We operate on habits for more than 90% of our lives and, just as we may follow a habit of sleep, we can also develop a habit of insomnia. Even after long-term or acute stress has passed, the sleeplessness can linger on.
And with modern-day stresses eroding boundaries between work lives and our personal time more and more, we have to consciously reset those boundaries and adopt habits that support better sleep. Here's a few steps you can start to take to rebuild a regular sleep pattern:
1. Limit Caffeine
Some people can seem to be fine with endless coffee. I knew a friend who could drink a double espresso, then easily fall asleep an hour later. However, we do not have the same bodies or the same food and chemical sensitivities.
Limit your overall caffeine intake and do not have any kind of caffeinated beverage after 1pm. You may feel sleepier for the first day to two days until your body starts to re-regulate, but you will thank yourself in the long-term.
2. Have a Shut Down Routine to Mark the End of the Work Day and Housework
With so many of us working from home, as I mentioned in my previous article, while there are many benefits (no commute, no open office plan, and more), it can also mean it is harder and harder to set limits on work. Work is always in reach on our smartphones and computers.
If you have a dedicated work space, mark the end of the work day with a shut down routine to consciously draw a boundary between work time and personal time. Here's a few steps you can take:
Put away work items. Whatever physical items your work involves, whether files of paper or spanners and drills, put these away. Make this part of a mental closing off of the work day too. Whether you have a dedicated work room or not, you can do this
Shut down your computer or smartphone. Don't just put your computer in "sleep" mode but; shut down your computer completely. That means it will take a couple of minutes at least to boot it up again should you feel the urge to log in to work
Close off the work space. Physically close off the work space and do these steps in the same order every night, reinforcing the habit of marking the end of the work day. If you work in a mixed use room, such as your kitchen, have a specific chair that you use just for work and put this away, ideally out of sight.
3. Have a Wind-Down Routine that Incorporates Self-Care
For yourself, have your own wind-down routine. Routine and ritual create a sense of stability.
Your wind-down routine may involve any of the following:
changing out of work clothes;
doing a short yoga routine at night;
having a drink that symbolizes rest for you, like a herbal tea.
4. Continue to Set Boundaries in Your Sleep Space
Do not bring work or entertainment distractions into your bedroom.
Leave your phone outside the room if at all possible. Turn wifi off if you must bring your phone into the bedroom.
5. Set Up Your Bedroom to Be Conducive to Sleep
We fall asleep more easily in a completely dark, quiet and cool environment so ensure that you block out all sources of light, turn off any devices so the blinking lights do not disturb you, and lower the room temperature a few hours before bed. While individual needs vary, a comfortable range for room temperature at night time is generally between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit or 15.6 to 19.4 degrees Celsius.
6. Create Ritual at Bedtime
Again, creating a habit of sleep is so important. I am sure you always do some of the same tasks every single morning that you wake such as brushing your teeth, packing up your bag, walking the dog, making a tea or coffee.
Yet we fail to be as methodical at the end of the day. Oftentimes we are tired and feel out of time, and rush forward into sleep. But I reassure you that those few seconds it takes to create 4 steps to mark the beginning of sleep will be repaid to you.
Here are a few rituals I incorporate into my latest sleep hypnosis:
Stand at your bedroom door and acknowledge that you are moving forward into sleep. It may sound silly or pointless but so much of our modern-day living "bleeds" from one part of our lives to the next. A mantra is a great way to set an intention and also a boundary. Try it for a few nights in a row and see how it shifts your mindset;
Set an alarm. And feel that all the time you have from the moment you set the alarm until you wake are just for sleep;
Walk around your bed and delineate that this space is only for rest and sleep;
Squeeze tense parts of your body to release muscle tension. With today's high-speed pace of living, we end up absorbing that overwhelm into the body as well as the mind. Squeezing muscles fully allows them to release completely.
7. Focus on Breathing Exercises
Even though your mind may still not have had time to slow down, you can help the process of winding down by performing breathing exercises. You may like to count the in-breath, the pause and out-breath, or simply follow the sensations, sounds and even visualize the breath. Go with whatever feels right for you each night.
The three most important elements in breathing exercises are:
slow the in-breath and out-breath. Do not rush the breath as this sends signals that activate the sympathetic system (fight/flight mode of the nervous system);
breathe down deeply into your lower belly. Breathe as deeply as feels comfortable to you. You may have to progress breath by breath to get to deep belly breaths. In a stressed state we automatically shorten each breath and take in shallow breaths that tend not to flow further than the upper chest;
lengthen the out-breath so you take more time on the exhale than the inhale.
All three techniques together will automatically start to calm your body and, as your central nervous system runs through both body and brain, you will find that your mind can more easily calm down too, getting ready for sleep.
Listen to My Latest Sleep Hypnosis
My deep sleep hypnosis incorporates the last few tips to help you build a habit of sleep. It also contains hypnotic techniques that will give you even more tools in your sleep toolkit to fall asleep and stay asleep tonight and every night even if you are stressed, in a noisy place and just can't stop thinking. Listen to it tonight.
You can also download any of my sleep or other MP3s for offline listening at nighttime, allowing you to disconnect from the internet and other beeps in the night. Find all my sleep MP3s here on the e-store.
Thanks for Reading
My name is Sarah and I am the creator and narrator of Unlock Your Life. I have worked as a Clinical Hypnotherapist for over 8 years and I first discovered the power of hypnotherapy as an answer for my own struggles with over 10 years of insomnia.
I quit my old career to provide low-cost and no-cost therapy and support for all. You can read more about my journey so far here.
You can find over 200 sessions to support your health in mind, body and spirt here on my Youtube channel.
Get more daily tips on my Facebook page. As always, I look forward to supporting you to retrain your brain and unlock your life.