How often do you find yourself staring at the ceiling in your bedroom with your thoughts racing, long after you’ve gone to bed? Even if this doesn’t happen to you every time you try to sleep, it’s still frustrating when you can’t seem to rest! Here are 5 ways you can help calm these racing thoughts to get better sleep.
- Brush Up Your Sleep Hygiene Basics
“Sleep Hygiene” is a relatively new term that describes your environment and daily habits that contribute to your nightly sleep. Sleep experts recommend keeping your sleep hygiene in mind when designing both your bedroom, and your daily routine. For your bedroom, they suggest keeping the space quiet, semi-dark and free of distractions like televisions or computer monitors. For best sleep, the experts also recommend a daily routine of going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, even on weekends. They also highly recommend getting physical activity sometime during the day. Even a 20 minute walk can help you sleep better at night.
- Make Time to Unwind
If you’ve ever tried to go to sleep right after a night out on the town, you may know how hard it is to turn your brain “off.” Try picking up a calm activity that you can do in the hour before you go to bed that gives you a chance to unwind. Some people read in bed, others may watch a movie on the couch. Whatever activity you choose, make sure it’s not stressful or too exciting.
- Get Up and Do A Low-Stress Activity
If you’ve been laying in bed for over 30 minutes unable to sleep, experts recommend getting up and doing a short, low-stress activity. This gives you a chance to “try again” with going to sleep and minimizes the anxiety you can feel about trying to get to sleep. You can take a slow walk through your house, pay attention to your pets, water your plants, drink some (non-caffeinated) tea, or step out on the porch for a breath of fresh air.
- Get It Down on Paper
Sometimes we can’t get to sleep because we have an endless “to-do” list running through our mind. If you can’t sleep because of thoughts that are making you feel anxious, take a minute to write them down. You can keep a small journal in your bedside table just for this purpose. Whether it’s something you have to remember to do or a situation that is causing you anxiety, you’ll feel better after writing it down. Your mind will “let go” of the stress and you’ll be able to sleep better.
- Visualization – it’s more than “counting sheep”
Have you ever tried “counting sheep” to get to sleep? Picturing sheep jumping over a fence may only work for some people, but if you tailor your visualization to your own life, it may be a powerful tool to help you get to sleep. Here’s something that most of us can try: Pick a location from your childhood with pleasant memories, either a building like your childhood home, or an outdoor space like your neighborhood park. In your mind, try remembering what it was like to walk through that space. See if you can remember things from that area from all of your 5 senses. What did it smell like? Feel like? Do you remember any foods that you ate there? Whether or not you can remember fine details about the space isn’t important, but visualizing something from your memory can take your mind off your current stresses and help you get to sleep.
If you find yourself having trouble getting to sleep for many nights in a row and it’s starting to affect your daytime life, you may need to consider talking to your doctor. Sleep problems can seriously impact the rest of your life! Whether you are being kept awake by anxious thoughts, or there is another underlying health issue, your doctor will be able to help you with your overall health in mind.