It’s 2am. The clock is ticking and you’re counting down the hours until you need to be up in the morning. A decent sleep is feeling more and more unlikely, and your mind is racing.
Don’t panic. The likelihood is you will eventually asleep, and if, worst case, you don’t get much sleep, it won’t be the end of the world.
Although you probably shouldn’t be on your phone/laptop right now (blue light is the enemy of a good night’s sleep), since you’re here already - have a read through our top tips to help you catch some Zzz when you just can’t switch off.
What to do when you can’t sleep...
1. Get out of bed
Okay, so this sounds like the opposite of what you should be doing: but it’s backed by science.
Essentially, if you spend hours in bed feeling anxious and frustrated that you can’t sleep, you’ll start to associate your bed with stress and frustration (and not sleeping).
This is the thinking behind a recently developed treatment for individuals with insomnia (CBT-I), which involves limiting the amount of time spent in bed awake to boost ‘sleep efficiency.’
So if you really can’t sleep, instead of lying awake in bed, get up and move into another room. Keep the lights low, listen to some calming music, read something boring. Now you can go back to bed.
2. Change your mindset
Very often our stress about not sleeping ends up being the thing keeping us awake. The more we worry about not being able to function the next day, the less we sleep.
Often this anxiety is fuelled by all-or-nothing thoughts, like: “I can’t sleep”, I’ll never be able to sleep” or “if I don’t sleep, I won’t be able to function at all tomorrow”.
Try to notice those over-exaggerated negative thinking patterns, and check the facts: Is it really true that you won’t be able to function with a bad night’s sleep? When you’ve been unable to sleep before, don’t you fall asleep eventually?
Try to replace these thoughts with more positive ones:
- I will fall asleep eventually
- A bad night’s sleep isn’t the end of the world
If this is difficult, try to distract yourself from thinking about sleep altogether by listening to an audiobook, reading something or bringing to mind a comforting memory or place.
3. Write down your worries
Anxieties keeping you awake? Keep a notepad and pen by your bed (not the notes app on your phone: blue light is not your friend at 3am), and write down everything on your mind. Getting your thoughts on paper can help to calm you down and quiet your busy mind.
4. Try progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a great relaxation technique. It involves tensing and releasing each muscle, starting with your toes and working your way up to the top of your head.
5. Do some breathwork
Taking deep, slow, repetitive breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, can help to bring your body into a calm, restful state. If you need a bit of help, put on a MindLabs class which will guide you through some exercises to help you wind down.
Need some help switching off? Try MindLabs for free with a two week trial.