What's stopping you from sleeping? Your Body or Your Mind?
Have you lain awake at night, sleep evading you, and you wonder what you've done wrong?
Is it your body not allowing you to sleep or is it your racing mind?
Often when we struggle to sleep we try to look back on our day to see where we went wrong in order to ensure it doesn't happen again.
And if we knew that 1 key thing that we could fix we would make sure we do it every day so that we slept like a baby every night.
The body itself needs to be tired enough so that it can rest and restore.
But the mind also needs to be relaxed and calm.
If you've had a pretty inactive day, your metabolism will feel generally sluggish and your circulation will be poor. Food may not have digested and your lungs may not have had enough fresh air. In fact, your body will feel that it's been in a kind of hibernation mode. So although you may well feel tired, this is really lethargy. You're not really prepped for sleep.
On the other hand, if your mind has been working overtime tackling difficult mental challenges and stresses throughout the day then you've probably produced a lot of stress hormones like cortisol that are still 'in your system.' This will prevent you from sleeping.
You will have also produced some adrenaline that you've not metabolised physically. And adrenaline will keep you awake too.
In effect, you remain vigilant and so the last thing your mind will do is sleep.
Now I'm starting to go round in circles here so I hope that you can see that it is a combination of mind and body that will help you to sleep.
The most important thing to remember is that sleep is a biological response. We were never taught how to sleep, we did it a lot as babies!
What we've done, in fact, is taught ourselves how NOT to sleep.
With the introduction of binge-watching box sets, video games, 24-hour news updates and the constant pressure to 'hustle,' sleep is still seen as a lazy trait. But it's exactly this kind of pressure that's leading to insomnia, and consequently mental illness like depression and anxiety.
So make sure both your mind AND your body are ready to sleep when it comes to bedtime.
Get plenty of fresh air
Signalling to your body that you are outdoors and active will help to reset the body clock. In particular, ensure you get some natural daylight first thing in the morning.
Get your muscles a little tired. You don't have to hit the gym - housework, gardening, or going for a long walk will all do the trick.
Learn how to relax
Relaxation and sleep are 2 different things but you need to relax first before you can sleep. Find a good wind-down routine that works for you.
Switch off work emails and texts in order to relax
You won't be able to relax if you remain vigilant - switching off from work alerts completely is the only way to do this.
Get it out of your head
If there is something on your mind, write it down to deal with later. Often when we have something on our mind we're not so concerned about the actual action we need to take but the fact we might forget to do it altogether. I keep a notebook and pen by the bed.
Falling asleep easily is a natural biological response to rest. The mind and body act as a whole - BOTH need to be ready for sleep. So make sure what you do during the day, from your head to your toes, is setting you up for a good nights sleep every night.
Gin Lalli email@example.com
Gin Lalli is a Solution Focused Therapist specialising in anxiety, depression, stress and sleep. She is based in Edinburgh, Scotland