By morningstar25259637, Mar 24 2016 07:50PM
One of the most common problems our clients have is getting enough sleep. Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or early morning awakening, can be a symptom of depression (along with appetite and concentration issues). Sometimes sleep issues relate to pain, restless leg, or a C-Pap machine. Falling asleep can even be an issue if an individual expects to have nightmares or flashbacks. But at other times, the sleep issue is simply that the brain, for whatever reason, is refusing to slow down for sleep.
There are some well-known strategies to make it easier to fall asleep: avoiding caffeine after noon; avoiding liquids after 6:00 p.m.; a quiet, dark room; a good mattress; clean sheets (on at least a weekly basis, but perhaps more often); removing any work-related or workout-related stimuli from the room (no desk or treadmill); and removing electronics from the room (yes, even the TV and cell phone). The bedroom is a place for sleeping, and we try to train our brains to that fact by removing unnecessary items that interfere with relaxation and sleep. But sometimes the mind still won’t stop running.
When that happens, try giving your mind something low-key to do. It should be something that doesn’t involve work, undone tasks, or any sort of emotion-laden content (all of which will keep you awake). Ideally, the thing you have your mind working on will be mildly absorbing but a bit boring. Here are some ideas:
1. Count backward by tens from a large number (like 900). We do tens because ones are too easy and overlearned; ones do not quite absorb enough attention. If you count down by tens and are still awake, do it again. Perhaps pick a different, higher number to start from. Repeat. This can become your “mantra” for sleep.
2. Visualize a place that you know well and that you enjoy, and mentally move around that place, noticing all the details. Examples: your yard (what bush is here, what perennial is there, etc.); a place where you used to live and were happy; a neighborhood you enjoy; a vacation spot; a campsite. Keep walking around and around that place, visualizing the details
3. Try to recall a series of things. Examples: all your teachers from Kindergarten on; the classes you took each semester; the books of the Bible; vacations you have taken.
Everyone is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. But if you are going to be in bed, tossing and turning, you might as well attempt a strategy or two, and see if it works. Perhaps you will find your own novel strategy! If so, please let us know!
Dr. Pat Bromley