
My bedroom can sometimes feel like a very stressful place, full of worry and emotions. By shifting the ‘feel’ of the room, we can often shift our mindset. Moving furniture around can really help change things up, but candles are a much better option in the middle of the night!
In the same way, I often change my earrings halfway through a stressful day. Actively making a change to our outsides can really help make a change to our minds. Get up and change your jammies, or flip over your comforter and swap ends of the bed.
Try lighting a lavender candle to soothe your mind and encourage sleep. Rose can work really well, too, as it calms your emotions and helps you to relax. You might find that a certain scent works better for you than those that have a specific reputation for aiding sleep.
Anything that makes you feel comfortable, or reminds you of good times and evokes happiness is going to be a good choice.
If you’re a bit too nervous to have a candle burning by your bedside, opt for an essential oil instead. There are plenty of lovely options, so follow your nose and find something that works for you.
- Get Into a Routine
Our bodies like routine. When it comes to sleeping, we really benefit from getting into a routine and essentially being told what to do. If you stick to certain evening habits, you can get into an almost Pavlovian state – you get one whiff of a lavender candle and you’re out like a light!
Your routine can be based on your lifestyle, so find something that suits you. Taking a bath or warm shower before bed can help our muscles, and minds, relax. Steering clear of caffeine in the late afternoon or early evening is pretty important, too, although our bodies all process it differently.
Try setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep. Take your shoes off as you go into your bedroom and change into slippers. It’s a small action, but your body will start to associate your bedroom, and slippers, with sleep.
Each time you slide into those comfy clouds of fluff, a switch in your brain will start getting your body ready for rest. Invest in some pajamas – again, having a physical and external transition from day to night will make a big difference.
Make your bed a tech-free zone. I often find myself working on my laptop while I’m in bed – this can be in the afternoon or evening, but is still detrimental. Your bed is for sleeping, not working. The more that you associate your bed and bedroom with relaxation and sleep, the more likely you are to drift off more easily.
- Embrace It
My mother gave me some of the best advice on what to do when you can’t sleep. Embrace it. Stop trying to fight the fact that you can’t sleep, as you’ll end up getting even more stressed out and make the whole situation worse.
Remind yourself that you’re in bed – you’re warm and cozy (or cool and comfy, depending on what you like) and you’re safe. Sure, you can’t sleep, but it could be much worse. Try and ignore the idea of sleep entirely, and ease yourself into being satisfied by simply being in bed.
By actively embracing your situation and choosing to focus on the positives, your mind will soon stop racing and you’re pretty likely to drift off without even trying…
Hi, I’m Lucy and I’m currently traveling around South East Asia with my trusty yoga mat and a constant craving for the ocean. I love finding healthy, eco-friendly ways to improve my well-being, even more of a challenge whilst on the road. When I’m not on the move, I’m writing for SleepHealthEnergy.com (https://www.sleephealthenergy.com/), your one-stop shop for everything related to getting a great night’s sleep, enjoying optimum health and having buckets of energy. Follow along on Twitter (https://twitter.com/sleephealthnrg) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sleephealthenergy/).