Most of my adult life I had trouble sleeping as the result of an inability to turn my analytical, stressed-out mind off. As a planner by nature, my brain was consumed by “remember to do this” and “I still need to figure this part out.” If personal or professional relationships were rough, it would spin on what went wrong and envision various future scenarios where “I’d show them.” All of it added up to frequent staring at the ceiling or lucid dreaming about what I’d be doing the following day or week. Any of this sound familiar?
Unless you have a physical condition that inhibits breathing, most insomniacs suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety. So simply finding tools to relieve that in your waking day will improve your sleep. It wasn’t until I learned coaching tools to alleviate my stress that I naturally slept better. Before then, I used the following five tactics.
5 On-the-Spot Tips for 3 a.m. Tossing:
- Keep a notepad and pen by your bed. If you’re awake anyway, might as well get what is in your head out on paper. There are a few ways to do this. The first is to divide the paper in half and make a list on the left of the things in your control, and a list on the right of things outside of your control. Dump everything you’re thinking about into these two categories. For those on the left, star anything that you can fix right in that very moment at 3 a.m. (My hunch is, each one can wait until the morning…and it’s just giving your mind space to critically consider and recognize this.) For those on the right, write somewhere near them: “I accept the reality that I have no control over these no matter how much I want to.” No amount of thinking and over-analyzing is going to change that.
The second option is to journal it. The act of pulling the jumbled yarn of story out of your head onto a piece of paper gives it somewhere else to live. Once it’s out, you can always come back to it in the morning and address it. If, and only if, you still want to by then.
- Redirect your brain to what is going right. Forget counting sheep, start counting on your fingers everything that is working in your favor. Make this list exhaustive. Put everything on this list from you brushed your teeth to managed to find your way back home from work and kept your kids or pets alive. No matter how trivial it may seem, count it. You’re shifting from a lack to a sufficiency mindset, which calms your system down and grounds you. If you’re like me, you’ll fall asleep mid-count. I’ll often wake up in the morning still holding a finger.
- Use essential oils. I personally recommend Young Living products Tranquility, Stress Away and Dream Catcher. (I’m also a YL distributor, so I’m biased in their favor…and recommend that you find a brand you like with blends that include Lavender, Vetiver, Clary Sage, and Roman Chamomile.)
- Put in some ear buds and listen to calming sounds like rain, crickets or ocean waves. There are plenty of audio recordings available online and through audio apps, including on Insight Timer. I set it for 30 minutes on ocean waves and am usually back asleep before it ends.
- Cool down your bedroom. Keeping your bedroom cool naturally reinforces your body’s instinct to sleep and mimics what our bodies do to prepare for sleep. Room temperatures ranging from 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit stimulate the production of melatonin, known to encourage sleep. Studies have also shown that people who have insomnia also tend to have a warmer core body temperature, so they need a colder room to counter-act this enough to signal the body it’s time for bed.
Combining all five of these tactics can help you not only get more sleep, but also a higher quality of rest and rejuvenation. This helps alleviate stress, which then helps you sleep better, and thereby self-perpetuates. Test these out and see what works best for you.