Do you ever have nights where you can’t seem to fall asleep?
Sometimes when you’re lying in bed, do you feel like your head is buzzing with thoughts of what happened before or what might happen in the future–and it won’t shut the eff up so you can get some shuteye?
If you answered no to either of these questions, you are not human.
For those of you who are human, I’m human too, and I spend a lot of time exploring health and balance; in this fast-paced world full of constant stimulation, it has become increasingly clear to me that sleep is one of the single most important factors contributing to an individual’s happiness and wellbeing. I also believe that the state of mind you’re in when you fall asleep is a pretty accurate reflection of the kind of night’s sleep you’ll have—and there’s nothing more replenishing for your mind and body than a solid night’s sleep. That being said, one of the major barriers to getting a good night’s sleep is this little nuisance I like to call “nighttime buzzhead.”
Nighttime buzzhead, or the inability to fall asleep due to the antics of the monkey mind, is a self-inflicted and easily preventable phenomenon–if you can identify your bedtime behavioral patterns and make an effort to change them. My own bedtime observations and subsequent experiments have led me to come up with a list of 6 ways we can change our behavior to defeat the evil forces of nighttime buzzhead for a better night’s sleep:
1. Distance yourself from electronics at least one hour before bed.
I love my instant Netflix and my Android, but I’ve noticed that if I put these neon, flashing toys away at least an hour before bed and give my head space time to wean off technology, I generally ease into sleep more restfully. TV, the Internet, and smart phones set our minds abuzz with lights, ideas, and new information. This can be great during the day when our brain waves are active, but it can be a source of agitation for a mind that’s trying to wind down. Let’s get back to our roots, people! Before bed, books are best.
2. Tidy your room before you get into bed.
Simply put, your mind is a product of your environment. Cluttered surroundings = a cluttered mind. Clear space = a clear mind. Really, it works. The two minutes it will take you to put your clothes away each night is so much easier to deal with than the twenty minutes it will take if you let the mess build up over the course of a week or more. I also like to make my bed every morning as soon as I wake up (while I’m still groggy and don’t notice how annoying it is to make your bed) so that when night arrives, the untucking of sheets makes crawling into bed a more fulfilling “ahhhhhh” experience.
3. Keep a notepad by your bed.
That way, you have an outlet for releasing the ramblings of your mind during the often-interrupted moment of mental surrender just before you fall asleep. It doesn’t need to be formal like a journal; it can just be a place that exists purely for you to spew out the distracting thoughts that swirl around in your head when you’re trying to fall asleep. For example, if you remember something you need to do the next day, just jot it down and get rid of the thought so you can settle into the glorious expanse of free headspace. It’s a more organic experience to record your thoughts in writing than entering them into an electronic calendar, because the associations your mind has with your phone and computer have the potential to reawaken parts of your brain that need to rest.
4. Avoid Eating before bed.
Your body has to work pretty hard to digest food—whether you’re awake or not. So if you eat before bed, you are actually expending unnecessary energy as you sleep, which usually results in fatigue the next day. You end up working all night without your own permission!
5. Hot tea and candles and baths, Oh My!
If you’re thinking, “No way, that’s so girly!” you’re wrong. That’s a total social construct and everyone knows that people who rise above social constructs are badasses. So all you guys and girls out there who are too cool for school, take a quiet night to go soak in the tub with a cup of Organic Nighty Night tea and a scented candle–like a true badass. For real, these three little goodies are awesome for relieving stress and inducing relaxation.
6. Do some Restorative Yoga Poses & Breathing Exercises
If you’ve done everything you can to relax but you’re still lying there with your heart pounding and your head racing, cooling forward folds and light pranayama, or breathing exercises, will calm down your nervous system and help you “drop in.” Paschimottanasana, or Forward Folding Bend, is an excellent pose to do before bed, and Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing, is a soothing pranayama exercise to promote balance and relaxation. (Click on the links for step-by-step instructions from Yoga Journal).
I never said I was a scientist—I just said I was a human. So these tips come from a place of simple human observation. But if you have trouble hitting the hay, it can’t hurt to give them a try!