While racing thoughts can be a sign of a serious mental health condition like anxiety, they also happen to everyone from time to time. Overthinking at night keeps us awake and stops us from getting the sleep we need to feel refreshed and energised for the day ahead.
There are plenty of reasons why you might be struggling to sleep. Drinking caffeine late in the afternoon or looking at your laptop/mobile screen for hours without giving yourself time to wind down before bed are just two common causes.
No matter how your insomnia presents itself, you’re not alone. Approximately 30% of adults suffer from sleep-related issues at some point in their lives while 10% experience daytime impairment or distress.
No single solution will cure insomnia for everybody. However, here are some tips and ideas to help you get a better night’s sleep. Remember, you might need to try a few different things before finding out what works for you. At the very least, it’s something to read the next time you can’t sleep.
1. Schedule a ‘worry time’ during the day
It can be beneficial to set aside some time during the day to think about the things that cause you stress. This is often called your scheduled ‘worry time’. By writing down your stressors, you can begin to understand better what makes you stressed, so that you can focus on those areas and then release them from your mind.
By creating an action plan, you’ll find how your stress can be relieved. As you tackle the tasks and review them daily, you’ll enjoy a sense of accomplishment in overcoming the issues.
If you begin thinking about your stresses at night when you are trying to sleep, respond by telling yourself, “I don’t need to think about this right now. I will think about it tomorrow during my scheduled worry time.”
2. Create a pre-sleep routine
Along with a keeping to a consistent sleep/wake schedule, winding down before bed is one of the best ways to get your sleep back on track. For instance, if you read before going to bed, your body knows that reading at night signals sleep time. If you take a warm bath before bed every night, your body recognises that it’s time to slow down and relax. The goal of this pre-sleep routine is to relax your body and prime it for sleep.
3. Allow your muscles to relax fully
If you release tension from your body, you’ll find it easier to let go of stressful thoughts. To do this, lie on a flat surface and allow your body to go limp. Take a breath and deeply exhale. Then, squeeze and release one section of your body at a time. Start with your toes, then your heels, followed by your knees, thighs, belly, and so forth until you reach your forehead. Notice how relaxed your body feels.
4. Slow your breath, slow your mind
Your breath is a ready-made tool to relax your body and slow down the thoughts that keep you awake. Try placing one hand on your heart and feel its rhythm. Breathe in deeply for 4 seconds, then take a long, slow breath out. Repeat this pattern until you can feel your heartbeat slow down. Your thoughts should soon ease up as well.
5. Get out of bed
It may seem counter-productive, but Rajkumar Dasgupta, MD and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, says that your bed “is only meant for one thing: sleeping.”
He says that if you can’t fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, the key is to get out of bed so that it doesn’t become a routine for you to lie awake and let your mind run wild.
6. Try Mindful Meditation
Probably the most common and easiest technique for helping you get to sleep is called mindful breathing. To do this, you need to become aware of the natural flow of your breath. By turning your attention to your breathing, you can channel your mind into thinking about each breath rather than the other thoughts which pop up. If you’ve never tried meditation, then download the DeepH app and try our meditation feature which will help you to relax and fall asleep faster.
7. Ask your doctor if you should try Melatonin
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is often taken in a pill form as an over-the-counter supplement to aid sleep. Also called the ‘youth hormone’, it is most helpful for circadian rhythm sleep disorders, but it is frequently taken to alleviate difficulty falling or staying asleep.
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