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Beyond Exhausted? Tips And Tricks For Better Quality Sleep

Are you part of the 3am club? Or maybe you’re part of the 1am or 4am club?  Or maybe you struggle to get to sleep in the first place. 

It's that time where you desperately want to go to sleep. But your body and brain seem to have other ideas.

You feel wide awake and hamster-reel thoughts about things like the weird conversation you had or the fact your car warrant is overdue, start to run riot in your mind.

And the longer you stay awake the more frustrated and worried you feel about how much sleep you're missing out on and how exhausted you will be tomorrow. 

First it's important to know that waking up during the night is actually a normal thing that happens during your sleep cycle. 

Things only become problematic if you can’t get back to sleep or you wake up like this multiple times a night and having trouble drifting off. 

Then you get into the territory of interrupted sleep patterns that can really start to affect the quality of your sleep and life in general.

Because when you don’t get enough quality sleep, everything changes.

Your mental and physical health suffers. You can’t manage your stress levels as easily, your productivity takes a dive, you make more unhelpful decisions and your pain levels can increase

So can you do to help?

Get comfortable

The first thing to do is to get as comfortable as you can.

Ask yourself “how can I be a little more comfortable right now”?

Is there some tension that you're holding on to that you can let go? Check the usual suspect "tension" places like your jaw, tongue, shoulders and hands.  Adjust pillows, supports and your sleeping position to be as comfortable as possible. 

That might be enough to get you off to dreamland. 

If not, once you're as comfortable as you can be right now, try out one of these suggestions to get back to sleep ⬇️

Dive into Darkness

(This is probably my favourite!)

Close your eyes and notice if you are still “seeing” swirls or shapes of colour or images. This is your optic nerve firing. And we need to calm it down.

To do this, keep your eyes closed and softly imagine the deepest, darkest black velvet you can conjure. Or think of looking at a very black blackboard. I sometimes also put my hands over my eyes to help (yes, even though it's already dark in the room!). 

Allow the black begin to expand, gently getting bigger and bigger, allowing the increasing darkness to calm and lull you into peaceful oblivion.

Breath Awareness 

Very softly, observe your breath. 

Start to slow your breath down with a particular focus on the pause that happens between each inhale and exhale. Keep your breathing easy and light (don't try to breathe deeply) and slowly increase the pause between each breath. The pauses can be shorter or longer than the length of your inhale or exhale. The important part is to pay attention to them. 

This slow style of 4-part breathing calms your nervous system down and invites sleep to come more quickly.

Mantra Magic

Repeat after me, "I am sleeping deeply and well."

I say this mantra over and over in my mind. And when I find myself distracted and my thoughts looping unhelpfully, I bring myself back to begin the mantra again.  

You might want to change the wording to something that suits you better - as long as you keep it short, easy and positive, it can be anything you like.

A mantra may seem a slightly silly thing but for me it acts like a bedtime lullaby for my brain, gently coaxing it back to dreamland.

If you do decide to give these tips a go, please don’t try all 3 at once!

Do them one at a time and see what works for you.

And don’t give up! You might need to try them several times over a week or two before you find what might work for you.

Movement & Exercise

Another thing that I have found to be really useful to have better quality sleep overall is to do a Feldenkrais “Not Yoga” class. It doesn’t matter what type of lesson or what time of day.

The focused mindful movement has a really amazing effect in down-regulating the nervous system and activating the rest and digest mode. Which means that you are more able to rest and sleep better. 

In fact better quality sleep is one of the first things I noticed when I started doing regular Feldenkrais classes twenty-something years ago. Waking feeling more refreshed and less waking during the night. And I know that many of my clients have had the same experience. 

For me it’s a very different quality of sleep compared to what after lots of physical activity or traditional exercise. Though of course regular exercise is also proven to help you sleep better too! I like to go for the best of both worlds, that includes regular exercise and some slow mindful movement. 

So, next time you're wide awake, remember these tricks and give insomnia a run for its money.

Wishing you good and restful sleep.

If you've got any other sleep secrets or try one of these options and it worked for you, let me know in the comments!

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