7 Ways to Beat Insomnia Tonight
If we want to accomplish our goals and be in optimal physical and mental health, we have to ensure we are getting good sleep above all else. When we don’t get enough sleep, or don’t get good sleep, our defenses are lowered against stress, illness, and clear thinking. Sleep is a complex process that involves hormones and neurotransmitters and is another incredible feat of mind body connection!
Truthfully, if we want to optimize our sleep, we should start thinking about it during the day and eating right, drinking plenty of water and exercising. These are lifestyle changes that can increase satisfaction is many areas of health and well-being, and I would recommend learning about these long-term strategies for better sleep. However, if you didn’t sleep well last night, and need some tips on how to beat insomnia if it creeps-in tonight, read on.
1.) Turn down the thermostat- Thermoregulation plays an important part in regulating our sleep cycles and triggering the production of melatonin, which helps us to drift off to sleep. Our normal body temperatures drop as we approach time for sleep and rise again when it is time to wake. Studies have shown that setting your thermostat between 60-67 degrees fahrenheit is the ideal sleeping temperature for a good nights rest, and may help boost your metabolism too. If you are falling asleep ok, but waking 3-4 hours later, adjusting the temperature in your room may help.
2.) Don’t look at the clock- Try to doze back off to sleep before looking at the clock. Looking at the time can cause stress by either reminding us that we only have ‘X’ numbers of hours left to grab that elusive sleep or by frustrating us with how little sleep we have already gotten (it’s only 11pm, I have only been asleep for an hour?!). Instead of looking at the clock and worrying about the time, try the next tip instead for increased relaxation.
3.) Do a body scan or other meditation practice- Body scans and meditation can be as short or as long as you need them to be. One of my favorite body scans involves progressive muscle relaxation. I start at my feet and work my way through all of my body, tensing and relaxing each part, making sure to stay completely loose. This only takes about 5 minutes and will often do the trick to help me get back to sleep. Both body scans and meditations work best if they are practiced daily. I use a great app called Simple Habit that has short meditations that can be practiced anytime. The better able we are to recognize when we are tense, or when our thoughts have overtaken us, the easier it will be for us to get to sleep.
4.) Sleep isn’t good or bad, it just “is”- The way we think about sleep matters. Most creatures in the animal kingdom sleep, and without any thought about how much sleep they’re getting or when they will finally fall asleep. Sleeping is a biological process and one we have more control over than we think. Practice detaching from the thought that sleep is good or bad. Like many things we chase in life, the more desperate we are for it, the more we seem to push it away. If thoughts of “I only have 3 more hours” or “I have to get to sleep now” enter your mind, try to push those thoughts away. Settle in on a phrase such as, “sleep will come when I am calm,” and repeat this to yourself while using some of the other strategies in this post to help restructure those thoughts “about” sleep so you can get to sleep.
5.) Don’t just lie there-If meditating or lying quietly with your eyes closed have not resulted in you peacefully drifting off to sleep, don’t continue to lie in bed wide awake. Our brains are sensitive to priming, and it’s important that beds are only used for sleeping, and not working, watching TV or using our phones. If you try the above mentioned ideas and still find that you are wide awake, getting out of bed and engaging in a relaxing activity can help to keep your sleep space sacred and also help to reduce excess energy that may be keeping you awake. Moving to a dimly lit room and stretching, reading, listening to soft music or nature sounds can all help to bring on the sandman when you need him most.
6.) Write it out- getting out of bed and writing down all of the thoughts that are keeping you awake can be a game changer for insomniacs. I’m sure there is science behind it, but there is also something magical about writing it all down. When we write down all of the thoughts that just won’t stop, we are giving them a space to be heard. They can finally stop nagging us! We are able to give ourselves permission to wait til another time to handle the problem(s) and this act can have profound effects on our ability to let things go and allow sleep to come naturally.
7.) Say no to screens-Admittedly, this is a hard one for me! It’s so easy when we can’t sleep to reach for our phones and check email, Instagram or read our favorite blog. This habit can have an especially negative effect on our pineal gland which helps to regulate sleep hormones. Blue light also stimulates our occipital lobe which keeps us alert and unable to relax enough to get back to sleep.
If you are having trouble sleeping more often than not for two weeks or more, it might be time to seek professional help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is an evidenced based treatment that can help you manage thoughts, feelings and actions which may be contributing to your lack of ZZZ’s. Contact me today for more information or to schedule an appointment.