Based on my experience, there are two main reasons we have trouble sleeping: either because you are excited about something upcoming, or you are anxious about something upcoming. I can still vividly remember that night before we as a family were leaving for Washington, DC for the first time. I was a child then, and the thought of travelling all the way to where the president lives was almost overwhelming for me. I tossed and turned in bed; walked around my room, looked out my window into the dark, and before I knew it, I looked out my window to see the sun rising above the horizon. I finally fell asleep in the car during the over 8 hour drive to DC.
Personally, I suffered for many years on Sunday nights trying to get some sleep. I dreaded Sunday nights because as soon as I would lie down in bed for the night the worries and stress of the upcoming week flooded into my thoughts. I had not yet found the peace of living mindfully, and so I allowed the thoughts of the future to take over, believing the worst of what could happen come Monday morning at work. Note that I wasn’t worried about what was going to happen, but what I imagined would happen. These thoughts brought with them a sense of a loss of control as they are future thoughts, not present thoughts. Therefore, I would be tossing and turning, worrying about what had to be done, what I didn’t do, what I forgot to do; but most importantly, what I didn’t know I didn’t know.
In the last few years, as I’ve been working on living mindfully and in the present, I have learned some things which have helped me to no longer dread Sunday nights. I don’t have a nighttime ritual so to speak, but I have figured out a few things that have helped me to sleep peacefully, especially Sunday night.
Here are the tips I use:
- Prior to going to bed, make a list of the projects and tasks you need to do the next day. Make sure the list is no longer than 4 items and that each item is doable in the course of the day.
Make a separate list of the things you will not have time to do the next day. Next to each item place a date when you will work on them.
Write down a specific time during the next day when you will spend at least 10 minutes in quiet reflection/meditation. It could be a time for a walk or sitting in quiet. The time needs to be undisturbed and respected by you as important and necessary.
When you do lay down to sleep, keep your room quiet and as dark as possible. Using white noise (there are many free and paid apps, message me for the ones I use) is helpful. Keeping the TV on or your phone’s screen on inhibit our ability to sleep soundly.
Lay down in a comfortable position, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and focus on your breathing. Don’t try to control your breathing, just focus on your breathing. Note the breaths you take in, and the breaths you exhale.
If intrusive thoughts enter your mind, remind yourself of your lists, telling yourself that you have taken care of tomorrow and that your present task is to sleep.
Return your thoughts to focus on your breathing.
Personally, when I lay in bed to sleep for the night, I start off by laying on my back with my left hand placed gently over my heart, and my right hand placed gently over my stomach, feeling my breaths and heartbeats.
These tips work for me. Take time to find what works for you, and when you find it, stick with it. Over time, with consistency, you will find yourself sleeping quickly and soundly.
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