It’s important to check with your doctor if something medical is behind your insomnia. You can often get medicine to alleviate it in the short-term.
In most cases, a combination of anxiety, stress, habit, artificial light, phone screens, TV, dietary choices, and more, all combine to cause insomnia.
Insomnia can range from discomforting to debilitating. If you are reading this, you have probably already read about changes that you need to make to your lifestyle (no caffeine in the evening, good hydration, turn your phone off, have a bedtime routine, and so forth). These are all excellent pieces of advice, with solid science behind them, and you would do well to heed them.
However, once your body has entered into a certain habit, it can take time — especially if you have not managed to eliminate the stresses and anxieties that life gives you — to reverse that habit and enter a pattern of good sleep.
Here is a routine that works for many people. I don’t know if it will work for you, but it’s certainly worth a try!
Follow this simple process, which takes only a couple of minutes, when you want to fall asleep. It might not work the first few times, so be persistent. Some people find that this works the first time, others need to keep going for a few days or even a week.
- Go to the toilet to empty your bladder. Ensure that you’ve had enough water to drink, and maybe keep a bottle of water next to your bed.
- Turn off all lights, especially any screens such as phones, laptops, and TV. Turn your phone to silent (except for your morning alarm, of course) — you don’t want the ding of a new text message to alert you.
- Lie down on your back with a pillow under your head, and, closing your eyes, tense your entire body for a few seconds. Tense every muscle that you can think of.
- Now, relax. Take three or four deep, relaxing breaths.
- Allow every muscle in your head to relax. Think of your forehead (are you frowning?); the little muscles around your eyes; your eyelids; eyes; scalp; cheeks; tongue; jaw; lips; neck.
- Relax your left shoulder; upper arm; elbow; lower arm; wrist; hand; palm; fingers. Repeat on your right side.
- Widen and relax your chest — you want to be breathing with your stomach rather than with your chest. Relax the rest of your torso, but of course keep breathing comfortably.
- Relax your hips and pelvis.
- Relax your left upper leg, knee, lower leg, ankle, foot, sole, toes. Repeat on your right side.
- Move into a comfortable position, unless you’re already comfortable. Lie in whichever position suits you best (e.g. I prefer to lie on my side).
- Allow your mind to gently drift into a pleasant place, whether it be imagining a hot beach at sunset, a swim in a warm lake, camping under the stars, whatever. To the extent that you can, visualise the scene, hear the sounds, feel the feelings.
- Any time a thought pops into your head, gently and slowly bring your mind back to your pleasant place.
A simple routine that works surprisingly well for many people, especially if you practice it nightly.