Millions of people struggle to get to sleep every night and millions more suffer from a poor night’s sleep.
We all know that sleep is so important to our health and wellbeing that when you’re not getting enough quality sleep, you can start to worry about it. By worrying about your sleep, you can then become preoccupied by it… maybe even obsessed by it.
When you are putting pressure on the need for a good night’s sleep, you inadvertently overthink the process and end up becoming more and more anxious before bedtime. This leads to you going to bed all wound up and with a busy mind. Sleep is hard to come by when your body and mind are stressed and busy.
The pressure to perform – to sleep in this case – is just like any other pressure that we put on ourselves. We often hear of actors who suffer from stage fright so badly that they cannot act. Or a confident, positive leader who become a mumbling, sweaty mess when asked to give a speech in front of a large audience. The reason can be the same as when you’re struggling to get to sleep… the pressure you put on yourself to perform, and the anxiety that that pressure leads to, builds up the situation in their minds.
There are a few simple things that you can do to help you to get to sleep more easily.
Firstly, stop putting pressure on yourself to go to sleep. One way to do this is to start to notice if you’re becoming preoccupied with thinking about your sleep. Have a read of my article ‘Breaking The Anxiety Spiral’ for some ideas about how to begin to notice your anxiety building. Noticing what’s going on in your mind and body is a great first step to improving your situation.
Secondly, trying to calm your mind before bedtime is really helpful, as having a busy mind is what keeps a lot of people awake. There are lots of options for calming your mind. Some people find that writing down ‘to do’ lists or journaling really helps, as this gets the jobs and thoughts out of their head and onto a piece of paper. Others like to meditate or do self-hypnosis to relax themselves. Spend a few minutes considering what you think about most when you’re lying awake in bed. Those thoughts may guide you towards what you need to do to empty or calm your mind before bed.
Thirdly, you can look at changing your routine before bed. Small changes can make a big difference. Try changing your bedtime and allow yourself half an hour of relaxing time before bed. This does not have to mean you switch off the TV 30-minutes earlier. Maybe you could try turning off the TV at the same time as normal and read a book for 30 minutes – after all, if you’re going to go to bed and not fall asleep, what’s the harm in spending that extra 30 minutes relaxing?
Whatever route you choose, the first may not work straight away, but don’t be demoralised. Each step you take will lead you towards a potential solution that’s just right for you.