Having trouble sleeping is common. You are not alone. Let’s stay hopeful and overcome this challenge.
Your body is designed to welcome sleep. It needs sleep to rejuvenate and get you ready to have a productive day when you wake up in the morning. You can start by reminding yourself the simple fact that sleep is a natural part of life, and you deserve a restful sleep. Normalizing this process can reduce the anxiety you might have about sleep.
When you are trying to sleep, by focusing on not being able to sleep or reasons behind having trouble sleeping, you probably are not going to fall sleep. When you focus on problems with sleeping, or any upsetting thoughts , you won’t feel relaxed. Such thinking can activate your nervous system and make it harder for you to go to sleep.
Instead of worrying about sleep, let’s create a supportive bedtime ritual. I am going to describe an example of such a ritual that you might find helpful.
As a start, when lying in bed, take a minute and remind yourself of few things you feel grateful about the day you just had. It could be something simple like you feel grateful for having a pleasant lunch with a colleague or having fun playing with your pet. Just a simple reminder of good things you experienced today along with feeling of gratitude is good enough. By practicing gratitude, you are starting your sleep journey on a positive note.
In general, embracing gratitude can help your body and mind shift into a calming state. A daily gratitude practice is a simple way to invite positive emotions into all aspects of your life including sleep.
After practicing gratitude, take a minute or two and give yourself a loving hug. Fold your arms around your body, positioning them in a way that feels comfortable, and squeeze yourself with just enough pressure to feel a pleasant sensation. All you need is just a moment of feeling good because you deserve compassion.
You can try this self-hugging practice anytime you wish because loving yourself is a foundation for loving everything else.
After the gratitude and self-hugging practices, remind yourself you are making a conscious decision to sleep. Affirm the fact that sleep is good for you. Perhaps a part of you might not want to sleep. By telling yourself that you are making a choice to sleep, and you believe a good night sleep is essential for your health, you might be able remove all doubts about not sleeping.
Again, your body is designed to welcome sleep when you need it. Sleep is one of the gifts your body offers you toward good health. So, normalize the sleep process as much as you can.
When you are in bed, instead of focusing on negative self-talk or anything else that might be on your mind, try to connect to your body in a positive way. For example, focus on the support of the mattress that your body is receiving. Our bodies love to feel supported.
By taking a deep breath and bringing your awareness to comfort and the sense of support your body is receiving from the mattress that you are lying on, you can help your nervous system shift to a calmer state. Often the anxiety about not being able to sleep can activate your nervous system and keep you awake.
Your body and mind can work in complete harmony and support your sleep. Focusing on safety, and comfort that you experience in your body, can relax your mind. Give yourself permission to smile when you feel relaxed. The act of a gentle smile can also help you to feel safe and relax before falling sleep.
After practicing this bedtime ritual, just relax and surrender to the wisdom of your body. Again, your body knows how to go to sleep and your mind supports that process. No need to overthink it. Just let yourself drift into a peaceful sleep.
What I just described is one approach to a better sleep. I hope you find it helpful. There are so much more to be said about this topic which I plan to present in upcoming talks.
On a side note, always talk to your physician for any health-related concerns including trouble sleeping. In some cases, there may be underlying medical issues that might contribute to having challenges with sleep, and it is very important to treat those issues.
© Dr. Payam Ghassemlou MFT, Ph.D. is a mental health counselor in private practice in West Hollywood, California. www.DrPayam.com
Sleep Better (Part 2)
Payam Ghassemlou Ph.D.
Hello and welcome,
I hope you find my second talk on creating a ritual to sleep better helpful.
In the first segment, I mentioned your body is designed to welcome sleep. Please don’t over think it.
You can remind yourself the simple fact that sleep is a natural part of life, and you deserve to rest.
Normalizing this process can reduce the anxiety you might have about sleep.
I also encouraged you to create a supportive bedtime ritual.
Your bedtime ritual can include taking a minute and reminding yourself of a few things you feel grateful about the day you just had.
By practicing gratitude, you are starting your sleep journey on a positive note.
In general, embracing gratitude can help your body and mind shift into a calming state.
Your bedtime ritual can also include giving yourself a hug and really love and appreciate yourself.
This practice of loving yourself can help reinforce your attempt to help your body and mind shift into a relaxed state.
Finally, in the previous talk, I mentioned when you are in bed, instead of focusing on negative self-talk or anything else that might be on your mind, try to connect to your body in a positive way.
For example, by taking a deep breath and bringing your awareness to comfort and the sense of support your body is receiving from the mattress you can help your nervous system to relax.
This awareness of a sense of comfort might help you fall asleep faster.
I am now going to briefly talk about few more ideas that you can consider for your bedtime ritual.
Before I do that, I like to encourage you to talk to your doctor and make sure there aren’t any underlying medical issues that might contribute to having challenges with sleep.
I also encourage you to implement basic sleep hygiene.
For example, avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime, make sure your bedroom is quiet and dark with the right temperature for your comfort level, and avoid using electronic devices close to your bedtime.
Now, let me discuss a few more ideas that might help you sleep better.
When it is time for your bedtime, let yourself become aware of feeling sleepy.
Allow yourself to welcome that feeling.
You probably had a busy day and naturally your body needs rest.
By noticing a feeling of being tired or sleepy, you are listening to your body’s need for sleep.
You might want to scan your body and identify specific areas of tiredness. For example, you might notice heaviness of muscles around the eyes.
Your eyes have been active most of your waking hours and now they are tired.
Most probably, your whole body has been busy working during your waking hours.
Naturally, your body can feel tired at the end of the day.
Focus on how good it feels to be in bed and resting.
By letting yourself sleep you are nurturing your body and mind.
You don’t need to fight your way to go to sleep.
You gently let your thinking brain step aside and let the wisdom of your body lead you to a pleasant dream state. The key is to relax and trust your body.
In case you wake up in the middle of the night, do not scare yourself by thinking you won’t go back to sleep.
Don’t overthink it.
Focus on how good it feels to be supported by the mattress or the pillow and letting your tired body rest.
Sleep is like a gentle river. It can drift you to a dream state.
It is a journey that can end with waking up and feeling refreshed.
Finally, if you wake up few hours early and still need more sleep, try to remain in your bed and rest.
Give yourself permission to relax and you might fall sleep again.
No need to get frustrated about waking up earlier than you wanted to.
Instead, let yourself focus on the quietness of the early morning.
Allow yourself to trust and have confidence in the wisdom of your body to help you go back to sleep.
In general, you cannot think yourself into sleep, but you can relax your body into falling asleep.
The key to a better sleep is to help your body and mind feel safe, relaxed, and deserving of sleep.
Make sure you consciously give yourself permission to have a good night’s sleep. It is important to affirm that. Your body listens to all your thoughts, so make sure you affirm the permission for a peaceful sleep.
I hope you find some or all these suggestions about creating a comforting sleep ritual helpful.
Please be patient and give yourself time to make progress in this area.