Insomnia can have various causes. However, worrying is one of the most common reasons people suffer from chronic sleep loss. If your mind goes into overdrive when your head hits the pillow and conjures up mountains of molehills, it’s no wonder you’re having trouble falling asleep.
Here’s how to stop fear stealing shuteye. First, you’re more likely to rewire your brain for sleep if you understand why it’s currently wired for insomnia.
Repetition creates neural pathways
Repetitive behaviors, such as worrying at night, turn into habits. Your brain is wired for insomnia when you’ve spent several nights wide awake, mulling over problems. Just as it takes time to generate neural pathways in the brain through repetition, it takes time to ignore old trails and create new, preferred trails.
The following tips may help you fall asleep, but they may not work right away. Instead, be patient and carry them out until they become a habit. Once you’ve forged new neural connections, it’ll be easier to sleep every night.
Create a routine to help you relax
Anxiety increases when you go to bed because you expect to stay awake. After all, that’s what usually happens. So, since stress keeps you alert when you want to sleep, you don’t want to create anxiety.
Follow a routine to help your body and mind relax when it’s nearly bedtime, rather than increasing stress and enduring insomnia. Learning the same habits every night will put you in the mood to shut down your busy mind and rest.
Your routine might be to take calming lavender essential oil in a warm bath an hour before bed and then sit down to read. Or maybe you prefer listening to soothing music, writing in a journal, or doing something else relaxing before going to bed.
If you expect insomnia, your anxiety will increase. People who have trouble sleeping often tell themselves to fall asleep immediately when they go to bed, assuming they can force the problem. But this creates resistance and tension.
Rather than pressure yourself to sleep, imagine resting and enjoying peaceful thoughts. Your changed attitude will help to ignore old neural pathways in your brain and give way to the new habit of sleeping.
Calm your worries
If the stress builds while you’re trying to sleep, remember that there’s never a good reason to worry. Discussing problems does not make sense and does not help.
Keep in mind that difficulties fall into one of two categories:
- You have the power to change problems and make positive changes.
- You can do nothing about the challenges you face.
Consequently, you can change the cause of anxiety and eliminate the difficulty. Or accept that you can’t change anything and have to accept the situation. Either way, you have no reason to fear.
slow down your thoughts
Soothe your system so you can continue your sleep with gentle, mindful exercise. Let thoughts appear in bed and acknowledge them. When you notice them, imagine them shrinking, floating away, or disappearing. Use your mind to imagine their insignificance fading.
The practice may not be easy at first, but practice and you will see positive results. The same is true when thoughts flow like self-talk. Lower their volume or change them to make them funny; worries broadcast as a squeaky voice of cartoon characters, for example, will lose their importance and disappear.
Focus on your body
Then focus on physical experience rather than mental noise. Think of your body, starting with your feet, and imagine your muscles relaxing. Slowly work your way up to the crown of your head while also following your breath. There’s no room to worry about streaming and you get sleepy.
Worrying can keep you awake and steal much-needed shuteye. Pay attention to the suggestions listed in the order given, and you will rewire your brain to help you sleep well.