The 3 Things That Are Keeping You up at Night (and What to Do Instead)
The idea of unwinding from the busyness of our day before bed can often feel like a luxury many of us simply can’t afford. We check emails after dinner, pay our bills, and scroll through social media, with little time left to unplug or relax before our heads hit the pillow.
As a result, we go to bed physically tired yet mentally alert. We are desperate to fall asleep quickly but instead, many of us lie in bed tossing and turning well beyond lights out. Trouble falling asleep can leave us feeling frustrated, anxious or even fearful that we have some sleep related condition.
Many of the habits we have that prevent us from sleeping are invisible because they relate to our thinking patterns. Thoughts are much more than just ideas swirling around in our minds; they have the power to alter our nervous systems, trigger our stress responses, and keep us awake, despite our deep desire for sleep.
Here are 3 common (and invisible) habits that may be keeping you up at night, and what you can do to end tossing and turning once and for all:
- Going to bed without a transitionary period. Just like a car can’t go from 100 miles per hour to stationary in the blink of an eye, we cannot shift from waking to sleep without a transition. We can quickly become frustrated or even anxious as we lie in bed, trying in vain to sleep. These feelings create an energy that triggers the fight or flight response. From this state, it becomes very difficult to fall asleep.
We need to change the way we think about bedtime so that it includes a winding down transition as a normal and valuable aspect of the process. When you alter the way you ‘think’ about bedtime, your thoughts and emotions will follow suit. This will cause your body to naturally relax, and sleep will soon follow.
- Replaying your day. Many of us get into bed at night and find, to our disappointment, that our minds are keen to replay the events of the day before. Oftentimes, we aren’t replaying the things that went well, like the good decisions we made and the conversations that ran smoothly. Instead, we often replay the mistakes we made, and the conversations that left us feeling uneasy. These thoughts produce subtle signs of stress that put us on edge and unable to sleep.
Learning to swap the habit of ‘replaying the day’ with the practice of ‘letting go’ is a powerful bedtime exercise. Focusing on letting go quietens your mind, relaxes your body and also creates space for you to feel peaceful and at ease as you drift off.
- Planning for tomorrow. It’s common to lie in bed and plan for the day ahead. Our minds trick us into believing that if we continually think about the details of tomorrow, we will feel more in control and at ease. Unfortunately, these repetitive thoughts often have underlying feelings of anxiety. Instead of feeling reassured, this invisible habit actually puts us on alert.
Learning to swap the habit of ‘planning for tomorrow’ for ‘mindful awareness’ is a powerful bedtime practice. By focusing on your breath, your body, and the safety of the present moment, you can soothe your nervous system and return your body to its natural state of balance. When you practice mindful awareness, deep, restorative, sleep becomes possible.
Taking the time for yourself to truly unwind will help you enter the world of sleep from a more relaxed state. This will help you sleep deeply and wake feeling refreshed as your body and mind have been able to heal and regenerate all night long.
About the Author
Fleur Chambers is an internationally recognized meditation teacher and the creator of The Happy Habit app. Her guided meditations and online courses have been downloaded over 1 million times in more than 35 countries around the world. Fleur’s meditation style is suitable for those new to meditation and also those more experienced meditators. To learn more about Fleur’s teaching, go to https://www.thehappyhabit.com.au/.
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