Conquer Insomnia and Sleep Better
It’s nearly midnight, and I cannot go to sleep. I’ve laid in bed for three hours trying to count sheep and slow my brain down, but Bo Peep and her posse of rams keep getting run over by thoughts of things I forgot to do today, and all the things I must do tomorrow. I’m one of the millions of people who struggle with insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. If you too are among the many failed sheep counters of the world, don’t fret. There are easy techniques for learning how to go to sleep and sleep better.
What causes insomnia?
We’ve all experienced the occasional restless night. One where we toss and turn and keep waking up. But sometimes restlessness can turn into full-blown insomnia. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 30 percent of adults say they’ve had insomnia. Women tend to report insomnia more often than men. I’ve struggled with insomnia since the birth of my first child. Some nights are worse than others, but all result in a crappy next day. Insomnia can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, including those for anxiety and depression. Medications, travel, stress, some foods, caffeine, and other underlying sleep disorders can also bring about insomnia.
Why is good sleep important?
Running on little or no sleep can wreak havoc on your body, which, in turn, can have a snowball effect on the rest of your life. Trust me, I’ve walked in enough exhaustion stupors to understand the importance of sleep. According to Sanity & Self’s meditation and yoga teacher Jimmée Greco in her audio series Getting the Sleep You Need: The Seven-Day Program for Restorative Sleep, quality sleep:
- decreases depression and anxiety,
- increases stress resilience and your ability to cope with the world,
- supports a healthy metabolism and hormone balance making it easier to maintain optimal weight or lose weight, and
- helps the brain function better by increasing memory, attention, and the ability to learn and retain information.
“The bottom line is good sleep is key to optimal wellness and truly a gift to yourself,” says Greco. “When you sleep better, you wake up refreshed and ready to start your day with energy.”
Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is recommended for most people. Are you allowing yourself those seven or eight hours? If this seems impossible, think about how much time you do allow for sleep. Could you add on another thirty minutes? Could you spend a little less time on social media or watch one less TV show at night? Where can you carve out just a little bit more time for yourself?
6 Simple techniques to help you go to sleep & overcome insomnia.
Often, making a few simple changes to your environment and implementing some easy techniques can make a world of difference in helping you go to sleep and overcome insomnia. Here are a few tips:
- Set a consistent sleep and wake time.
Your body has its own clock, also known as your circadian rhythm. Setting a consistent sleep and wake time resets your body’s clock. Over time you will teach your body when to send the signals for sleepiness, when to get sleepy, and when to send the signals to wake up.
- Incorporate breathwork into your daily routine.
With so much going on in our everyday lives, who has time to stop and breathe? Unfortunately, lack of intentional breathing can leave us riddled with stress and trigger insomnia. Breathing sends a powerful message to your brain. Breathing tells your mind to relax, which can help you go to sleep. Breathwork is a form of active meditation utilizing breathing techniques. In Day One of her audio series, Greco guides you through some simple breathwork. After I listened to the audio track and followed Greco’s soothing instructions, I felt my stress level drop. (Bo Peep will soon be out of a job!)
- Reduce stress during the day.
We often feel anxiety and stress during the day. It’s a normal part of life. If we don’t have any way to deal with it, it can spiral out of control, leaving us feeling drained. This can lead to nighttime stress, because our minds are racing out of control, or it can lead to waking up in the middle of the night worried about this, that, and the other thing. “Sleep does not exist in a vacuum separate from daytime stress,” Greco explains. “Make sure you are interrupting the cycle of stress and anxiety as soon as you notice it starting to spiral up.” Unlike the mind, the body never lies, so body awareness is one approach for tackling stress. Greco provides a detailed how-to in Day Three of her audio session.
- Start a worry journal.
Get a simple notebook or use a recording app on your phone. Write the date and list anything that’s on your mind. Focus on those things that your mind cannot let go of or the things you worry about most. Do this before you go to bed, as it can help you relax. When fresh worries come up, write them down. Writing them down gives your mind assurance that you won’t forget.
- Set your bedroom up for sleep.
You want your bedroom to be your sanctuary, the place where you recharge after a long day. Check your surroundings. Is your mattress comfortable? How about your sheets and pillow? You want to feel embraced by your bed. Your bedroom sets the stage in the transition from day to night, and from wakefulness to sleep. So, you want your bedroom to be dark. Also, set your computer or phone screen to night mode. You should reduce your exposure to light at bedtime.
- Establish a bedtime ritual.
If you’re a parent, you know that children drift off better if they have a specific bedtime routine. It’s the same for adults. The mind loves a soothing bedtime ritual to help transition from the busy day to relax into slumber. In addition to guided breathwork and meditation, here are a few ideas for a bedtime ritual: take a warm bath, read a relaxing book, have a cup of chamomile tea, change into comfy PJs, or spend a few minutes on a soothing project like coloring or keeping a gratitude journal. Whatever you choose, do these in the same order every night and your mind will come to expect certain activities. The final tip is to keep going. Change takes time. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Soon, you will be on your way to less sheep and more sweet dreams. For guided breathwork, meditation, and bedtime yoga/stretching techniques listen to Jimmée Greco’s seven-part audio series Getting the Sleep You Need: The Seven-Day Program for Restorative Sleep in the Sanity & Self app today!
Get a sneak peek by clicking play below, to check out the full 7-part series, and other guided sleep audio download the Sanity & Self app today.
Have you struggled with insomnia? Share your tips, tricks, or thoughts in the comments below.
About the Author
Crystal Ponti is a freelance journalist who often writes about her own struggles with depression, anxiety, and weird phobias. When she is not immersed in written word, she can be found recording them for her popular history podcast, Historium Unearthia, which tackles, among other things, the forgotten women of our past. You can visit Crystal online at www.mommifried.com.