If you are currently having trouble getting to sleep…
- Rotate your clock away from you (don’t watch the clock or check your phone if you can’t sleep). Try not to worry if you can’t fall asleep, and remind yourself that your body will eventually take over and help you sleep
- Disconnect from close-range electronic devices such as laptops, phones, and tablets, as the light from their screens can alert the brain and make it harder to fall asleep
- If you are awake for more than 20 minutes in bed, move to a different part of the house (one without bright lights). Do something relaxing for a while, until you begin to feel tired and come back to bed
- Make sure your sleep environment is quiet and dark throughout the night. Use darkening shades to block streetlights and early morning light, and a fan or noise machine to block sounds
In thought-stopping, you willfully force your mind to think thoughts that keep you awake. For example, you may think about your boss chewing you out tomorrow. You mull it over, every detail. Now, try, suddenly, ordering yourself to “Stop!” If the thought creeps back, yell to yourself again, “Stop!” Keep interrupting your unpleasant thought with unpleasant commands to yourself.
There are two explanations why the thought-stopping relaxation technique works:
- The word “Stop!” forces an immediate shifting of our attention, which will lead us away from preoccupying thoughts.
- Thought-stopping proves you have control. That awareness can lea to self-assuring, self-accepting thoughts – thoughts that are more conducive to sleep.
Worrying that you must sleep can cause performance anxiety – and actually keep you awake. Reversing the thought pattern, telling yourself you must stay awake for as long as possible can help you become sleepy naturally without putting yourself under pressure. You may want to try concentrating on keeping your eyes open.
Inhale deeply through your nose. The pucker your lips, and exhale slowly. Breathe out as long as possible. Imagine that the sound of your breath exhaling is tension draining from your body.
Counting is another popular relaxation technique. Close your eyes and relax. Count backwards slowly from 100 to zero. Visualize the numbers being written slowly and carefully by a calligrapher, or on a staircase, with the numbers descending with the steps. Use your imagination for other scenarios. Continue until sleep overtakes you.
Think of an object that you find simple and pleasing. Study every detail in your mind. Or, picture a colour shifting into beautiful patterns and hues, blending and changing. Imagine a quiet setting – snowflakes softly falling or a spring day in the country, with cows and horses grazing in a meadow. Feel the picture by engaging all of your senses. If you’re on the beach, feel the sun on your face, your toes in the sand, the breeze on your skin, the ocean air smell.
Floating can be an effective relaxation technique. Imagine you’re floating on air. Picture yourself floating like a falling lead, or riding down a long escalator. The lower you float, the calmer you are.
Brief (5-15 minutes)