Maybe it’s the recent time change, stress from election week, or the drop in temperature. Sometimes sleep is just off! Anxiety, worries, to-do lists….they all seem to want to plague us at night. Throw in the kids crying, or having trouble sleeping through the night as well, and sometimes we end up awake more hours of the night than not.
What to do about these bouts of insomnia? Many times anxiety is a factor; ruminations, worries, and stress. We have too much on our plate, our brains have gone into “overdrive” and signals that it is “the right time” to process everything when we are supposed to have finally retired for the day.
How do we turn our brains off? How do we hit the dimmer switch and unwind so we can get a restful slumber? Unfortunately, there is not a magic solution that will work for everyone, but a combination of healthy sleep hygiene, relaxation strategies, and ways to deal with “information overload” can help bring on the happy sleep.
When we are babies, we often have to learn to sleep on our own, or to self-soothe. We like to be rocked back to sleep at the slightest interruption, and learn that some level of comfort is needed to get to La-La-Land.
Let’s imagine that we are trying to go to sleep in the forest, and we are scared of a possible mountain lion attack during the night. We need to be programmed to be “on alert” or to wake up at the slightest noise that comes into our vicinity.
Similarly, when we are stressed, or sudden changes happen in our environment, we become more alert to these changes. It is harder to get our brains to relax and settle. Further, the added stimulation of smart phones, social media, notifications can contribute to sensory overload.
Try these tips for a more restful night sleep….
Put the phone away. Yes, I know it is your alarm, but preferably keep it out of arms reach. If you are using it for a soothing podcast or sleep story, play the story and have it set to automatically shut off after it is over.
Light a candle, or essential oil diffuser. The calm and soothing scents of aromatherapy can help us relax. Again, our brains our programmed to sensory experience for sleep. The more comfortable our surroundings, the more likely we are to “sleep like a baby.”
Drink some warm herbal tea. You may not want to drink too much tea if you will need to wake up to use the restroom at night, but one cup may be just enough to encourage relaxation.
Read a good book. This is not the time for your favorite mystery thriller novel. Instead, select a tried and true favorite. The restful movement of your eyes scanning the page will lead to REM.
Stretch before bed. This is not the time to exercise or dance like crazy, some simple stretches or yoga movements can help to relax the body and unwind.
Try sleep aids in moderation. Remember that your body adjusts to any supplement you take for sleep. If it is helpful for you, try taking it every few nights, rather than every night.
Write in a journal. Sometimes you need to get some of those thoughts and worries down on paper. As soon as you do, a weight will lift.
If you are still waking during the night, or you have laid in bed for over 30 minutes without successfully drifting to dreamland, try getting out of bed. Pick a boring activity, or a dreaded chore to do. The paradoxical psychology of doing something tedious may make you feel sleepy and get you back to bed in no time.
There are many more things to try for successful sleep. Select the method that best suits your needs. We all need healthy sleep, and our mental health suffers when we are not in a regular rhythm.