We have all had those moments where it's the night before Christmas, a birthday, a big interview, test, etc., and it's nearly impossible to sleep. We are wired, excited, nervous, and have too much stimulation to go to sleep.
Although we feel nervous, it's important for us to still get adequate sleep. If we have a test or interview, the last thing we want to do is look or feel tired. If it's a celebratory day, eventually the lack of sleep will catch up to you and cause an early retirement.
There are some tips and tricks to try when you need to get good sleep even though you are nervous.
Write about your feelings
If you are feeling antsy about something taking place the next day, then you can write about it or tell it someone else. You can even record a voice memo of you talking about your feelings. Sometimes, in order for us to feel better, we just need to get our emotions out. When they are trapped inside of us, it's all we can think about as we try to sort out our emotions.
Take some time to discover why you feel the way you do, what is so important or terrifying about the next day, and any other emotion or thought realated to that that you can think of. Just try and get all of your emotions out of your brain and somewhere else, and then you can pick them up in the morning after you wake up.
If you are feeling distracted and antsy, another good way to calm your mind and body when trying to go to sleep is to meditate. Meditation comes in many different forms, and there is one for everyone (even those that don't meditate). Meditation is not the stereotypical legs crossed while humming. Meditation is more about concentrating on the present and trying to focus your mind on a current task.
Meditation is great for just improving your focus in general. Think of your mind like a muscle. When you constantly exercise it, it gets stronger and has better endurance. Meditating is like running for your brain. The more you practice concentrating on one thing, the better you'll be at keeping your focus at work, at school, and when you're trying to do something like go to sleep.
Meditation can also slow your heart rate and breathing down which may be elevated if you are nervous and excited. A slower heart rate and breathing rate will help you go to sleep and reduce the sympathetic nervous system activity in your body.
Play soft music or something to distract you
Music and TV are not the best things to have around you when you are trying to get quality sleep. Sleeping environments should be cold, dark and quiet. However, if your mind is super loud, sometimes, a little distraction can help relax your mind just enough to go to sleep. Try playing some soft music without any lyrics. Lyrics will stimulate your brain, as will very stimulating music. Aim for a softer genre, anything that makes you feel relaxed.
Think about the music and what you like about it. Try to get absorbed in it. What instruments do you hear? What is the melody like? Even if you are not musically inclined, just focus on the music, and eventually, all the other distracting thoughts my go away and you will be able to drift off to sleep.
Try a counting method
Counting sheep is an oldie but goodie because it gives your brain something menial to focus on so you can go to sleep. Even if you don't want to count sheep, there are other minimal mental tasks you can do to distract a busy brain.
You can think about everything you did that day in reverse. The idea is to think of something that is menial and doesn't require a lot of energy because you'll eventually doze off just thinking about it. It's also something that is going to be a distraction from the thing keeping you awake.
Take a walk
When you can't sleep, one of the worst things you can do is just lie in bed. Your bed is supposed to be associated with sex and sleep. Lying there, ruminating on whatever is happening the next day can detract from this. So, it's better to get up and only come back to bed when you're tired and ready to go to bed.
One thing you can do to help tire you out is to take a walk. Physical exhaustion may help to induce sleep. The walk shouldn't be something that is too stimulating or even elevates your heart rate. It should be at a slow pace that prepares you for sleep. Stay in the house and just walk around your room, or walk back and forth in the hallway. Do something to help you go to sleep but not something that helps keep you awake.
Read or do something relaxing
Again, if you're having trouble going to sleep, the last thing you want to do is just lie in bed thinking about whatever is troubling you. One thing you can do to take your mind off of what is going on is to read or do something else that is relaxing.
Reading is a good choice because it won't expose you to bright light like being on your phone will. It also is a calming and relaxing activity that engages your mind so it is distracted, but also is not super stimulating. If reading is not for you, then you can do a puzzle, Sudoku, crossword, read a magazine, or even continue writing. Just try to avoid light and anything that is too stimulating.
Drink something relaxing
Another option when you can't sleep is to drink something relaxing. Chamomile tea, warm milk, anything decaffeinated are going to be good options. Try to avoid anything with caffeine or high amounts of sugar as they can keep you awake and be antagonistic to your sleep efforts.
But the processes of making this warm drink and then sitting down in the quiet and dark to drink it may be so relaxing and distracting, that you forget why you are even stressed and are able to relax enough to go to bed.
If you constantly lie in bed and have trouble going to sleep, or have a chronic sleep problem, then the issue may be deeper than just transient anxiety. Please click the orange button below to get in contact with one of our sleep health professionals.