One of the big questions I’ve heard from readers is this – how can I fall asleep quickly and easily?
I’m going to dig a bit here, because if you have this problem, then sleep must be a source of stress and anxiety for you. How did that happen? See if this sounds familiar…
It’s going to be a long day. Your child wakes you up early complaining of a fever. But you’ve got a huge deadline at work, you have to at least go in for the morning. You have a frantic conversation with your spouse trying to figure out how to split the work day. On your way out the door, you notice the dog had an ‘incident’ on the carpet. You clean it up, but now you’ve lost your head start on traffic – it’s bumper to bumper all the way to the office.
You arrive at work flustered and combative, but you get all your deliverables in. Except that one form Mary from accounting told you she’d take care of. She didn’t, and you only find out as you’re rushing out the door to relieve your partner from sick child duty.
You run in the door late – hot, flustered, defensive. Your spouse is upset but doesn’t have time to talk about it. Your child looks even sicker. You scrounge some snacks together for the two of you to hold you over ‘till dinner.
Wait, dinner? Don’t you usually pick up a pizza on the way home this night every week? Hey, that’s what delivery is for. Except it takes twice as long to get your order, and it’s completely wrong. You scarf down dinner just in time to get in bed.
Bed time, finally, but your spouse is still upset because you ran late and didn’t even bother to bring it up to apologize! You talk, but you’re both too tired to get any real resolution tonight. Eventually you both give up and turn off the light.
At last! Beautiful silence, comforting darkness, the cool, crisp sheets under you. You’ll be asleep in no time.
Except now it’s an hour later, you’re sick from sleepiness since you got up early this morning. You’ve just spent the past 60 minutes triple-checking your top priorities at work tomorrow, and imagining conversations with Mary in accounting at variable rage levels, and figuring out if you did the math wrong on the delivery driver’s tip (spoiler alert: that was less than 5%, your name is mud back at your favorite pizza joint right now).
Your skin is cool and clammy, you’re covered in a nice cold sweat. How in the world are you ever going to fall asleep? And how are you going to get through another day like this without some rest?
If this does sound familiar, you’re not alone. Sleep disruption like this is a completely normal and healthy response to stressful stimulus in our lives. Insomnia becomes chronic when we can’t break the cycle and this becomes our new routine. Here are some steps you can take to avoid letting that happen:
What can I do at bed time?
Sometimes interruptions to our daily routine are just unavoidable. And you may have to suffer through a few tired days, but the best thing you can do is remember that this isn’t permanent. The more you worry about falling asleep the harder it will be to do so. Do a bit of prep work to minimize stress:
Hide your alarm clock so you can’t see what time it is. Charge your phone in another room tonight. Make sure the bedroom is as dark and quiet as you can make it. Think about anything besides falling asleep and let it happen naturally – try a breathing practice, like this one that Dr. Weil suggests, to distract yourself.
What can I do when I’ve been lying awake in bed for a while?
Get out of the bedroom! Seriously, you’ll just be programming your brain to be more anxious in bed in the future. Go out and do some reading or journaling, or maybe try some meditation or mindfulness practices. Avoid blue lights and exercise as they can just wake you up further. And whatever you do, don’t turn on that TV or computer screen!
What can I do to avoid this in the future?
The next time a difficult day comes up, it’s best to have a backup plan.
First of all, get some extra sunlight during the day – a nice walk with do a lot to help you relax, and the additional sunlight can have a powerful effect on how fast you fall asleep. Next, expect your evening to be disrupted. Have a backup meal in the freezer so that you can eat at the normal time (later meals can affect the time you fall asleep). Acknowledge with your partner or family that the day was stressful, and that you want to take time to talk about it once everything has calmed down (trying to vent in the bedroom – which often happens when you haven’t planned on a time to talk about it – brings a negative association to a place that should be restful and impacts your mind’s ability to get quality rest). Have a backup activity in mind to let go of any anxiety you’re holding on to before bed (like journaling) or if you can’t fall asleep after 15 minutes (hypnosis track, guided meditation, or breathing exercises).
What can I do to end the cycle?
You’ll need to focus on a longer term strategy – it will take a few weeks, but you’ll start to see big changes in your sleep and energy levels. Because I’ve seen so many people struggle to get these changes implemented in their lives, I’m working on a FREE video course that will teach you how to make the process much easier and finally achieve restful sleep at night.
If you’d like early bird access to the course the minute it goes live, click below to sign up!
Also: check out our other articles on all-natural insomnia treatments and CBTi.