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Insomnia? Here's how to beat it when nothing else works

by , 23 May 2016
Insomnia? Here's how to beat it when nothing else works
I suffered from horrendous, all-night insomnia for around a year. I tried pills and other methods, but I knew that wasn't sustainable, and honestly, I hated feeling so out of control.

As my adrenals continue to heal, my sleep patterns have recovered drastically, though I often still need to use all my tools to fall asleep naturally. I can't stress enough how much the following simple tips have saved my sanity and physical health.

Try out these insomnia-fighting strategies of mine for a good night's sleep, every night.

Five powerful ways to beat insomnia

#1: I changed my mindset
When I was suffering all-night insomnia, I made up for those lost hours during the day through random naps, and although it would sometimes take me a few minutes to settle, I noticed I fell asleep with very little trouble during the day. It felt so utterly relieving but also a little indulgent and naughty because we're trained to think that napping is a luxury.
 
In contrast, getting to sleep at night felt extremely stressful, goal-oriented and as if I was forever clock-watching in fear. When I finally decided to start treating my nighttime sleep as something to look forward to and revel in rather than dread, it made a world of difference. Suddenly I relaxed in my expectations and then was able to relax physically and mentally.
 
A bonus to imagining bedtime simply as a lovely nap-time is that you can feel deep gratitude for the simple pleasures you're currently experiencing—clean sheets, a warm house, and time to wind down at the end of your day. This sends positive signals to your brain, which contributes even more to a feeling of safety and ease and takes you into rest and relaxation mode.
 
#2: I practised tensing and releasing my muscles
Insomniacs often have real trouble relaxing physically for various reasons. For my part, my skin was often hot and itchy or cold and sore, and my muscles would be very tense as a result. I got into the habit of stretching and wriggling purposefully in bed until I felt I'd relaxed my muscles a little. This felt so good and added to the feeling of enjoying, rather than dreading, my bedtime ritual.
 
#3: I used a controlled breath
Anxiety around bedtime inevitably leaves you feeling hot, flustered, and out of control. It's vital at this point to bring the nervous system out of fight-or-flight mode and into a parasympathetic response suitable for rest and relaxation. One of the most powerful ways of doing this is with a simple, controlled, cooling breath. 
 
While there are many different breathing techniques you can employ for anxiety, this one is safe for all, can be used easily in a prone position, and provides both a cooling element and a controlled resistance very effective in achieving a sense of calm and control.
 
Here's how to do it: Purse your lips and slowly suck air all the way into your lungs, keeping your belly soft. Pause at the top of the inhale briefly and then slowly blow air back out through pursed lips, all the way to the end of the exhale. Pause briefly and repeat for a minimum of 10 rounds. Your mind will fight it, but stick with it. If after 10 rounds you still feel unsettled, try another 10. Come back to normal breathing if you experience lightheadedness or feel faint.
 
#4: I settled my tummy
This may not be for everyone, and its comfort depends on your body shape and needs, but settling on your tummy is another powerful indicator to the brain and nervous system that you are preparing to rest. I find when I'm settling that I go through different positions until I'm ready to fall asleep, and that's when I lie on my front, with my arms around my pillow.
 
#5: I listened to a guided meditation
Inevitably, even if your body is now relaxed and ready to fall asleep, your brain may continue to worry and plan ahead. Distract your brain with a guided meditation. It provides something relaxing and calming to focus on as you drift off. I usually try to find something longer than 15 minutes so I have plenty of time to fall asleep completely.
 
Above all, strengthening your resolve to view bedtime as something to look forward to rather than fear is key. The more excited you are to fall asleep, the easier it becomes. Stop watching the clock and focus on gratitude for every bit of nourishing sleep you achieve.

PS: For further tips on how to sleep better starting tonight, read this.

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