Fall Asleep: 4 Steps
We live in a 24-hour society with little regard for rest or its well-known benefits. A solid night’s sleep contributes to greater mental acuity and serves us in almost every aspect of life. A lack of sleep leads to poor work performance, irritability, greater risk of injury, and overall poor health.
A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation revealed that three out of four adults in the U.S. have chronic trouble falling asleep, and that one in three suffers from fatigue due to a lack of sleep that is severe enough to inhibit their daily activities.
So, what’s keeping us up? Work stress and relationship conflicts can contribute to a restless, preoccupied mind, but one could also argue that when trying to fall asleep we don’t respect the process; perhaps because we have been doing it so long, we take it for granted. The truth is that falling asleep is not a trait we’re privileged with — it’s a skill we must develop.
The following four steps have been geared toward developing the fundamental skill of falling asleep. Keep in mind that trying to fall asleep doesn’t begin the moment you climb into bed; plan ahead to accommodate the time you know you will need to fall sleep.
Here are four steps that will help you through the process of trying to fall asleep.
Step 1 Take care of pressing business
First things first: The smallest issues, such as responding to an e-mail, can keep your mind alert enough to prevent you from relaxing.
Before you try to fall sleep, make certain you have addressed anything — any issue or pressing business — that has the potential to nag at you. In short, if there is anything that might cause you distress and prevent you from relaxing when you climb into bed, take care of it now.
If there are issues you simply can not tackle before going to bed, jot them onto a piece of paper, including any additional thoughts you might have on the subjects. Doing this lets you feel as though you have acknowledged the issues and have taken nominal steps to address them that night — a reassuring belief that can pay off as you try to fall asleep.
Step 2 Hide the alarm clock
We all know what it’s like to lie in bed and, every so often, glance at the clock and do the math: “1:00; I can still get five hours of sleep,” but that optimism soon turns to negotiation: “1:30; four and a half hours. If I skip a shower and don’t sTOP for coffee, I can still get five hours.” Two big problems accompany this: It is not the kind of mental activity that contributes to relaxation, and by trading away aspects of your morning routine, you severely compromise your entire day.
In any given 12- to 24-hour period, you need your alarm clock on precisely two occasions: at night when going to bed to set the alarm, and in the morning when that alarm goes off. Between those two occasions, you have no use for the thing, so position it so that you can not see the clock face. Taking such a step will also prevent you from knowing what time it is if you wake up in the middle of the night. While it may be reassuring at times to wake up and learn you still have four or five hours of sleep left, there will be other times when you wake up to less reassuring news.
You will benefit in the long-term from eliminating all the distractions associated with going to bed, including watching television or listening to music. Reliance on these stimulants to fall asleep sets a dangerous precedent for those occasions when you’re not at home and don’t have access to them, as well as those times when you awake in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep again without them.
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Step 3 Quiet your mind
Filtering out all the rambling thoughts from your mind when trying to fall asleep may be the most important step in the process. It may also be the most difficult.
In order to quiet your mind, get ready to fall asleep with the firm conviction that whatever might be bothering you and causing your mind to race will be there tomorrow, and can wait until then to be addressed. If that thought doesn’t bring you peace, you will need to assume a selfish approach and assure yourself that losing sleep over it does nothing to help the situation, it only serves to hurt you.
Experts recommend avoiding stimulants like caffeine, nicotine or alcohol within six hours of going to bed, since they can exacerbate your restless mind and keep you alert. They can also mitigate the value of the hours you do manage to sleep.
Step 4 Follow a single image to sleep
Pick a soothing image — something that brings you peace. It needs to have sufficient detail to keep your attention; it’s OK for your mind to be active in this process — just don’t let it be overactive. Your mind’s focus should be dedicated to the colors, shapes and slow, easy movement of this image. Best case scenario, your mind will succumb to the image and it will hypnotize you into sleep.
Everyone’s relaxing image will differ, but ideally it should omit people — or at least people you know. Thinking about a quiet meadow under an easy breeze is fine, but inserting your ex-girlfriend is only going to stimulate a host of other distracting thoughts and emotions.