It’s dark. You’re laying in bed. Staring at the ceiling.
The house is still. It seems like the rest of the world has gone to sleep. The streets have quieted outside. You know it is sometime in the ‘middle of the night’.
You wonder what time it is.
You glance over to your cell phone laying on the bedside table and think, ‘no, don’t look, you just checked five minutes ago’.
Regardless, you know it will just stress you out as you think of the dwindling time you have left before you have to be awake and productive again.
Can you relate?
I know this has happened far too often to me.
So what are some easy strategies to help you turn off your brain and finally catch some well deserved zzz’s?
Well check out some of the ideas below:
1. Get physical!
No really, get physical. Go on a run, go play some soccer, walk to the store instead of driving, dance like a maniac around your house. Just do something physical.
Its amazing what a little activity can do to your health, mental well being AND your ability to sleep.
Not only does it make you feel good. It also wears your body out physically, which will just make you that much more tired and that much more able and willing to go to sleep.
And when you have an exhausted body, its much easier to drift off to Neverland.
2. Turn off those darn electronics!
Yup, this is a classic one. And one that I am 100% guilty of myself.
But truly - we have no idea what kind of impact staring into a bright screens really has on our eyes and our brains and thus our ability to sleep.
We are wired to respond to natural light. The sunrise and the sunset.
If you’ve ever been camping for an extended period of time you will know what I am talking about. Just a few days into your camping experience you find that you get tired as soon as it gets dark and you pop awake as soon as the sun rises above the horizon. This is how we are wired, which explains how unnatural light - like that of a laptop or cell phone screen - can mess with our heads - especially when on their fully bright setting.
3. Distract your wandering mind with stories - in particular, try to read something.
When you’re having one of those nights where you just cannot shut off the inner monologue - try distracting yourself. And since I already mentioned not staring into screens like a cellphone, laptop or tv - one of the only other options is to pick up a book.
I know what you may be thinking - but I hate reading!
First of all, a book nerd like myself thinks you’re crazy. But since I know there are many others like you out there in the world, let me say this.
If your goal is to fall asleep, is it really all that bad to pick up a book? I mean if your main complaint is that you always fall asleep reading because it’s sooo boring - isn’t this the perfect choice to get yourself to fall asleep?
And if you’re like me and love books then you know the mental escape alone will eventually break the mental running monologue taking over your thoughts. And it will eventually allow you to sleep. (Just remember - for those of us who love books - to stay away from those thrillers or you just might stay awake all night because it’s sooo good - and that just defeats the purpose.)
4. Avoid stimulants after early afternoon - if not completely.
Any other caffeine addicts out there? Raise your hands! Yup. Me too.
Anyone else get shaky and weirdly wired after drinking coffee? I do.
Anyone else have to lay off the caffeine after a certain time of day because you know it screws with your sleep schedule? Yup. Once again, that is me.
So why is it so hard to lay off the coffee? Habit maybe. Social expectation possibly. Just because its sitting there in the office and its free and its warm and I just want something that tastes and smells yummy next to me all day and I never think about the consequences until its too late. That too.
So for another somewhat obvious one - avoid the stimulants. Whatever that may be. For me it is caffeine and coffee. For others green tea or dark chocolate may have the same effect. For others coffee may do nothing - but their afternoon energy drink is their vice.
So if you know you struggle with something like this try to cut down, if not completely cut out. Or at least create new rules for yourself in order to give yourself more and better rest later in the evening. You won’t regret it when you finally crawl into bed and awake rested the next morning.
5. Pray or meditate.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Do it again.
Can you feel the coolness of your breath as you take a breath in? Now do you feel the warmth as it escapes your lips and you breathe out?
As you breathe out think about one of the things that has been stressing you out. With the next breath in - choose to recognize it - and with the next breath out - let it go. Do this with each of your worries and keep repeating until you feel a sense of calm descend upon your mind and body.
Now spend some time talking to God about whatever is going on in your life. Really allow yourself to bring up all of the thoughts stressing you out, bring it forth, ask for guidance or help and with each breath out choose to let it go.
As you work your way through this practice, slowly but surely you should feel your entire body relax and release the pent up frustrations, worries and stresses from the day which hopefully allow you to drift into sleep.
So from what you can see above, getting sleep is really all about living in a healthy manner and listening to our bodies. Rather than hyping it up on stimulants to get through the day, it may actually be better to attempt to sleep better so as to not need the stimulants any longer.
And rather than keep ourselves awake unnaturally late into the evening, it may be worth readjusting our clocks to one that more closely matches the sunrise and sunset.
And when it comes to being tired it can be great to have BOTH a tired mind and body.
And those worries and stresses that keep you up at night? Try to find something to calm and bring yourself to a place of restfulness just before falling asleep.
Because ultimately, whether we flourish on 4 hours of sleep or we need 9, we all need sleep of some amount. And the better quality and the easier it is to come by, the better for us, our mental well being, our work performance and ultimately how we experience life.
Do you have any tips of your own? If so, please share them in the comments below or join the new Facebook Group, The Rested Entrepreneur to share your thoughts and ideas!