It can happen to anyone, no matter how tired you may be: insomnia.
It can be caused by any of a number of factors but the bottom line is that you need your sleep.
Chronic insomnia is a symptom of a deeper problem that must be addressed; occasional insomnia, however, may need just a break in a pattern to allow yourself to rest enough to fall—and stay—asleep.
Some foods are a bad idea to eat soon before going to bed: anything spicy or containing caffeine, for example. There are foods that can actually help you to sleep, like cherries, dairy products, legumes, and nuts—not to mention Thanksgiving turkey—due to their levels of tryptophan. Regular exercise contributes to good sleep and certain teas are soothing, such as chamomile.
There are other things you can do to help yourself to relax and focus on sleep (sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true), some while you lay there wishing yourself to sleep. Try one or more to find what does the trick.
1. Analyze your sleep patterns.
There are devices you can use to track your sleep cycle by monitoring your heart and skin temperature so you can see how you sleep. Objectively analyzing the results can provide psychological insurance that, although you may not feel it, you are getting more sleep than you realize. By not worrying about your sleep, you’ll sleep better.
2. Count backward.
The old adage of counting sheep to get to sleep doesn’t come from nowhere. If you are lying in bed and are having trouble falling asleep, begin slowly counting backward from 100. Phillip Mandel, a hypnotherapist in Beaverton, Oregon recommends:
“The trick is this: if you get lost or forget what number you’re on, you need to start over again from 100. Every time you get lost, gently start over. Don’t allow yourself to become frustrated, just be gentle with yourself and start back over from 100. Note that it’s not hypnosis in the usual sense, such as ‘you are getting sleepy’. Rather, you’re just doing something monotonous with your mind that will have the effect of making you sleepy.”
3. Use your imagination.
Guided imagery can be very effective in shifting your focus to allow your body and mind to relax as your imagination leads you through a scenario that mimics your own tense state and releases it. One image you can use is a small ball of yarn: close your eyes and “see” yourself as the ball of yarn, all wound up. Imagine finding the end of the yarn and detaching it from the ball. Watch as it slowly unwinds from the ball, curling and gently coming to rest on the floor, the strand becoming longer as the ball rolls and becomes smaller. Follow the yarn to the end, the tension of the ball completely unraveled.
Another technique you can try is Progressive Muscle Relaxation in which you alternately tense and release series of muscle groups throughout your body.
4. Alternate nostril breathing.
This technique can calm the nervous system by balancing the right and left sides of the brain:
“Rest your right ring finger and thumb on either side of your nostrils, lightly touching them. Take a big breath in and a big breath out, then close off the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril for a four count. At the top of that breath, close off the left nostril with your ring finger, hold and retain for a count of four, and then release the right nostril and exhale for four. Repeat as many cycles as comfortable until relaxed ending with the left nostril.”
5. Stop being so anxious.
Easier said than done, there are many ways to reduce anxiety—find what’s best for you. Consider:
- Talk with a friend
- A hot bubble bath
- Help others
- Journal before bed, giving voice to whatever is on your mind
- Herbal remedies
6. Guided visualization.
This is similar to guided imagery but is more personal. Picture yourself in the most relaxing place and situation you can: on a beach, on a boat, at a spa. Open your senses to everything around you, sight, smell, touch, sound, taste. Be in that place and go to each part of it by turns. Let go of the day’s pressures and allow your mind to be where it is at peace—your body will follow.