Sleep relaxation is a term that encompasses different practices that help you fall asleep quicker and get more rest. This piece will explain 2 simple practices I use to shift into an optimal state to fall asleep as fast as possible.
But first, let’s visit 5-year-old Max. I had just fallen asleep face-first in my soup during lunch at my kindergarten school. I think my genetics lean towards sleepiness, my father can nap just about anywhere. While I never looked at Chef Boyardee again after the soup incident, I have developed a couple of techniques that help me fall asleep and manage my sleep.
With these practices I can fall asleep in 100% of the car rides I go on (slight exaggeration) and fall asleep within 5 minutes of putting my head on the pillow at night (no exaggeration).
I’ve also woken up at 4 am for days in a row, had my sleep schedule shift violently from things happening at work and in life, and spent hours staring at the ceiling trying to get back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.
But, while sleep can be tricky, here are 2 techniques that reliably work for me.
#1 is about practicing how to fall asleep faster. #2 is what to do if you can’t sleep or wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep.
Falling asleep is an exercise in feeling not thinking. You can’t think yourself asleep, but you can feel your way into a state that is optimal for sleep relaxation. My guess is this is intuitive for people who are good at sleep relaxation. For everyone else here’s what this means.
Every night as I get into bed I begin to place my focus on how comfortable my bed is, the pleasant feeling of the temperature in the room (cool temperatures are conducive to falling asleep), how my muscles feel more relaxed, and the sleepiness that starts to set in.
The goal of this whole practice is to feel these things, then let go a little of that focus and see if you drift off. If it feels like you need to, focus on a few more of the pleasant feelings around you then let go for a few more moments. Doing this 1-2 times almost always leads me into a deep state of sleep relaxation. It is very similar to the body scan meditation or progressive muscle relaxation practice in FocusCalm with a slight angle towards falling asleep. If you want to practice falling asleep, lowering your stress is one of the best ways to do this.
If this doesn’t work or if you can’t fall asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night the key is to not shoot yourself with the second arrow. The last blog post was about not beating yourself up if something bad happens. You already get the suffering from what happened (not being able to fall asleep, losing out on an opportunity or competition, not dealing with an interpersonal conflict the way you wanted to), why make it harder by stressing about how it already went? Notice the first arrow and decide how you want to respond.
The way this applies to sleep is if I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep I try not to worry about how I’ll feel the next day or how things aren’t going the way I want them to right now (ie. falling asleep). I just hang out in bed with my eyes open or closed, do the practice from #1 and if I can’t fall asleep I trust that I will be okay the next day. Whatever I’m worried about I let those thoughts drift away and just enjoy relaxing in bed and if I fall asleep, great… and if I don’t I’ll be okay too. The key is don’t beat yourself up, you’re already not sleeping (not ideal, but okay), so just decide what you’d like to do now in response to that, trust yourself, and rest as much as you want even if you’re not asleep.
It’s very important to note that these practices work for me. There are professionals who specialize in sleep that can help you. The goal for these two practices and FocusCalm is to teach you how to relax more so you can perform better and achieve your goals, including improving your sleep relaxation abilities.
If you want to try some of our guided meditations in FocusCalm you can check them out here. With FocusCalm you can track your progress and how these practices are changing your brain activity in real-time. It combines guided mediations, neurofeedback training, and brain training games to improve your ability to relax and perform better. If you’d like to try FocusCalm 30 days risk-free, click here.