5 Strategies for a better night’s sleep
More than half of the adult population worldwide has difficulties sleeping one night a week or more. Sleep problems may be due to noisy neighbours or annoying road sounds, but the vast majority of sleep problems are caused by modern day stress.
For many, the mind stays active even if we want to fall asleep. Some of the most common triggers include thoughts about the next day's agenda and an inability to stop reflecting on what happened during the previous day.
More serious issues that can keep us awake include depression, anxiety, fluctuating hormones and serious medical conditions. If there is a reason other than stress or noise that causes sleepless nights, paying a visit to a physician is a good idea as chronic restlessness can have serious medical repercussions. It causes reduced concentration, irritability and moodiness. When the reduced amount of sleep carries on for a longer period of time we can even experience slowed speech, apathy and reduced memory capabilities.
I consulted Leslie Davenport, author and medical psychotherapist, on her professional tips for sleeping better. Leslie has helped people with insomnia for more than 20 years. She points out that there are both internal and external sleep strategies for us to deploy:
External strategies to promote sleep
1. Have a bedtime routine
The external strategies relate to our lifestyle and environment. Davenport opts for a bedtime routine in which we have a consistent sleep-wake schedule.
According to the psychotherapist, it is also important to have the evening meal at least three hours before bedtime. A room that is dark, cool and quiet works best for most people.
2. Create a sleep-promoting environment
The last external strategy tip is to create a sleep-promoting environment by turning off computers, televisions and all other electrical devices.
Internal strategies to promote sleep
Internal strategies relate to our mental, emotional and physiological state. Here are three effective internal strategies that promote restorative sleep:
3. Create your own sleep dome
Before you fall asleep, close your eyes and imagine an energetic barrier with the shape of a dome arching over you providing safety and comfort. This protective dome is where deep restfulness and sleep occur. Notice the shape, the size and the colour of your protective shield, and adjust it until it is just right. Know that outside of the shield, anything you need to attend to during the day is separated from you. It will be there tomorrow when the time is right.
4. Dial it down
Just as you've adjusted the light in the room just the way you want it, whether it's pitch black or with some soft light, imagine doing the same inside yourself. Take a moment to imagine dialling down light behind your eyelids to the same restful setting.
Do the same with sound. You know all those voices that accompany you during the day, like the ones that remind you of tasks, imagine dialling down the volume on all those internal voices, and imagine keeping the volume off for the same amount of time you intend to sleep.
5. River of sleep
Consider that on many occasions in your life, you've been carried easily from wakefulness into sleep, as easily as a leaf floating on a stream. Like a river with a set course, a part of you already knows the way to restful sleep. Let yourself be carried now, just let go. Feel yourself being carried on that safe and gentle current into deep, deep rest and finally sleep.