4 Things to Try When Your Mind Keeps You Up at Night
Whether you have a tendency to lay in bed awake at night worrying about what will happen tomorrow or there are nights where you wake up covered in sweat shaking from a nightmare, it is all too common to have difficulty sleeping. Relaxing the mind and body to prepare yourself for bed may help you not only find sleep faster but increase the chances you’ll be able to sleep peacefully through the night.
I’ll share four techniques that have worked for some of my clients below. Any of these can be used to help you feel calm and begin to rest before going to bed. If you do find that you wake up in the middle of the night, consider getting up to use the restroom and have a few sips of water and then trying one of these techniques before returning to bed to help your mind and body return to that peaceful state. With these techniques, the key is to be Mindful and remain focused on the activity. If you find your mind wandering, gently (without judging) bring it back to the moment. With practice, you will be able to maintain your focus and relax more quickly.
1. Mindful Stretching
Take a moment to gently and slowly stretch can help release some of the tension from the body. While you are stretching, draw your attention to the feel of the stretch in each muscle group. Notice how your body moves and how even slight changes in your position can release tension from a different muscle. Here is an article with some stress relieve yoga stretches you may want to try: 7 Yoga Stretches to Help You Fall Asleep Fast.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is another powerful technique to release some of the tension and relax your body. Progressive Muscle Relaxation involves tensing various muscle groups for about 30 seconds and then releasing. When I lead clients in this exercise we typically begin with our feet and slowly move up through the body. I personally find it easiest to remain focused when I listen to someone guiding me. Luckily, there are many videos available on YouTube that you can listen to. I often recommend that clients search for “Progressive Muscle Relaxation” and then select one to listen to based on the length and the voice. Here is one you can try to start with: Passive Muscle Relaxation to Manage Anxiety and Stress.
3. Guided Visualization
Simply closing your eyes and imagining that you are somewhere relaxing can be a great way to relax the mind. Some people prefer imagining they are at a beach, others envision a forest, some picture a childhood bedroom or I have often seen a large, open field. This is another time when YouTube can come in very helpful. For example, here is a forest visualization or a beach guided imagery that you may enjoy listening to before resting. I will also post Mindfulness Meditations as I record them myself.
4. Positive Ending Visualization
When you are feeling anxious about something coming up the next day, it may be helpful to picture that event going well. For instance, if you have a big test tomorrow try closing your eyes and picturing yourself receiving the exam, confidently looking down at the page and realizing that you are well prepared and know all of the answers.
If you want to work individually with a therapist on these and other relaxation techniques that will help improve your sleep, send us a message using the form on this page to set up an initial consultation today!
*These tips are based on experience working with a variety of clients. However, the writer is not providing clinical advice or counseling. If you have excessive difficulty sleeping, consider talking to your medical physician, psychiatrist and/or seeing a counselor for mental health counseling.