9 Tips for Calm Sleep
Do you find it hard to fall asleep?
Do you know the feeling of being tired of being tired?
Is it difficult for you to calm down and you are taking the stressful thoughts to bed with you, so to speak?
Every hour that passes sleeplessly, creates more pressure and makes us despair more.
In this blog post, I'd like to share a few tips to help calm down in the evening, get into a calm pre-sleep state and end up falling asleep more easily.
Some evenings it is particularly difficult to rest. Who doesn't know the tossing and turning in bed, the thoughts chasing each other. Thinking about not being able to sleep only makes it worse.
In theory, we 'just' need to find something that calms our thoughts and our body, but that's sometimes not as easy when our thoughts are so loud that they keep us awake for hours.
Sleep is about so much more than just drifting off at night and the 'loss of consciousness' that is, after all, half of our time on this earth.
Sleep is important for the body and for the mind - often it's just a matter of getting out of the way, letting the body do its work without interfering, which I will get into in just a bit.
The brain works at its full capacity when we don't get enough sleep - as it is no longer able to put emotional experiences into proper context and react with controlled and appropriate responses.
Meanwhile, during sleep, other systems in the body ramp up.
Growth hormones are released (we grow, our skin cells regenerate and our hair grows longer). Hormones that regulate appetite are also boosted. Our muscles regenerate which have worked all day. All of our regular wear and tear is repaired while we sleep.
Sleep also plays an important role in regulating the immune system, which is responsible for fighting off all sorts of problems. From the common cold to more serious chronic problems. Research suggests that when sleep is deprived, the body produces fewer antibodies against infections. Studies have shown that sleep deprived individuals are more likely to contract a cold virus and that vaccines can be less effective after a poor night's sleep.
The following tips will help you to prepare for a good nights sleep:
Relax for at least half an hour before bed.
Reading, light stretching and other relaxing activities are ideal during this time.
It's pretty much impossible to sleep on command. Sleep is not an on-off switch. It's like slowly taking your foot off the gas and hitting pause - there has to be a process. A relaxation period before sleep.
Develop a little routine to go to bed or even when you are already in bed. For example, use a moisturizer or an essential oil like lavender before bed. Lavender is a calming essence.
What will happen is that you will begin to associate the smell and feeling with 'sleep'. Your subconscious mind then knows the sequence of what will happen next, which is going to sleep.
Stop using electronic devices right before or in bed, such as laptops, cell phones and tablets, as they can stimulate the brain and make it harder to fall asleep.
In general, you can make sure to dim the lights in the room so that your eyes can relax.
Before we used our phones and electronics in general so much in the evenings, nights were dark and cold. And - who would have thought - modern science is finding that both cool temperatures and complete darkness are ideal for sleep. Artificial light and light from electronics disrupt our biological clock and affect our sleep quality. It is worth using an analog alarm clock, as we are no longer exposed to the blue light from electronics. It also protects us from the never-ending news feeds and endless messages we receive, which fuel our social anxiety due to constant accessibility.
Keeping our bedroom free of blue light and noise not only creates a nice, dark sleep environment, but we can also teach our brain that this 'sleep haven' is for sleep only. Not for social media, world events and other things that fuel our thoughts. This trains your brain to automatically relax when you go to bed.
If your nightstand is full of journals or study materials, you need to change that. Those physical reminders of work pressure aren't doing you any favors. Remove anything from your bedroom that is activating or potentially stressful.
Set up your bedroom like a prehistoric sleeping cave. Make your bedroom a sleeper's paradise: You build your nest with soft sheets, warm blankets and pillows.
Make sure it's nice and dark, maybe invest in better curtains or an eye mask. And in the morning, let in plenty of bright light to interrupt melatonin production and to get your body ready for the day.
Start dimming the lights at least 30 minutes before bedtime to let your body know it's bedtime.
Also make sure your bedroom is set to a comfortable temperature, so nice and cool. The cooler the better. No heating. Nothing is nicer than lying in a cool room in a warm bed.
As we approach the sleep phase, our body temperature drops slightly and stays lower until a few hours before we wake up in the morning. So we need less heat and sleep much better in cool rooms. Instead, if it's too warm, we wake up more often and sleep less deeply.
Don't count the hours when you are already lying in bed sleepless and frustrated.
If we go to bed or wake up at night already knowing that it will be a bad day because we didn't sleep enough, it will a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You don't need the same number of hours of sleep every night.
You'll find that if you let go of your anxiety and frustration about it, you can continue your day as usual and it won't automatically be a bust.
Your body will settle down and eventually fall asleep on its own. If you just can't fall asleep, get out of bed and do something.
If you have pre-existing sleep problems and have been trying to fall asleep (lying in the dark with your eyes closed) for more than 15 minutes, don't force it. Get up and try a yoga pose, read a book, do anything you would do during your evening routine. However, don't do anything that 'needs to get done'. Do something calming, nothing urgent. Because that would re-energize you, which is the opposite of what you want to achieve.
With the right approach we can reliably fall asleep within minutes. One of the keys to this smooth falling asleep is relaxation. Research shows that the relaxation response is a physiological process that has a positive effect on both the mind and the body.
If we can manage to reduce our stress, anxiety or simply worrying, for example with guided meditations or breathing instructions, this relaxation response can allow us to fall asleep quickly and peacefully.
For many people who struggle with falling asleep easily, ruminating on the past, worries, or unwanted thoughts is what keeps us from falling asleep. Instead of drifting off peacefully, our thoughts buzz through the day's events, embarrassing moments from years past, or tomorrow's to-do list.
For some people, meditation is as effective as a prescription drug. That's why there's now a great collection of sleep apps and meditation services all about falling asleep.
One way to break the rumination cycle or dispel unwanted thoughts before bedtime is to practice calming visualizations or images, similar to daydreaming. There are several ways to do this:
Picture a calming thought, memory or experience in your mind, feel into it, and experience it in detail.
Just know during the visualization that it's okay for your mind to wander. Then gently focus back on the scene without judgment.
Visualizing can be a helpful way to relieve stress, even during the day.
Remember: With every positive thought, we make more room for what we desire.