How many of us are complaining about this at night? Waaaay too many. As our lives become busy and complicated we are giving ourselves so much more to do and think about than previous generations. Because everyone else is doing it, they expect us to do the same and we expect it of ourselves.
Yet, as we fill our lives with schedules, deadlines, appointments, conversations and then after work we fill it with games, television, internet reading or videos, our minds have very little break.
It’s no wonder so many of us can’t sleep. Our minds don’t get enough practice at turning off and this affects our work/life balance.
If we are unlucky enough to wake in the night for the slightest reason, the mind clicks into gear working at top speed again. Worrying about tomorrow and regretting yesterday.
Here’s some tips on how to sleep peacefully again if you wake up
When I had my first child, the maternity nurse told me to write a short list to put on the wall near the crib. The reason for this was when a young exhausted mother wakes in the night to tend a crying baby, these simple items just won’t come into a fuzzy mind.
- hot, cold
- clothing/bed clothes (like when a thread inside a sock is cutting off the circulation of a toe)
That was it. It’s unusual for the problem to be anything other than these.
For adults you can check the same things … more or less.
Room and bed temperature
Is the temperature in the room ok? If you’re too cold add an extra pair of socks and cover your neck and ears. A lot of heat can be lost through your head and neck.
If you’re too hot let these same extremities breathe. Wet your hair and let your feet have some air.
(Take care doing either of these proving it adds no risk to your health, of course. Common sense prevails.)
Shutting out light and noise are also a great help. If the room cannot be changed you can cover your eyes and ears with suitable, safe objects like a blind fold and ear plugs.
Law of Attraction tip: You get what you expect of your room.
This may sound totally weird but it works for me. I was living in a little apartment with no air conditioning during a hot summer in Australia. I decided I would state to the Universe that “My home is cool and comfortable day and night.” Then I would close the windows and blinds before going out and when I returned it was cool and comfortable. This even worked on the hottest day I’ve experienced in this country. 47 degrees celsius or 117 Fahrenheit.
You’d think maybe it was just a well insulated house until the day I forgot to state how cool and comfortable it was and I spent the night sweltering, tossing and turning. I stated it again the next day and everything was fine. It’s worked in every house I’ve lived in since so now I use no fans or heaters.
Nappy and hungry
Well you can figure those out for yourself. Eating and drinking less than an hour before bed is going to mean you’re ready to go to the toilet by the middle of the night. Of course what you eat and drink and the effects you expect from those substances will make a difference too. If you’re the kind of person who focusses on the effects you get then aim for calming food and drink like camomile tea and foods that are not too heavy or rich.
It’s time to give up wearing what you think looks good to bed. When sleep is your priority wear what makes you feel most safe and comfortable.
See the nappy paragraph. Eating close to bed time means your body is using energy digesting and creating butane while you’re horizontal which may not be ideal.
Here is the one we most often forget. A baby who has been closeted in a close, warm, quiet space for 9 months is suddenly out in the open where it’s more noisy, risky, the temperature changes and there’s a multitude of sensations to experience and think about. So having a few moments reminder of being close to the heart, wrapped in someone’s arms gently rocking regularly throughout the day makes a world of difference as to how a baby is weened off the security of the womb and into the big loud world. They are generally less anxious and are better at stress management.
For us as adults, getting in touch with that security again is imperative to our own wellbeing. Some people clasp a lover or partner and rely on them to give the hugs and attention. But you don’t need to rely of someone else to give it to you. You can find it within yourself. Once you get used to finding it within yourself you are less clingy and your partner won’t feel so locked into possession.
How do we find this security within ourselves? By calming our minds. Finding peace within.
Yeah, I know, it’s starting to sound like Kung Fu Panda’s mentor. It’s true though.
So in the middle of the night when you’re tossing and turning asking “How can I get to sleep?” Turning your mind off may prove to be a challenge. You’re certainly not going to get there by saying “Don’t think! Don’t think of that either! Stop!!!”
It’s easier to turn your focus to the present moment. How do we do that?
Do some gentle stretches
I know for me, if I was tossing and turning or waking up worrying, I found there are certain parts of my body that became very tight like my neck, shoulders, hips and sometimes I was making fists with my hands or grinding my teeth.
Make an observing pass over your whole body looking for those tension spots and stretch them out. If you find they are areas that aren’t easily stretched, like perhaps your skull or behind your ears, just imagine those tiny muscles relaxing and the tension easing away.
How you picture this is up to you. It might be an image of adding or taking away.
- A changing of colour (eg – tension is red, released is white)
- Imaginary light flowing through the muscles – colour may change depending on what you need
- Imaginary heat flowing through the muscles
- Sarah Biermann uses a golden mesh to filter all tension, worries and doubts up and out through the body
Yawning is often used to draw in more oxygen in order to keep alert but it also signals time for bed. A really good yawn will stretch your facial, jaw and ear muscles – great if you need to release tension – and clear your mind. So when you’re struggling to get to sleep you can trick yourself into believing it’s sleepy time by doing some decent sized yawns. It doesn’t matter that they are fake ones. If you stretch your mouth wide and slowly fill your lungs with air, hold at the top and slowly let it out a few times, within no time at all you’re likely to be doing real yawns. Each real yawn clears your mind and gives you more opportunity to relax back into sleep. After the yawn give a little smile like all is well in the world and snuggle down.
Give attention to your hands and feet
We demand a lot from our hands and feet everyday. Not only are they necessary for most of the actions we want to take but they also connect to all other parts of our body through the meridian channels.
When you gently massage and hold parts of your hands and feet giving them comfort and assurance like a little baby, you can often very quickly fall asleep afterwards for the rest of the night.
Touch your skin
Yeah, I know which skin you’re thinking of. If orgasm is how you need to sleep then maybe that’s what you need. But genital stimulation is not the only way to get there. I went to a book launch last night for Ecstasy is Necessary by Barbara Carrellas where she pointed out that the feeling of Ecstasy can come from a multitude of experiences including simple breathing.
She was asked by a documentary maker to demonstrate her orgasm by “thinking off” and regularly gives lectures all over the world on Urban Tantra.
You can guess what I started reading last night then. 🙂
If sex or masturbation are not possible or not wanted though, simply touching all of you is a good way to get your mind back to the present moment. Run your hands slowly over your feet, legs, arms, front of the chassis, as much of your back as you can reach. Do this without thinking. Just feeling. It can remind you of a mother’s love. In fact it is you loving yourself which few of us do enough anyway.
I have a friend who puts her arm over her head on the pillow and gently strokes her temple on the other side. It’s a very motherly thing to do and because it’s on the other side of your head you can trick your brain into feeling it’s someone else’s hand. Try it now.
Any stroking of your head and hair can feel good and if you totally immerse yourself in the experience those worries will fade away and you’ll soon fall asleep.
How much sleep do you need?
“I have to have 8 hours or I’m just a wreck.”
“I can get by on 5 hours but only for a few nights.”
Getting a good amount of sleep is what most of us expect we need. When the schedule is tight and you notice you’re not getting as much sleep as you think you need, this can raise your stress levels. As your stress levels raise you find you cannot sleep – thus the vicious cycle begins.
But what if you didn’t need as much sleep as you think?
Tim Ferriss examines this notion in his book the Four Hour Body and shows how when you believe you can get by just fine on less hours, it is possible.
Calm your mind
The addiction for entertainment and information is rife in our modern world. Yes, they really are addictions. If you don’t believe me, try doing an evening without them. Most people will be itching for a remote or keyboard of some kind or other before long.
If you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep it’s worth taking at least half an hour if not the full evening after dinner to just Be. Turn off the television (the news can wait till the morning). Turn off the X-box, the Playstation, the cell phone, the computer. Music players are the only electronics allowed.
- Talk with those you live with or live near
- Have fun playing card games
- Read a paper book that is not about current affairs or learning
- Use your body – do some dancing or stretching, nothing too energetic
- Draw or paint
- Write pen to paper rather than on the computer
- Lying down has always been the ideal in the shrink’s office and with good reason. When you’re horizontal, your mind and body is more at rest and can allow the good ideas and solutions to come to you more easily.
If you’ve been an entertainment or information addict for a long time you’re going to find this a challenge but the importance of time to contemplate cannot be overstated.
The more you practice the better you become at stress management and the easier you’ll find you can get to sleep and stay that way.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: I also interviewed Sleep Expert Susan Kayser who gave her own fabulous tips. This is included in the Kitegirl Stress Relief online home study course if you’re interested.