During times of stress and uncertainty, sleep can really suffer which ends up in a vicious cycle of fatigue and restlessness.
I have experienced insomnia at different stages of my life. All of them were due to different levels of anxiety. Sometimes my brain would just refuse to shut off. These are a few things I found helpful with the use of a sleep aid being an absolute last resort.
Create a sleep routine
This will differ for everyone, but the idea is to let your mind know that you are getting ready to wind down. As a rule, electronics should be avoided, especially visual stimuli but there are certain ways that they can be helpful which I will discuss in upcoming blogs.
Some elements of my bedtime routine include a refreshing shower, clean fresh pajamas, and a soothing cup of caffeine-free tea.
A soothing cup of caffeine-free tea
Rooibos tea is a favorite of mine, stemming from my upbringing in Southern Africa. Generally, herbal teas are recommended at night. Chamomile and Valerian root teas in particular have a calming effect and very earthy tastes, which in my opinion are very grounding as well. Some people may prefer a warm cup of milk or hot cocoa.
Avoid strong scents
I cannot emphasize this enough. This ranges from cologne to room fresheners. Maintain neutral clean scents for your skin, clothing, and bedding. Keep any floral, fruity, or spicy scents for the daytime. This will prevent over-stimulation of your olfactory senses. Some people suggest mild herbal scents like lavender. I personally prefer a clean cotton scent if any, but it is worth experimenting to see what works for you.
Do not get into bed until you are ready to sleep
This means do not work from bed, read on bed, or do anything on the bed other than sleeping (with the exception of intimate activities of course!). Let your mind create the association of the bed and sleep. This applies to the bedroom in general. Avoid going into the bedroom except to sleep, if that is at all possible.
Keep a neutral decor and color palette
I have a bubbly bright personality, but over the years with my insomnia struggles, I have learned to not translate those tastes into the bedroom. Avoid busy patterns that would stimulate the brain. I think great colors for the bedroom are pastels, blues, and grays. I had to make the change from florals to grays.
Coffee, pre-workout, caffeinated soda, you name it.
Wait at least 3 hours after your last meal before sleeping
This is to reduce chances of reflux which could interrupt sleep.
Keep the room temperature at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit or 18.3 degrees Celsius.
Avoid anxiety triggers
Do not watch the news before sleeping. Do not think of the work that has to get done the next day. Do think about something that makes you calmer. Meditate on some scripture, a personal favorite of mine is Psalm 23.
Keep the room dark
Avoid any unnecessary light sources. Choose your alarm clock with caution, red lights are more soothing as opposed to other lights. If you have anxiety, keep a touch lamp on your nightstand for easy access to light if you need it.
Go to your happy place
This may sound cliche and child-like, but there is nothing wrong with momentarily seeking that child-like security and comfort. More on this in the coming blogs.
A simple breathing technique that consists of breathing in through your nose, holding it for 3 to 4 seconds, and then breathing out slowly through the mouth, can be quite helpful to ward of anxiety attacks. i get anxiety attacks quite rarely now, but I still employ that breathing technique when I get in bed to calm my mind.
Externalize your thoughts
If you have tried all of the above, and your mind still will not settle down, I find that externalizing thoughts can be very helpful. I keep notebooks around me ready to write at all times. If you don’t want to get out of bed and find a book, then just open the notes app on your phone and just write down what you are thinking of. You will be surprised to see how often, it is just one or two thoughts playing on a loop. having a tangible form of it, outside your mind, is something I find incredibly helpful.
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