You look at the clock on your bedside table... its 11:05. You toss and turn. Your pillow is too hot so you flip it over. Your blankets are irritating you tonight and there's a small lump in the mattress that has never bothered you until now.
The clock now reads 12:20. You toss and turn some more. You risk your marriage by nudging your husband and telling him you can't sleep. Why should he be sound asleep while you're suffering (and at the mercy of his deep breathing, or worse yet, snoring)? The alarm clock now reads 1:17. So begins the game of, "If I fall asleep now I'll get five hours of sleep." On and on it goes until the alarm clock goes off and you groan, "How will I ever get through the day?"
We've all suffered from insomnia at one time or another. Whether it's one random night or a series of sleepless nights, insomnia is dreadful. Here are some strategies that I've found to be very effective in my times of sleeplessness.
Breathe - Concentrate on breathing. Take a deep breath in, let a deep breathe out. Every time your mind wanders, draw it back to your breath... in and out.
A warm bath - Draw a nice warm bath. Slip into it and try to think about nothing. Concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply.
Chamomile tea - If you don't mind the taste, try drinking a cup of chamomile tea with honey in it.
Exercise - A few hours before bed, do some gentle exercises. In particular, exercise outdoors can help you get a restful night's sleep. A walk, bike ride or yoga can help later in the evening when you're trying to drift off to sleep.
Relaxation yoga - I have a great yoga DVD entitled AM/PM Yoga for Beginners. There is an actual segment that's 25 minutes in length entitled Good Night's Sleep. It has consistently worked for me on those sleepless nights.
Guided relaxation - I know I've blogged about this before but the Kelly Howell Guided Relaxation CD does wonders for me! I fall asleep within minutes of starting the guided relaxation exercises. Listen to a sample of the CD HERE.
Soothing music - Listen to some soothing music. There are lots of good CDs with great relaxing tunes on them. I am a huge fan of Deva Premal... her voice flows like honey. Some of her music can also be found on YouTube. My favourite is the Gayatri mantra... absolutely beautiful.
Cover your alarm clock - Break the habit of looking at the time and cover your clock. By not having the glaring reminder of time (or lack thereof) you may be able to ease some of the pressure to fall asleep quickly.
A dark room - Make your room a dark cave. Draw your blinds (room darkening shades are the best). Make sure any illuminated electronics are covered or dimmed. Also, avoid having a night light in the room.
Read a book - This is not the time to read an edge-of-your-seat thriller or mystery. Drag out the dullest of books and begin to read. You may be surprised at how quickly your eyes will begin to droop.
Make a list or journal - Sometimes our restlessness is due to the amount of information we're storing in our brain. Making a list of things you don't want to forget or journaling about the day's events can help free up your mind to focus on relaxation.
Chant a mantra/meditation - Find a word or two to repeat over and over again. Focus your mind on saying/repeating the word(s). My personal favourite is... peace.
Power down - Resist the temptation to check your e-mail, surf the web or watch television. Your brain needs to slow down. Don't stimulate it with new images or ideas!
Cool off - A cool room helps promote a restful sleep. Make sure you have enough blankets for warmth but keep the air temperature cool.
Lavender - Sniff a few drops of lavender (or add to your bath water or pillow). "In pillows, lavender seeds and flowers aid sleep and relaxation. An infusion of three flowerheads added to a cup of boiling water soothes and relaxes at bedtime" (Wikipedia, 2010).
Don't force it - Get up and go to a different area of the house. Sit in a chair. Meditate. Relax. Return to bed about twenty minutes later.
Establish a routine - It works for children... it can work for you too!!! Do the same routine every evening before bed. Make a list of the things you need to do the next day. Have a cup of decaffeinated tea. Set out your clothes. Take a warm bath. Read a book. Turn off your light and go to sleep. Doing the same thing every night can help train your mind to recognize that it's bedtime... time to sleep.
Eat sleep-inducing foods - We've all heard of tryptophan... this notorious amino acid is known for being in turkey (hence the post turkey-eating nap). It's also present in other high protein foods. According to WHFoods (2010) the following foods contain tryptophan; "red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soybeans and soy products, tuna, shellfish, and turkey"(para. 30). Calcium helps with the absorption of tryptophan so combine that turkey sandwich with a glass of milk!
Hopefully these tips help you in your quest to fall asleep. Is there anything you do that makes sleep come easier? Feel free to share your thoughts, tips and/or suggestions.
Good night. Sleep tight.
Wikipedia. (2010). Lavender. Retrieved November 30, 2010 from, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender.