Imagine that tomorrow you have a really important presentation to give to the board of directors at your company. This presentation could make or break your career. Which situation below would you be most likely to follow?
Mindset 1: When you go to bed, your body relaxes, your mind lets go of the day and you slowly but surely drift off to sleep. You awake the next day revitalised and full of energy.
Mindset 2: When you get into bed, your body tenses, your mind fills with thoughts, so many issues that need sorting, anxiety kicks in, you start to doubt if you will ever get to sleep. You close your eyes, but your mind chatters away. “Will you shut up!” you think to yourself, “I need to be up at 7am tomorrow for this presentation!” But your mind continues to chatter away. Then you get a horrible sinking feeling, “am I really prepared enough for tomorrow?” Three hours later, full of stress and worry about the presentation, you fall asleep due to shear exhaustion. You awake the next day sleepy, grumpy and anxious.
The examples above reflect the same person, with the same circumstances, but with one big difference, mindset. A change in mindset can decide the difference between a chronic insomniac and natural deep sleeper.
No matter how long you’ve been suffering with insomnia or problems with your sleep, you can go from a mindset 2 to a mindset 1. I’m living proof of that fact!
How can you do it? You need to do absolutely nothing. The difference between the two mindsets is that mindset 1 is focused on nothing where as mindset 2 focuses on everything it can sink its teeth into.
When you’ve gotten into the habit of thinking about things when you’re lying in bed, thoughts can easily spiral out of control to the point where you just can’t shut them off. They can keep you wake long into the night, far beyond the time you would have otherwise been sound asleep.
Learning how to relax before bed just a matter of learning how to turn off the thoughts that dominate your day and instead thinking sleepy thoughts, or even no thoughts at all.
In this article, we’ll begin by talking about how you can start relaxing before you go to bed making it much less likely that thoughts will prop up. Then we’ll discuss techniques that you can use to relax even more when you’re in bed even if stressful thoughts do show up. Then I’ll share with you two powerful techniques that you can use to stay relaxed even if you wake up in the night. And finally, some practical tips on how to deal with stress and anxiety in the modern world.
Start Relaxing Before you go to Bed
Even if you’re completely calm and relaxed, it’s so easy for your mind to keep chattering on. Thoughts about what happened the during day, relationships issues, career progress, anything it can get its hands on. Here’s how to just let go, forget the day and fall asleep.
Put the day and your life on standby
It’s a habit that’s very easy to slip into, but don’t let your bedtime turn into a strategic life planning session.
When you’re in bed, you need to be in another world. A completely separate environment. The day is behind you and all you have to look forward to is deep refreshing sleep.
Your brain needs to calm down before sleeping. Solving problems keeps it awake. What’s more, you start disassociating bedtime with sleep and more with high mental thinking.
Problem solving and planning your days are very important activities, so make time for them in the day, while washing the dishes for example.
Transfer your thoughts from your mind onto paper
If you find it hard to let go of an unsolved problem or find it hard to store away all your thoughts for the morning, consider keeping a journal.
Write down all your current thoughts, feelings, problems and solutions just before you go to bed. By doing this you can completely let them go, safe in the knowledge that they’re safely stored and ready to access when you wake up.
Your journal can be anything, from a scruffy notepad to a highly organised project folder, or typed up on a computer. Special software such as the The Journal makes keeping a journal on your computer safe and efficient. It has many benefits over a paper journal such as a search facility and password protection.
I also recommend keeping a voice recorder or a notepad and pen by your bed just in case you want to add anything when you’re in bed. Once you’ve received a thought just write it down, let it go and pick it up the next morning.
The right attitude for sleep
How you think about sleep can have a big impact on how well you’ll sleep. They’ll either help you sleep, or cause you to stay awake.
Negative thoughts include:
- I’ll never be able to sleep again
- My sleep is broken
- I have to sleep throughout the day to get the sleep I need
- I have to sleep [incorrect] hours
- Sleep is something I dread
If these sound familiar, imagine how much better your sleep would be if your mind transformed them into these thoughts:
- My sleep is deep and refreshing
- Sleep is relaxing and nourishing experience
- I get all the sleep I need each and every night
- I wake up fresh and alert, ready to start the day
The first set of thoughts is the mindset of an insomniac, while the second set is the mindset of a natural deep sleeper. Using hypnosis and affirmations are two very good methods you can use to help achieve this shift in mindset.
For more about how to relax before bed, take a look at these 3 simple techniques to relax before bed.
How to Relax Quickly in Bed
Even if you go to bed feeling nice and relaxed, there’s still a chance that the odd thought can come out of nowhere and disrupt your sleep.
Here are some tips and techniques to allow your mind to slow down and drift off into a nice deep sleep.
Listen to something relaxing
It’s easy to have thoughts in a quiet room. Research has shown that if the brain has no stimulus, it will create its own in the form of thoughts. And because these thoughts are the only stimulus, it becomes almost impossible not to listen to them. You can’t block them out because they’re the only sound in the room.
Stay one step ahead of the game and introduce your own stimulus. One that’s just enough to prevent mind chatter, but quiet and relaxing enough to drift off to sleep while listening to.
There’s a range of relaxing sounds available including:
Listen to a few and use the one you find most monotonous and relaxing.
Think sleepy thoughts
Your thoughts influence how you feel. If you think stressful thoughts, like how behind on your assignments you are, or imagining failing that upcoming examination, your heart starts to beat faster and you start to become stressed.
Your body physically reacts to the thought. It works the same with happy thoughts, confident thoughts, and most importantly, sleepy thoughts.
When you go to bed, imagine yourself feeling very sleeping. Think back to time when you could barely keep your eyes open. Relive that moment as vividly as you possibly can.
How to Stay Relaxed if you Wake Up
Many people when they wake up in the night, take a look at the clock, and then start panicking about not being able to get back to sleep. If this sounds familiar, here’s what to do.
Can’t sleep? Don’t worry.
Worrying about not sleeping causes your mind to fill with thoughts and your heartbeat to race, stopping you from sleeping, stressing you out even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
If you can’t sleep, don’t worry. Don’t panic. Even better, try and stay awake. Make a game out of it. Do you know what happens when you try this? You end up falling asleep in record time.
The fancy name for this is paradoxical intention. By not stressing about staying awake, you’ll find it much easier to drift off back to sleep.
Pay less attention to the time
One of the main causes of stress and anxiety in bed is an activity called watching the clock.
If you’ve got the time lit up in big red numbers, it’s hard not to notice how long you’ve been awake for and mentally note how many hours you’ve got left until you need to wake up, causing you to stress and panic. Most of us naturally overestimate the length of time you’ve been awake for. Our mind plays tricks on us.
If you need a clock for an alarm, consider using a mobile phone or a clock which doesn’t constantly emit light. Or just turn it away from you so you would have to sit up to see it.
Just by having the time lit up in another color other than red can make sleep feel much more soothing and relaxing. I noticed a huge change when I switched from a red backlit clock to a blue backlit clock. Time no longer seemed a threat, it felt much more positive. Kind of calm and futuristic. Now I use one with a green backlight which is only lit up with the press of a button and this works even better.
Dealing with Stress and Anxiety
The modern world is full of stressful events. It’s a part of life. Sometimes stress comes and goes. Other times it’s here for the foreseeable future.
Sleep and stress don’t mix. The more stressed you feel, the less sleep you’ll get, and the more stress you’ll feel from not getting enough sleep.
Even if your days are a constant uphill battle, you can teach that mind of yours to turn off at night and let you sleep easy. For some extra sleep tips, have a read of the article how to sleep when stressed written by stress busting expert Ryan Rivera.