Experts interviewed by CNN have suggested methods, aside from the most popular mental exercise of counting sheep, that a person with sleep problems can do to finally set off to dreamland – so to speak.
“There’s no one solution that will work for everybody, of course, so instead, we’ve rounded up suggestions from eight sleep experts. At the very least, it’s something to read next time you can’t sleep,” the article said.
Sleep expert Neil Stanley said the foremost prerequisite for sleep “is a quiet mind”. “Think of something else, rather than what’s worrying you — something with a story to it. It can be anything of interest, but of no importance, so you can devote some brain energy to it without clashing into the real world and going straight back to your worries,” said Stanley.
Colie Espie, Oxford University professor of sleep medicine, said “thinking about sleep and wishing for it to happen is a recipe for staying awake.” Espie also said “if you give yourself the paradoxical instruction to stay awake instead, you’ll be more likely to fall asleep. If you can be comfortable with the idea of remaining awake, then the performance anxiety and frustration that are associated with trying to sleep have nowhere to go and your arousal level drops.”
As far as sleep consultant Jenni June is concerned, “if 20 minutes or so has gone by as the mind races and is unable to relax back to sleep, it’s best to get out of bed.”
June strongly suggested not looking at your phone or any other gadgets and instead “go to another dimly lit room where you keep a notebook.”
“Write down the thoughts that are keeping you awake. Finish with the words, ‘It can wait until tomorrow.’ Then, go back to bed, focus on the breath, and mindfully relax into those words, giving yourself permission to yield to sleep,” June said.
Kathryn Pinkman, an insomnia specialist of the National Health Services, advised those who have a problem going to sleep to allot “a maximum of 20 minutes just getting everything out of your head and onto paper every day.”
She said the method is “a therapeutic way to see that you probably don’t have loads to worry about, rather just a few reoccurring things. You can then see which worries are hypothetical (i.e., what if I make a mistake at work and lose my job) or ‘real’ worries (e.g., I made a mistake and have lost my job).”
“For the real worries you can then make an action plan/problem-solve and for the hypothetical ones, learn to let them go,” she added,
Sleep therapist Christabel Majendie recommended “deep breathing” before sleeping before it “acts as a powerful distraction technique, particularly if paired with counting.”
“Aim to breathe out for longer than you breathe in, and pause after breathing in and out; so you might choose to count to three when you breathe in, then pause and count to five when you breathe out, then pause,” Majendie said.
Jenny Stephenson, director of Happy Sleepers – a team of chartered child psychologists offering expert help and advice on sleep from newborns to teenagers, said’ “Try not to struggle or ‘try harder’ to overcome the sleeplessness or get rid of unwanted thoughts, as this can worsen insomnia.”
“One successful approach to overcome this negative cycle is to instead learn to observe and accept these struggles, using mindfulness strategies to help,” Stephenson stressed.
For David K. Randall, author of Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, “getting more sun exposure in the midmorning can help readjust the brain’s internal clock and make it easier to fall asleep later that night. ”
Randall also said “someone who can’t seem to fall asleep at night may want to try getting as much exposure to natural light in the morning, essentially prepping themselves to fall asleep when they want to.” GAC/Expat Media
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