We all know about our need to sleep and the consequences for not getting enough of nature’s precious elixir. Many of my clients report that they are having difficulty falling and staying asleep. I recommend being mindful about preparation for your daily recharge. Are you eating foods close to bedtime that may haunt? Do you consume alcoholic beverages prior to sleep? If you answered yes and can’t sleep, then don’t do that! Alcohol in small quantities is a stimulant and larger quantities can disturb a healthy night of sleep. Is the bedroom dark and peaceful? If not, then try making it so. Try playing a soothing nature cd of ocean waves ebbing and flowing, a rain forest or a peaceful babbling brook gently playing in the background.
Are you pondering all your choirs and searching for answers to all of life’s questions and problems while lying on your back in your pajamas, staring at the ceiling at midnight? Is this rational?? Are you really going to solve life’s problems here and now? You’ve heard the phrase, sleep on it. How many times have you awoken in the morning with an answer to your problem? We process problems and conflicts in our sleep.
Try “Taking Ten”. Breathe in slowly through the nose to a four count. Hold it a moment or two and then very slowly and mindfully, pace yourself to exhale out the nose (not mouth) on a six count. This can be done as often as needed or when you need to find calm elsewhere in the day. This will relax the body and mind and help to internalize stray thoughts. Remind and reassure yourself that problems and conflicts can be better addressed during and after a good sleep and that tomorrow’s another day for tackling the issues weighing heavy on your mind.
Try Guided Imagery. Start with Taking Ten breathing. Then let your mind wander to a pleasant and safe place like a secluded beach you have been taken with in the past. Envision yourself walking along the deserted beach barefoot in the warm soft sand. The sun embraces your face, arms and shoulders like a warm blanket out of the dryer on a cold morning. Listen as the ocean hushes a gentle roar as it ebbs and flows. The sun glistens off the tiny peaks of the ocean like shimmering yellow white diamonds. The smell of the saltwater is in the air and the mist feels calming on your face. Some playful cotton candy clouds drift by ever so lightly in the sky. A lone seagull peacefully glides by, coming from nowhere and going to the same. You continue to slowly stroll by, going nowhere in particular as you mindfully explore your deserted beach. The more senses you incorporate into the thought process, the more real it becomes and the more you are there and not in bed wrestling with your demons.
Another method is to “Go with the Flow”, where you “Take Ten”, close your eyes and simply let your mind go blank and consciously watch and listen to the variety of fleeting subconscious images and sounds that pop before you, without judgment or analysis, just observe and think, “cool” or “interesting” and absolutely nothing more and continue to follow them as you quickly and unnoticeably bridge the gap between consciousness and the unconscious realms and drift into a peaceful sleep. Most of my clients have reported to have fallen asleep within about 10 minutes of doing this fascinating exercise.
And the obvious, don’t drink coffee or caffeinated beverages late in the day or a lot of liquids before retiring. Don’t watch television in bed. Don’t take your arguments with your mate to bed. Agree to talk about and discuss your problems in the morning over breakfast. The bedroom should be a safe haven, conducive to peaceful rest and retirement from the tumult of the day. Sweet Dreams!
Jody Koval, LPC is a psychotherapist in Glastonbury. He works with people to help them cope with life’s adjustments, with the goal that they can function better and live life to its fullest. For more information call (860) 657-6123 or see his listing on PsychologyToday.com.