Millions of people in the world struggle with insomnia and other sleep difficulties, but there are many sensible strategies and rituals that can be used to prevent excessive sleeplessness. What works for one person may or may not work for you, but perhaps the following simple ideas will help put you on the path to better and more consistent sleep if you're currently struggling to attain adequate rest:
1. Retrain your mind and body.
If you experience anxiety over not being able to sleep every night, your brain will eventually begin to associate your bedroom with restlessness. You will go to bed each night with anxiety-based thoughts over not being able to sleep. To avoid this, try stepping out of your bedroom when you can't sleep for an extended period of time. Find a quiet area of your home to sit down and read a book, drink tea, or engage in another relaxing activity. Do not watch TV or use any electronic devices during this time, as they will likely stimulate your brain too much and make falling asleep even more difficult.
2. Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life.
Stress and worry are common roadblocks to a peaceful night's sleep. Try out some relaxation techniques such as visualization or breathing exercises until you find something that works for you. Another good way to manage stress and worry is to set aside a time to write your worries down and ruminate over them for a certain period of time each day. Call this your "worry time," and don't let it last for more than about 15-20 minutes. Doing this will help you avoid taking your worries to bed with you every night.
3. Develop an effective nighttime ritual.
Start a nighttime routine that will help you relax. You could try taking a hot bath, stretching, drinking warm milk, or putting on comfortable pajamas—anything to let your mind and body know that you're ready to rest.
4. Practice relaxation exercises.
Muscle relaxation exercises and visualization exercises are common and effective methods used to inspire sleep and calm the mind and body. Here are a couple of examples to try:
Visualization exercise example
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine a peaceful setting. Picture a place that feels calm, loving, happy and safe.
How does this place feel? What does it look like? What does it smell like? What sounds do you hear? Tune in to all your senses, and allow yourself to become fully encompassed by your "happy place."
Once you have settled into this place, try engaging in an exercise known as bilateral tapping. Lightly tap a certain area of your body in an alternating pattern of left to right, left to right. This technique can help release energy blockages that cause anxiety and other unpleasant emotions.
Muscle relaxation exercise example
Start by taking several slow and deep breaths. When your body is in a relaxed and comfortable state, bring your focus to your right foot. Tense the muscles in your foot and hold them tight for several seconds before relaxing. Notice the way your foot feels as it droops and unwinds.
Repeat this exercise for all the other muscles in your body, skipping the ones that feel uncomfortable or unnecessary. With practice, this technique could become a great way to unwind and put your body to rest at night.
Sleeping well at night doesn't have to be a constant struggle. With patience, practice, and preparation, you can find the relaxation methods that work for you and be well on your way to a healthy sleeping schedule.