photo by Andy G
It’s 3:28am. You’re wide awake. You toss and turn, but you can’t sleep. You want to sleep, but your mind and body are not cooperating. What should you do?
Physical Causes of Sleeplessness
There are a many possible causes for waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back to sleep. It could be physical such as muscle aches, muscles tension, need to go to the bathroom, you left the TV on, your partner is snoring, the dog is snoring, you had too much caffeine or alcohol today, and on and on. For these we can usually figure out the solution:
- do some light stretches for muscle aches
- take some aspirin/Tylenol/Advil/etc if pain is keeping you awake
- move to a different bed
- turn off the TV
- get up and do something until you’re tired enough to fall back asleep
Mental Causes of Sleeplessness
When you’re worried about something, that can be a real bugaboo. If you’ve got something on your mind, it can be hard to sleep. Many times you may not even be aware that you’re worried, much less what you’re worried about. But, in most cases, you will need to address the problem or you probably won’t get back to sleep anytime soon. So what should you do? Follow these steps to relieve your mind of worries and get back to sleep. (Yes, even tough guys like my Dad: Get in touch with your feelings and you’ll sleep better!)
1. Signs from our Dreams. If you woke up from a dream, think about it for a moment. What was going on in the dream? What do you think each part represents? Is there something you are afraid of, worried about, or a problem you need to solve?
2. What’s on Your Mind? Whether you had a dream or not, ask yourself,
- What’s bothering me?
- What problem do I need to solve?
Maybe you are worried about your health or a loved one’s health. Maybe there is an issue at work that you’ve been avoiding. Maybe you’ve been in an argument with your spouse or a good friend. Or perhaps you’re just feeling scared of dying. (Night time has a pesky way of doing that sometimes.) Or it might just be that your to-do list is so daunting it’s waking you up at night. Whatever it is don’t be afraid to identify it and label it. Thinking about it is not going to make your fears materialize. Not thinking about it is going to keep you from sleeping. Figure it out and you’ll back on your way to some restful zzzz’s.
3. Pen, Paper, & Solutions. You’re awake anyway, so flip on a light and grab a notebook and pen. Write down the issue that is on your mind. And then write down action steps you can take to resolve your issue..
- For problems, write down the steps you will start to take tomorrow. If you don’t know where to begin, write down that you will enlist someone to help you.
- For fears, write down the fear. Write down why it is scary. Write down any action steps you can take to alleviate your fears. If it is something that is unavoidable, write down reason why you are strong enough to handle this. If you have to fake it, then do so! Come up with a “strength mantra” that you’ll use to fall back asleep. Some suggestions are “I am strong” or “I am calm” or “I turn it over to God/Universe/Fate.”
4. Stretch and Breathe. Once you have your issue worked out, do some soothing simple stretches either in bed or on the floor. A great one to do is the child’s pose. Sit on your knees and fold forward with arms outstretched. You will feel a wonderful release in your arms, shoulders, and back. After that do any stretches that you sense would feel good. Then lay down and take several long slow breaths in and out. Breathe in for a count of 8, hold for 8, and breathe out for a count of 16. This will help slow down your body and mind.
5. Mantra. Lay down in a comfortable position in your bed, and use your “strength mantra” or some other calming, soothing mantra to help you sleep. Here are some good ones:
- So Sleepy
For some people saying a particular prayer, such as “Hail Mary’s” can be very helpful with falling asleep. The idea is to quiet your mind by focusing on a simple word or your breath. Be kind, gentle and patient with yourself. Sleep will come. Let your thoughts be like clouds in the sky. Just watch them go by without attachment. Keep returning to your mantra and your breath.
6. When All Else Fails. If you can’t fall asleep after a long period of time, consider getting up and starting to work on your solutions. If you have too much energy, then it makes sense to get up and do something with your time. Follow your instincts about what you should do. Don’t worry about losing sleep for one night. You can handle this.
7. Consider Self-Hypnosis. Using positive self-talk and creative visualizations can be a wonderful way to break out of the habit of insomnia or restless sleep. Here are a few resources to try out:
- Beat Insomnia – Hypnosis MP3 download. This is helpful if you have trouble falling asleep. It’s inexpensive and 100% guaranteed to work or they will give you a full refund.
- Quiet Blissful Sleep -Hypnosis MP3 download. This course is helpful for people like myself who sometimes wake in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. This also has a 100% money back guarantee. (This company has very good products that I can personally recommend.)
- Sleep Solutions (The Calming Collection). Highly rated CD on Amazon for helping with going to sleep. (check out the reviews!)
- Instant Self-Hypnosis: How to Hypnotize Yourself with Your Eyes Open. This book presents an interesting method for self-hypnosis via reading.
Prevention is the Best Medicine for a Good Night’s Sleep
To ensure a good night’s sleep in the future, consider these tips.
- Take it easy on the caffeine. Either eliminate it or limit to morning only. The effects of caffeine last for 9 hours, so you do the math.
- Have a bedtime ritual that is calming. You could read before bed, plan your day for tomorrow, write in your journal, meditate, listen to soothing music, or anything else that helps your mind to slow down.
- Turn off the TV at least 30 minutes before bedtime. TV is a stimulant so establish a routine that helps you turn it off. You’ll fall asleep better.
- Listen to your body. If you feel tired, go to bed. Don’t torture your self by not getting enough sleep.
- Listen to your mind. If there is something on your mind before bed time, write about it in a notebook or talk to someone about it. Come up with solutions that you can work on tomorrow.
- Build a habit of daily meditation. This will help increase the overall level of calm in your mind allowing you to get to sleep easier and stay asleep. For guidance on meditation, you can try this complete meditation program or you can purchase some binaural beats MP3s from Squareeater. Both of these are excellent and highly recommended.
Do you have any sleeping tips that work for you? We’d love to hear them! All comments big and small are very welcomed!
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