Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stress Post #3: How to Sleep Well

In case you missed it, check out Stress Post #1 (here) and Stress Post #2 (here).

Today's post is inspired by my dad. He's always been great with advice, and a conversation with him yesterday reminded me that I owe a lot of my restful nights to him. I mentioned in my first stress post that I have struggled with anxiety and sleeplessness most of my life. I remember one night being so frustrated with myself that I woke up my dad and asked him to help me.

Falling Asleep
My dad recognized that I just needed to calm down, and I think that is a major issue for many insomniacs or anyone who struggles with sleep. Whether you're stressed about work, anxious about the next day, dealing with relationship issues, or having trouble with something else, calming yourself is sure to help you fall asleep. Here's the trick my dad gave me. It's a little meditation scene that seriously clears your head. I never get to the end because I'm already asleep!

Close your eyes. Imagine a clear, blue sky with one big cloud. Slowly follow the cloud down to a tall oak tree. Zero in on one leaf in that tree. Imagine the leaf starts to fall, and watch it slowly, slowly, slowly drift back and forth, back and forth, back and forth in the air. When the leaf lands, it is in a long, winding river. Follow the leaf as it drifts down the winding river. (I've never actually gotten to the river part!)

The key to this calming scene is to really take in every detail of the scene. Let your mind explore every detail of the cloud, all the lines on the leaf, the gentle breeze blowing the leaf through the air. Your mind is so transfixed on all the details that you can't get preoccupied with whatever was on your mind before.

Staying Asleep
We've all had those nights where we toss and turn or wake up every hour. Here are my tips for staying asleep:

  • Calm yourself before you go to bed. Stress and adrenaline keep us awake! So read a (non-Stephen King) book, watch a comforting TV show (Friends, anyone?), take ten deep breaths, or try my leaf meditation. 
  • Exercise during the day. If you can do it in the morning, that's ideal, but if you need to work out later, try to do it at least before dinner. That way, your body has time to unwind before bed. Working out gets your body comfortably tired. It's good for you to feel that healthy exhaustion, as long as you get a good sleep to get you ready for the next day.
  • Keep the room dark and quiet. My husband is totally going to call me out on this one because I always fall asleep with the TV on, but we have a "sleep" function on our bedroom TV that shuts the TV off within 20 minutes. Having the TV on all night is bound to wake you or keep you awake. Lights also tell your body it's time to wake up.
I sleep so much better now than I did as a child or in college. I hope these tips help you, and if you have more, please comment below!
Thanks, Dad!


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