No, it doesn't just happen to you when it's time to go to sleep, your body is exhausted, but your mind is bombarded with all sorts of thoughts and reflections on the day's experiences, to-do lists and daily challenges.
If your thoughts are preventing you from getting a good night's sleep, you can change that pattern that may be negatively affecting your health.
There are several techniques provided by different experts. Today I present the ones that have proven to be most effective, with the intention that at least one of them may be useful to you.
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. Reserve your bedroom for sleeping and turn it into a resting space. Try, as much as you can, to keep your room tidy, decorated with colours and textures that induce relaxation. Also, try to keep your work material such as documents, computers, and screens out of the bedroom.
To help you build that sanctuary, consider using a diffuser with essential oils such as lavender or damask rose to help you sleep.
- Don't stay awake in bed. If you have not been able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of putting your head on the pillow, get up, engage in a relaxing activity such as journaling, reading, listening to an audio story or wisdom reflection, or listening to sleep-inducing music. When you begin to feel drowsy, go back to bed.
This technique is known as stimulus control, and although it sounds paradoxical, many people find that engaging in a relaxing activity outside of bed helps to occupy their brain in a positive way. In this way, the negative association that people with insomnia or restless sleep develop in relation to bedtime is broken. (article)
- Think positively. Highlight the pleasant aspects of your life, or at least the positive things that happened during the day and be thankful for them. Sometimes keeping a gratitude journal allows you to weigh positive events against the not-so-positive ones that happened during the day and gives you the opportunity to see that it is more positive things than negative things that make up your life and you can be grateful for them.
- When confronted with insomnia at bedtime, deep controlled breathing can help. It involves changing the rhythm of your breathing with an emphasis on slowing it down and making it deeper. This will allow you to slow your heart rate and slowly distance yourself from feelings of anxiety and worry.
- Meditation. Meditation is often thought of as a practice of yogis or mystics, but the truth is that it is much closer to home and concerns us all.
- Visualisation. It's not about forming an image of yourself in the future, is it? The idea behind visualisation is that you build a scenario rich in images, colours, tactile sensations, aromas and sounds that occupy you and at the same time keep you away from undesirable thoughts at that moment of the night.
- For this technique to work, it is important to tap into your sensory memory and exercise to acutely perceive smells, textures, colours to immerse yourself in the visualisation.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Sometimes, we can only become aware of how tense our muscles are when it manifests itself through a backache, headache, or when we feel or receive a massage on the affected area.
- Progressive muscle relaxation is done by consciously and orderly tensing the various areas of the body, for example: start by tightly tensing the feet, then calves, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, chest, shoulders, neck and finally the muscles of the face. Hold for about 10 seconds and relax all muscles together with a relieving exhalation. Repeat this 3-5 times.
- Schedule the worry time before getting into bed. According to Dr Raj Dasgupta, a sleep specialist and associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, repeatedly list all the things you have to do (or haven't done), but it only works if you do it before bedtime.
- Another option is to write down a list of things you must do the next day - you can even email it to yourself. According to Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, professor of medicine and director of sleep research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, this gives you satisfaction and the realisation that it's nighttime and you can't do anything with that list until the next day.
- If exercise is part of your daily activities, make sure you have hydrated sufficiently during the day. Sometimes, if your body has not consumed enough water or electrolytes, aches, strains or even muscle cramps can wake you up in the middle of the night. So, try to drink enough water during the day, but avoid drinking up to 3 hours before bedtime so you don't have to get up to go to the bathroom during the night.
- In the same area of exercise, enough protein intake is crucial and if you are following protocols such as intermittent fasting, ketogenic cycles or even vegan or vegetarian diets, protein intake may be insufficient, and this can cause insomnia. In this case, it is advisable to consume a little milk protein (if you are not intolerant) with your last meal as, "it is believed that the high amount of tryptophan (Try), from which melatonin is synthesised, contained in milk and dairy products can suppress the action of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The anti-inflammatory effects of milk and dairy products, due to the fact that they contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components, as well as changes in activity in the brain-gut-microbiome axis, have recently attracted considerable attention in the scientific literature". (study).
- Finally, the way you eat during the day can help you maintain energy and dynamism, but also, healthy eating can help you sleep better.
- A dietary protocol that maintains a balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals ensures a restful night's sleep. In particular, it is advisable to avoid foods that are dense, spicy or high in sugar.
- The timing of your meals also plays a role. Nutrition experts recommend in general, as well as for patients with reflux, to have dinner at least 3 hours before going to bed.
- Finally, avoid drinking alcohol in the evening. According to an article in the journal Sleep Health Solutions, although it may seem easier to fall asleep after drinking alcohol, it tends to disrupt sleep patterns throughout the night. With just a few alcoholic drinks, people can experience restless or interrupted sleep. In addition, alcohol can block REM sleep, which is key to feeling rested in the morning. For a better night's sleep, try switching to a non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverage such as an aromatic chamomile drink, which has calming antioxidants that decrease anxiety and help you fall asleep.
All these mental "tricks" and relaxation tips are useful from a conditioning point of view, if your body starts to get used to the fact that restful sleep follows these practices, it starts to adapt and will enter more and more easily into the state of relaxation that will increase your chances of getting a better night's sleep. Don't hesitate to try them out.