What to do when you can’t get to sleep

Something that crops up again and again in counselling sessions is the debilitating effect that anxiety and unwanted thoughts can have on clients’ ability to sleep.  And of course, most of us have been there….  At the end of the day, we climb into bed, hoping to drift into a deep and peaceful sleep, when our minds decide that now would be a good time to start thinking about everything that’s going on in our lives just now, and we lay tossing and turning for hours instead.
So here are a few ideas that may help you fall into that seemingly elusive sleep when anxiety and unwanted thoughts seem determined to keep you awake.

  • Get into a night-time routine

Whether this is taking a warm bath, reading a book, or listening to some calming music, getting your body relaxed can help to settle your mind too, and provides a transition from being awake to being asleep.

  • Reduce alcohol/caffeinated drinks or rich food

As well as triggering your digestive system, your brain is stimulated by alcohol, caffeine, and rich foods, so try changing your food and drink intake at least an hour before you want to sleep.

  • Cut out mobile phones/tablet/laptop use

The light that these devices emit can stimulate the brain, so try not to use your devices for at least an hour before you go to bed and, if possible, keep them out of the bedroom altogether.

  • Write down all the thoughts going round and round in your head

Sometimes the action of getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper can trick the brain into thinking you’ve dealt with whatever you’re worried about, and so it stops worrying about it.  And whatever it is you’re worried about, often doesn’t seem so bad/overwhelming in the morning.

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day

By sticking to the same routine, even on non-working days, your body will soon get used to working to this clock and will remember what time it is supposed to sleep and rest.  Don’t be tempted to stay in bed longer in the morning to make up for the sleep you lost – the more tired you are during the day, the more likely you are to sleep better that night, although if you really are struggling, try taking a 20 minute power nap instead.

So there you go… A few suggestions to help you get to sleep and allow your mind to rest.
Let me know if you have any suggestions of your own, by commenting below.
Next time, we’ll look at how to make it easier to get up in the mornings.
Take care,

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