Switching off at night
Do you ever find yourself feeling exhausted during the day, looking forward to hitting the hay, only to find that once you do eventually curl up in bed and switch off the light, your brain immediately goes into overdrive? Thoughts race through your mind: Did I lock the door? Is the oven switched off? What time is that dental appointment at next week? Note to self: buy milk. Meanwhile, all this can be intermingled with trying to tackle big decisions about buying a house or changing jobs.
Being able to switch your mind off at night can seem a daunting task, but taking control is not as difficult as it may seem. Many simple tips and tricks can help you get good, restful, worry-free sleep.
1. It's all about attitude
These days most of us lead extremely busy, hectic lives, which means that sleep is often sacrificed in order to get through our ever-growing to-do list. But in reality, if we don't get enough sleep, we'll be unproductive and struggle to get through everything we had planned and organized. That's why it's important to understand that you can't cram a week's worth of work into a day. Rather than staying up late to finish that report or send that last email, you're far better off going to bed and approaching the task with fresh eyes the next day.
The only problem is that it's now easier than ever to take your work and worries to bed with you—how many of you sleep next to your smartphone or tablet? These worries will only train your brain to wake up and mull over endless options and possibilities, rather than allowing you to drift into restorative sleep. That's why we always recommend not introducing television, smartphones or other electronic devices into your sleep routine. If you can teach yourself that the bedroom is solely for sleeping, your job will become much easier.
2. Decompress before bedtime
Your bedtime preps shouldn't just start ten minutes before your head hits the pillow. Ideally, you should make a conscious effort to slow down and unwind for at least an hour; this gives your brain plenty of time to get into a more relaxed frame of mind and helps you avoid going straight to bed and taking your worries with you. Instead of desperately trying to squeeze more into your day, use this time to do activities you find enjoyable and restful—indulging in a nice hot bath, curling up on the couch with a good book or perhaps meditating. Just remember that sitting glued to the television or your social media account won't help you unwind. Try to detach yourself from these kinds of devices; not only can they raise your stress levels, but the blue light emitted from your screens can also inhibit your production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
3. Put pen to paper
\While it's easy to say that you're not allowed to take your worries to bed with you, it's much easier said than done and sometimes a vicious cycle can develop where you begin to worry that you shouldn't be worrying. That's why, rather than bringing your smartphone or laptop to bed with you, you might want to consider bringing a journal instead. If you can find a way of effectively putting your thoughts to rest for the night, then you should be able to fall asleep soon after your head hits the pillow.
Many people find that writing down their thoughts in a journal helps to reduce stress by reorganizing their racing mind to give order, structure and importance to their thoughts. Even if you're not interested in divulging your innermost emotions on a piece of paper, jotting down the things you need to do the next day can help keep thoughts like I have to put out the garbage in the morning from jolting you awake just as you're beginning to doze off. It's best to do this at least half an hour before turning off the lights, otherwise your head will still be buzzing when you should be dozing.
4. Dismiss your thoughts
We can't deny that, however effectively we've prepared our brain for sleep, thoughts that disturb us do slip into our head. Rather than letting them plague us now, we have to let them know their place and show them we have no time for them at the moment. There are many ways to do this, though many people find that acknowledging the thought then turning it into a visual image can help.
For example, if you suddenly remember that you need to buy milk, you can acknowledge that it's the middle of the night and there's nothing you can do about it now. Instead, conjure up a relaxing image of a cow grazing in a field, where the sun is shining and there's the gentle buzzing of bumble bees, and allow this relaxing image to lull you to sleep. Or you could imagine writing the thought on a leaf or balloon and then letting it go and watching it drift away.
You could even try doing ten or so minutes of mindfulness before going to sleep. This is a great way to observe your thoughts and worries without participating in them, plus it helps to relax the body, making you feel nice and calm before bedtime.
5. Mental exercises
There's a good reason why counting sheep to put yourself to sleep is such a well-known method, even if its effectiveness is hotly debated. The idea behind it is to distract your mind from potentially bothersome thoughts so you can more easily drift off to sleep. In fact, sleep scientists have found that slightly more engaging, though not stimulating, activities are more effective at this. Examples include counting backwards from 100 in threes or reciting the alphabet backwards in your head. If you're occupied with these types of activities, you grow drowsy and sleepy, leaving no room for invasive thoughts to take over.
6. Herbs to help
Herbs can lend an effective helping hand to a good sleep routine. Valerian is a very popular one, as it's a natural tranquilizer that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, without leaving you feeling drowsy the next day. It's often combined with other herbs such as hops, which is found in A.Vogel's Deep Sleep. Prepared using a combination of organically grown valerian and hops, Deep Sleep helps to gently relax your nervous system, allowing you to drift off into a deep, natural sleep.
Some herbs, such as lavender, are very popular in aromatherapy tinctures—placing a few drops on your pillow is thought to help you relax and sleep. Other herbs are very popular as teas, such as chamomile, which helps to soothe and relax your whole body, thus preparing you for a calm and quiet night.