Sleep Tips from a Restless Sleeper (Me)

Truthfully, being stuck at home has severely messed with my sleep. I spent the first couple weeks of social distancing unable to fall asleep before 3:00 A.M., spending hour after hour tossing and turning until I was absolutely miserable. As a habitually poor sleeper, I have accumulated an arsenal of tools for overcoming temporary bouts of insomnia. I honestly have no idea how scientifically sound these ideas are, but they tend to work for me, so I figured I’d give it a shot! To save time, I’m going to skip over your typical “don’t drink caffeine after 3” and “stop eating 2 hours before bed” tips, since I’m sure you’ve heard all the usual spiels already.

So, I present to you: How I Fall Asleep

YouTube meditations for sleep

I’m going to open this list up with my most useful tip. This is something that works like a DREAM for me. Search “guided meditation for sleep” in YouTube, and any of the options that pops up will probably do the trick. Turn the volume to a comfortable level, and then turn your phone facedown on your bed-side table so the light doesn’t keep you up. I find male narrators to be the most soothing; I think it has to do with the pitch of their voices. I’m also particularly drawn to guided meditations that follow a train ride. I have no idea why, but these lull me to sleep so fast. Just focus on the narrator’s voice and breathe.

There is an endless supply of these videos to be found, but just in case, here are a few to get you started:

Thought exercises

There are plenty of thought exercises that you can do to help you fall asleep at night. I have two in particular that help me fall asleep.

If you’re overthinking: Imagine a bubble surrounds you. Anytime a stressful thought or worry manifests itself, imagine that thought as something physical, racing towards you. Then imagine it deflecting off of your bubble. Just focus on deflecting all your negative thoughts. No matter how pressing or significant they may be, agree that, for the present, nothing can be done. Simply let them bounce away from you as you remain safe in your bubble. I find this technique useful when I’m just feeling generally anxious as well.

If you can’t relax enough to sleep: Think about your body as a whole. Then focus on just the top of your head. Gradually “scan” down your body, all the way to your toes, and consciously relax any tension you’re unknowingly holding. I often find my eyebrows are knitted together, and when I become aware of it, releasing the tension instantly relaxes me. When you reach the end of your toes, you can start all over again. Often I find I’ve accidentally tensed up again.

In general, if you can’t turn your brain off, I recommend just focusing on your breath. On slowing it down and keeping it steady. As soon as I’ve done that, I tend to find all the “noise” I’ve created inside my head washes away.

Tea

Certain plants and herbs have calming or sedative qualities. Chamomile, lavender, and valerian are examples of this. Plenty of tea companies sell a tea designed specifically to relax your body and calm your anxiety for sleep. Warm drinks, also, have a soothing effect that can’t hurt when you’re trying to drift off. Some nights, I love to curl up with a cup of tea and read a few chapters before I begin to feel tired enough to turn out the lights and go to bed.

Help your body learn to fall asleep

I know this one gets thrown around a lot, but it’s about more than just setting a sleep schedule. Yes, if your sleep schedule is inconsistent it may be harder to fall asleep. But there are other things you can do to help signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down. Change clothes before going to sleep. Stuck in self-isolation, you may be spending all day in the same clothes. Undressing for the night was probably part of your routine prior to this, so continue with that practice even now. Other things can apply as well: taking a shower, doing bedtime yoga, listening to bedtime music, journaling. Incorporate sleep-friendly practices that can, after a few days, help signal that it’s time for bed.

And please! Try to stay out of your bed when it’s not time to sleep.

If anyone has a particular trick they use on a restless night, do share! I am always looking for new ideas.

Rest easy!

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