Do you find yourself often awake in the middle of the night, staring at the clock at 2:00 a.m., wondering if you will be able to fall asleep again? Or perhaps it takes you hours to fall asleep.
Maybe it is at the point that you almost dread going to bed. You are tired of wrestling with your pillow and your blankets, tossing and turning hoping a different sleep position will help. You worry about the emotional distress that insomnia is causing you. And you are concerned about the long-term effects or health problems associated with insomnia.
Even though it may sound counterintuitive, it’s important to stop worrying about your sleep. Instead, focus on changing the way you are thinking about sleep and taking proactive steps to help improve sleep.
Thoughts About Sleep
When you struggle with sleep, it doesn’t take long for your brain to create a running cycle of anxious thoughts about it. And then you may make an association that nighttime and sleep are stressful.
Unfortunately, these thoughts only perpetuate your sleep problems. In place of them, you can learn to approach your beliefs about sleep differently.
You can do this by doing your best to create habits that are conducive to sleep and then accepting that you can’t control what your body will do. Remind yourself that it’s okay to be short on sleep. While you may be tired the next day, your body will probably make up for it by sleeping better the next night. These are some examples of challenging your anxious thoughts about sleep.
Tips to Improving Sleep
Learning to stop worrying about the quantity and quality of your sleep isn’t easy. As you learn to change the way you think, sleep will get easier.
The tips below are evidence-based strategies to encourage better sleep.
Get Rid of Your Clock
While you’re probably eager to know how much sleep you’re actually getting each night, having a clock in the room can create problems. You will end up staring at it, watching the minutes and maybe hours pass. This only increases your worried thoughts and distress about insomnia.
Try taking your clock out of the room instead. And continue to set an alarm, but make sure you can’t see the time on a clock or on your phone.
Get Out of Bed
Instead of tossing and turning, it’s important to get out of bed when you can’t sleep. Try to do something relaxing, such as reading a book or watching TV. You could even play music or do an art project.
And when you feel ready, get back in bed and try to sleep again. We can’t force sleep to come and by doing something else, it helps distract you from focusing on sleep.
Only Use Your Bed Only for Sleep
If you use your bed for things like reading, watching TV or even working, your body can become accustomed to being alert and active in that space. Instead, limit your bed to using it only for sleep and physical intimacy.
This is important because it helps our brain create a strong association between the bed and sleep. When we have this association, it becomes easier to fall and stay asleep.
Create a Buffer Zone
For 1-2 hours before bed, only engage in relaxing activities. Many of us are working from home and it’s harder to set boundaries between work and leisure activities.
Set up a routine for yourself where 1-2 hours before bed, you do things that are relaxing. Reading, watching TV, taking bath, or whatever feels relaxing to you. Stop doing any work or even looking at social media or the news. This will help you prepare for bedtime.
Worry and anxiety often interfere with sleep. But learning relaxation techniques can help you manage these emotions. It will also help your body relax and fall to sleep more easily.
Relaxation techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness exercises. Physical exercise, even a walk, is also a simple way to help yourself relax. Physical exercise during the day can also improve sleep at night.
Learning to change your thoughts about sleep can really improve insomnia. These strategies are part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-i). If you are struggling with sleep and eager to find relief, please reach out to our office to learn more. We can provide a free consultation to see if CBT-i is a good fit for you.