10 Oct Ready, Set… Go (back to sleep)!
Last month, this space was dedicated to the issue of sleep, and more specifically, the issue of falling asleep. We hope our suggestions helped some of you to dive more easily into the arms of Morpheus!
But, in order to sleep well, we mustn’t wake up every two minutes! And, that is a horse of a different color. According to the results of September’s question of the month, 66% of you said you often wake throughout the night.
The good news is that it is possible to learn to fall back to sleep as long as you follow a few rules. Here, we will provide some of these rules for you!
At first, be persistent. Sometimes, people go through tiny waking stages between two sleep cycles, but this should not keep you from falling quickly back to sleep. These mini-stages allow us to more easily remember our dreams, by the way (for those interested in doing so). It is also possible that you were awakened by a noise, for example… In such situations, the goal is to remind your brain that you are in your bed, and, in theory, that you are there to sleep. Proper surroundings should help. The more calm and dark your environment, the easier it is to slip back into sleep. At this stage of the game, avoid looking at the time, at least initially! It goes without saying that looking at the time is even more counterproductive if it involves looking at a screen (smartphone, tablet…) that is likely to provide more information than simply the hour!
If trying to convince your brain to fall back to sleep does not work, try convincing your feet by putting on socks! Ok, I see you smiling, and, yes, put on socks just like Grandma! To be frank, this isn’t about looking great or about your pride, here. It’s about trying to quickly slip back into restorative sleep via a mechanism of thermoregulation. Indeed, if your extremities are cold, you will shiver in order to produce the heat necessary to warm yourself. A good pair of socks will enable your feet to warm up, therefore regulating your body temperature. Little by little, your body temperature will be lowered, which is what is needed to fall back to sleep. For better body temperature regulation, in order to lower your temperature, it’s necessary to increase the temperature of your extremities.
Be persistent but not too persistent!
If, despite all your efforts, you still find yourself unable to fall back to sleep after 20 minutes, either estimated (because you have applied our previous suggestions), or real (because you were unable to keep yourself from looking at the clock), then get up. Indeed, it is important for the brain to be conditioned to associate the bed with sleep, in order to facilitate falling asleep at bed time. Getting up when we are no longer able to sleep keeps us from damaging this unconscious link and helps to preserve the quality of later nights’ sleep. In addition, staying in bed when we are unable to sleep leads to ruminating thoughts that chase sleep away.
Create a ritual
So, here you are, up in the middle of the night, your eyes puffy from sleep and a little (or much more than a little) irritated by the sleep debt you can now predict. But, don’t panic! It’s still possible to mend the situation. It is particularly important to keep your brain from losing the already-present “night” ambiance by not changing the lighting and by favoring calm activities. If you wake frequently, create a waking ritual by always performing the same simple activities like drinking a glass of water, sitting for a few moments in the same spot, etc. until sleep returns.
If it takes a while, try some relaxation techniques, by focusing your attention on your breath. To do so, breath calmly and deeply, feeling the sensation of relaxation that progressively takes over each of your limbs. This allows you to control your train of thought and to think of something other than work-related problems or other annoyances.
Use diversionary tactics
If this waking stage continues, you may be heading towards skipping a sleep cycle, and the goal becomes one of occupying your time and your mind constructively. Forget the soothing activities suggested above, and switch to tasks that recruit a lot more intellectual resources. It’s up to you to find what really works for you, but it can be helpful to dive into a “technical” book or to listen to a stimulating radio show (choose talk radio over pop music) or perhaps some sleep music. In short, occupy your mind until signs of fatigue begin to reappear.
Keep a journal
Finally, create a sort of journal to document your bouts of insomnia, where you can, most importantly, make note of information concerning the previous day, such as how many cups of coffee you drank, how many naps you had, or perhaps the time you awoke or went to sleep, as well as any projects or situations that are bothering you. Once you have created this journal, you can modify the different factors that are likely to affect your sleep, one by one, and thus change their impact on the quality of your sleep at night…
It is important to be attentive to the quality of your sleep to promote your brain’s well-being and efficiency at work. My Mental Energy Pro® helps you by providing simple rules, as well as tools to better fall asleep in the My Mental Energy Pro® app. In it, you will find different audio recordings, specifically designed to help you fall back to sleep.
- Relaxation audio recordings, muscle relaxation, getaways, sleep-time stories.
- Sleep music, which also reduces or even masks bothersome noises.