Sometimes, not often, I have trouble falling asleep. For whatever reason, I am not turning off my brain, settling in, and drifting off to nod-land. Does this ever happen to you? Last night, I crawled into bed, pretty tired after a busy day of both physical and mental activity. I was ready to sleep. I can usually drop right off, but instead my brain went into overdrive. Funny how the little, niggling things at the corners of my mind during waking hours become BIG, HUGE PROBLEMS in the dark! And when I can do nothing about them.
So. Here are the steps I take for those infrequent times I can’t fall asleep. Perhaps these suggestions will enhance your sleep routine and lead to sweet dreams.
- Find your most comfortable position in bed. Do you sleep on your back, side, stomach? I sleep on my left side, in a semi-fetal position with my hands tucked up under my neck. Find the spot that feels right for your body. And it’s okay to change positions while you are going to sleep.
- Notice tension in your body. Where is it? Often, I realize I am still frowning and my forehead is very tight. So is my jaw. Find those areas that feel tense, or that you might be holding onto, and let go. Scan your entire body, tip to toe, for tension or tightness. Feel the sensation of your body sinking into the bed.
- Deep breathing. As you let go of tension, take three very deep breaths in, holding the breath at the top of the inhale for 1-2 seconds, and slowly exhale. This activity is a biological signal to your brain and your body that you wish to slow down. Your parasympathetic nervous system is engaged with deep breathing, and this sends calming neurochemicals through your bloodstream.
- Contemplation or prayer. I find that when I turn my attention away from my thoughts about my own big, huge problems, to thinking about others, I am able to relax and fall asleep. I do this in several ways, and you will find what works for you. 1) Send a blessing to all the people in my life, by invoking their name, silently. I have a lot of blessings, so sometimes I fall asleep before I finish. 2) Say a particular prayer, repeated slowly with intention. 3) Use techniques from my meditation practice to empty my mind of all thoughts. I do this by focusing on my in and out breath and an image I always call to mind. Also, I think of myself as a big, empty bowl. Nothing stays in it, only the breath flows over it.
I hope these steps will guide your sleep routine so that you will experience deep, restorative rest. What other techniques do you use to help you fall asleep? I’d love to hear from you with your ideas.
If you are having chronic sleep problems due to the big, huge problems in your life, call me to see if we might explore these together. I offer a safe, non-judgmental, and compassionate space to facilitate the exploration of things that trouble you. Call me at 512-593-0583 for a free 20-minute phone consultation.
Sweet dreams, friends.