What do you normally do, one or two hours before bed? If you’re prone to doing mentally strenuous tasks before bedtime, you may need to wind down before going to bed.
Once your mind is actively solving problems or attempting to do, it can be challenging for the active portions of the brain to immediately switch off. The brain doesn’t really work that way. Give yourself 30 minutes to an hour of wakeful relaxation.
You’ll need to experiment to find out what works best for you, but once you associate an activity with sleepiness, nodding off will be much easier.
There’s an inverse to the above. Once you associate your insomnia with your bed, there’s a connection that’s hard to break. Some people have had good luck briefly switching to sleeping on top of their covers under a blanket, sleeping on a sofa, even in a chair.
While those aren’t ideal solutions (and sleeping in a chair certainly isn’t), getting to sleep can be worth a few unorthodox solutions.
For those nights when you wake up and can’t get to sleep, as much as it may be uncomfortable, get out of bed. You really need to break the association of your sleeping arrangements with insomnia.
Likewise, if you’re accustomed to dragging your laptop or tablet into bed so you can get more work done more comfortably, rethink that practice. Again, the cognitive association of the sleep environment with work can trigger stress all on its own.
You don’t have to be an active participant in generating this kind of stress. The association alone is enough to condition you to remain wakeful.
As with so many stress conditions, insomnia is often as result of associations we make. However, the association doesn’t have to be necessarily stress provoking for it to induce insomnia. It only has to be associated with wakefulness.
Many doctors who treat insomnia will suggest that reading be carried out somewhere other than in bed.
Don’t forget to pay attention the stress reservoirs we’ve discussed before. If you have tension stored in your body, anywhere from a tight night to bunched up leg muscles, very slow, gentle stretching exercises can help work those knotted muscles free.
Your goal is not to raise your heartbeat! This is not aerobic exercise. Move deliberately, slowly and focus each movement on an area of the body. Shoulder rolls are great for loosening up tight shoulders and even neck stiffness.
Gently stretching out the long muscles in your arms and legs can ease up accumulated tension from those areas. Again, do not overdo it! There’s plenty of evidence that vigorous exercise (the sweat producing kind) will keep up awake.
To recap: we need to have an honest look at what’s on our mind if we’re having problems sleeping. We need to be observant throughout the day for the things we eat and drink, and how we treat our sleep environment.
Being increasingly mindful of what we do and how and when we do it can work wonders!