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I recently had this question asked of me on a social media group and I answered with how I personally deal with it. I wanted to share with my readers today my own experience on “how do I go to sleep when I’m stressed”.
How to go to sleep when you are stressed can be very difficult because you need to be able to let go temporarily to clear your mind of your worries and concerns even when you know you are going to need to address it later. That little voice inside your head just keeps popping back in and seems impossible to stop it from rambling on. I often have this same issue, even waking during the night with my mind already trying to work out problems as I become aware that I am awake. What I do myself to go to sleep can take some practice and may come with varying degrees of success. After having used this sleep technique for years I later learned I was practicing my own personal version of guided imagery that can often be recommended to help people sleep and lower stress. How do I go to sleep when I’m stressed or can’t shut down? Let me start at the beginning with each step I take to go to sleep.
Sleep Environment – Setting the Stage for Sleep
The first part of a good night’s sleep is making sure your bedroom is ready for you to go to sleep. This should be common sense for the most part, but maybe some things we might take for granted. My bed and pillow need to be comfortable, my bedroom is cool and I turn on a fan to drown out disruptive noises. A little weight to my covers can help to make things feel snug but not imperative.
Consider special needs
If you have allergies make sure the room is kept dusted and vacuumed well to eliminate respiratory problems that can make sleeping uncomfortable. Also, if you have problems with acid reflux or related issues, it can help to raise the head of the bed a little with a block of wood or other method just and inch or two. It is not the recommended method but I use several pillows to raise my upper body slightly at night for this reason.
Make it dark
I cover all my light sources except for my alarm clock. I have various cable boxes, TV power switches, and power strips that put off enough light at night to keep me awake so I keep an old wash cloth nearby to cover them each. I also bought some heavy curtains for the big window in my room. Bed for me is early and often comes before the sun goes down. This can also help to keep the temperature in the room cooler on hot summer days when their air conditioner struggles to keep you cool. With the room darkened it sends your brain the signal that it is time for the sleep cycle.
Minimize sleep disturbance
For me, and for some of you, we have pets or children that can cause disruption to our sleep at night. I try to make sure the pets have been pottied and they have water or food if needed during the night and they have a designated place to sleep. I know some of us are very fond of our pets and they sleep near to us at night, but it is best if they have their own space. This can be especially true if you have allergies.
When my children were younger I would make sure any needs for them were set up and we would take turns with them if they woke so that we could each get a measure of sleep. Perhaps it may be a turn each night or maybe one of us would take the early half of the night and the other take the late half.
Winding down – letting yourself know its time to sleep
I wind down about 15 to 30 minutes with a relaxing activity. Usually a nature show on TV or something without a plot to make you want to see what will happen or be suspenseful and pump you up. Sometimes a simple word game on the phone. I know this sounds counter to most advice out there to use electronics before bed, but the idea is to let your body and mind slow down and know it is time to sleep. The point is to draw your focus away from the problems of the day. You could substitute any activity you enjoy that lets you relax and doesn’t work you up. Such as read a book or believe it or not color a picture. It just needs to be something relaxing to occupy your mind instead of worries or concerns.
I have a pocket pad with my to do list of important things to work on already set out for tomorrow so I don’t have to rehash over and over all night worried I will forget something as this is something I may often wake up thinking about in the middle of the night and I can tell myself that I won’t forget because I have it on my list.
Sleep Technique – How Do I go to Sleep
Now, as I lay there I take a few deep breaths paying attention to them as I slow them a little more with each breath. I hear the sound of my breath, I feel my chest rise and fall and the beating of my heart, I also hear the sound of the fan. In my mind I sometimes may repeat a phrase several times…”relax”……while breathing out. Then…. I attempt to initiate dreaming from a phrase I found on TV once….stay with me….I repeat slowly in my mind almost in a chant and drawing our the last word a little more each time…”open your mind”…”open your m-i-n-d”. While doing this my eyes roll around slightly finding a comfortable spot and letting my mind drift for the first image that comes to mind. Don’t try to make it happen. If your inner voice begins to talk try to focus on the sounds around you again and on the phrase you are using to put your self into a drifting state. A bit of light may seem to come into my mind …a sky…water…or other beginning but don’t try to focus on it. Its almost like when you see something out of the corner of your eye. It may seem fleeting and may go through a number of changes. When your mind is ready it will grab an image and begin to dream. When it does let your eyes remain in that area still not trying to focus and letting them keep the same pattern of movement they are already in. You are not asleep yet. Go with the flow here what ever it changes or flips into. Let it continue to drift. It will then lead you into sleep. You will not even realize the transition when you slip into sleep from this phase. This has worked for me for many years. But the key is like reading a book. You have to be willing to let go temporarily, confident that you will handle your worries tomorrow.
What if I Wake up During the Night
If you wake up during the night try not to look at the clock or become distressed that you have wakened. This may only create anxiety and work against you going back to sleep. If you were in a dream when you awakened stay relaxed and try to remember where it left off. If you woke up to go to the bathroom don’t turn on any light and try to remain on the dream you had as you began to awake. It can often help you quickly return to sleep. You want to avoid your inner voice from starting up. If not, try to go through the clearing routine from the beginning of the night.
Conclusion – Can This Help Me Go to Sleep
How do I go to sleep when I’m stressed? I follow this routine and you can do it too. My wife has been envious for years that I can usually fall asleep within minutes. This is how I go to sleep at night. You can substitute your own phrases that help you get into the frame of mind needed and you may even picture places you would like to be or enjoy such as the ocean or a forest, etc. But if your mind wants to drift away to another scene let the picture flow. I find the mental effort to remain on a scene intentionally may keep me from falling asleep.
The first key to this whole idea is to make sure first you are removing any disturbances or discomforts that would physically make it difficult to sleep. Obviously you wouldn’t want to eat too close to bed or use caffeinated products or alcohol near bedtime as well. Caffeine will make it difficult to go to sleep and alcohol like in most people wakes me back up later at night.
The second key is that the method I use to go to sleep is no more than a way to divert your mind off of the daily stresses, worries and concerns that we tend to dwell on so much. I am just mapping out a process to go through to help achieve that. And it does sometimes take a little practice. You may or may not choose to use a sleep aid along with this technique. I have done both ways and been successful both ways. It is a personal choice if you feel the need.
This works for me. It costs nothing. I hope sharing this experience may give you a way to find sleep.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. You should seek the advice of a doctor if you need medical treatment. Read full disclosure here.
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