Try a few simple breathing exercises before bed: focus on relaxing your body & mind.
Sleep is something we often take for granted. It is also often the first thing we sacrifice when we are busy, and poor sleep is often the first sign of stress or anxiety. However quality sleep is vital to our health, our wellbeing, and our performance. Sleep is also quality recovery.
Persistent insomnia becomes more common as we age. It's a risk factor for weight gain and can disrupt the body's regulation of blood sugar, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Continued lack of sleep can also affect cognitive function and increase stress-hormone levels that raise blood pressure and promote inflammatory changes associated with chronic disease. In other words, this is one problem you need to address.
For better sleep, try a technique like this relaxation breath exercise when you get into bed tonight.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for 7 counts.
- Exhale for 8 counts.
- Repeat the sequence 3 times.
When coupled with good levels of exercise it is essential that we normalise our sleeping patterns to maximise the recovery process. Poor quality and quantity of sleep will compromise tissue regeneration, diminish immune and hormonal functioning, decrease effective cognitive processing (thinking), and increase fatigue and pre-disposition to injury.
Other Strategies to get more sleep
Delayed onset (difficulty falling asleep) is a common problem with adults, who often find it difficult to switch off at the end of their busy day. The following strategies are designed to assist you to stop thinking and worrying in bed, and therefore get to sleep much more quickly.
- Most of the thinking and worrying we do in bed needs to be done… it just doesn’t need to be done in bed! Put aside five to 15 minutes during the evening to sit somewhere quietly and let your mind wander through all the thoughts you didn’t have time for during the day. At the end of the time, write down anything that is still on your mind.
- Before going to sleep, tell yourself that you are going to have a solid night’s sleep, and that you are going to wake up just before the alarm goes off, feeling alert and refreshed. Start to create the expectation that you will fall asleep quickly and naturally.
- Once you have made yourself comfortable, tell yourself that it is time to sleep now, and do not let yourself continue to think about anything except your breathing (see below).
- Focus on relaxing your body one muscle group at a time, starting from your toes, and working your way up.
- Many people stress about not sleeping, which delays sleep! Say to yourself; “I’ll just lie here and rest. Peaceful rest is nearly as good as sleep”.
- It is normal to wake up once or twice during the night. If you do wake up, see it as normal and don’t stress about it. Be happy that you don’t have to get up yet, and focus on breathing and relaxing to help you go back to sleep.
- If you cannot stop thinking/worrying, use thought switching. Replace worrying thoughts with pleasant and relaxing ones. Or only think about your breathing, or focus on one simple thought to clear your head.
- Keep a pen and paper by your bed. That way, if you have a new thought you can write it down to think about tomorrow, and let it go for the night.
- Use good time-management skills. Keep lists of things to do and good schedules. That way you have one less thing to worry about.
- Remember that a lot of the things we worry about never actually happen. Try to avoid worrying about things that might happen.