Do you ever find yourself struggling to fall asleep at the end of a stressful day? If so, then you’re not alone. Many of us can get stuck thinking about our long to-do lists, replaying the events of the day, or carrying so much tension in our body that it feels impossible to fall asleep. While it can be tempting to distract ourselves by watching television or playing on our phones, research suggests that this might adversely impact our sleep quality. So if you’re someone who is looking for alternative strategies to quiet your mind at the end of the day, try out some of the techniques below.
Journaling is a great practice to incorporate into your nightly routine and can range from a quick, five-minute list-making practice to longer contemplative practice. If you’re someone who struggles to fall asleep because you can’t stop thinking about everything you have to do tomorrow, try making a list so you won’t forget. While writing it down might not relieve all your anxiety, it can provide a sense of control over the situation and if you do it regularly, eventually it can act as a signal to your body that it’s time for bed. Similarly, if you find yourself replaying the events of the day, try to write about it. That could look like stream-of-consciousness journaling, writing down your feelings about a specific event, or maybe even noting any moments of gratitude. There is no right or wrong way to journal, and you can always adjust depending on what feels most helpful. Be creative, find what works for you, and stick with it!
Engage Your Senses
One of the most effective ways to stay in the present moment is to engage any of our five senses. By intentionally focusing to the present moment experience, we are better able to let the anxiety of the day drift into the background and to attend to our physiological need for sleep. There are countless ways to engage our senses, but below I’ve made a few suggestions that can get you started.
- Diffuse calming essential oils such as lavender, ylang-ylang, or chamomile
- Drink a warm cup of tea–some brands even make special bedtime blends!
- Use a weighted blanket or place a DIY rice bag over your shoulders to help decompress
- Apply your favorite lotion
- Listen to soft music
- Try a white noise machine
Deep breathing is one of my favorite tools and can be used almost anywhere! Breathing might sound like a funny suggestion to help you fall asleep, considering it’s something most of us do without thinking. But deep breathing is different in that you inhale deep into your belly, rather than taking shallow breaths into your chest (which is what we do normally). Deep breathing helps regulate your nervous system and is a powerful tool for releasing tension.
Step-by-Step to Deep Breathing:
(If you have any concerns or medical conditions, please consult your doctor before practicing deep breathing.)
To begin, find a comfortable, quiet space. Next, lie down and place one hand over your heart and the other hand over your stomach. Once you are settled, begin to inhale slowly through your nose for a few seconds. Try to send your breath down into your belly so that your stomach (not your chest) begins to rise as you inhale. Pause for a moment and then exhale slowly through your mouth and notice your belly fall back down.
Continue this process for a few cycles, or however long feels right for you. After a while, you might find yourself feeling more relaxed and better able to fall asleep.
Remember that deep breathing might take some time to practice, as it is a shift away from our normal breathing patterns. If you don’t get it on the first try, that’s okay! Any way you can connect to your breath is helpful, so be patient and keep practicing sending your breath down into your belly. You’ve got this! Happy sleeping!