We all know of the importance of good sleep, which can make bedtime a stressful time rather than a relaxing one for many. It is more tricky that lying down in bed, closing your eyes and waking up in the morning at the right time.
This article discusses the problem of a racing mind, full of worries, when you try to fall asleep, and strategies you can use to overcome this stressful situation. First, we will go into some strategies you can use to prepare yourself for a restful night long before your head hits the pillow. Then, we are going to discuss what to do when you are struggling to fall asleep or fall back asleep.
How to prepare yourself for a restful night's sleep
At the end of a long day you may feel physically exhausted, maybe you have even nodded off while reading a book or watching TV but, boom! as soon as your head hits the pillow, your mind is suddenly wide awake. Even worse, all sorts of worries seem to rise up out of nowhere and the wave of sumptuous sleepiness you were experiencing a moment a go has disappeared. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. This sensation is known as tired but wired syndrome and usually stems from underlying stress or anxiety. No matter how tired you feel just before your mind starts racing, once the “fight or flight” mode of your nervous system has been activated, you will find it difficult to fall asleep. So, in order for us to drift off to sleep, we need to switch out of “fight or flight” mode and into “rest and digest” mode, known as the parasympathetic nervous system. The best way to do this is by doing relaxation preparatory activities prior to bed time. Here are a few activities we recommend to do this:
Studies have shown that one of the most effective ways to calm your mind for sleep is with meditation. In a 2014 study published in The Journal of Sleep, 54 people with chronic insomnia were split into groups, one of these groups practised mindfulness meditation before bed & others did not. After the 8 week trial it was found that the group that practised meditation each evening gained nearly 45 extra minutes of sleep each night & enjoyed substantial reductions in the overall severity of their insomnia. The study concluded that mindfulness meditation is a viable treatment for adults with insomnia.
To best prepare your mind for sleep, practise mediation at night just before bed. If you are new to meditation, or if you prefer a guided meditation, you can try some of the fantastic apps available like Headspace, Insight Timer and Calm. These apps have easy routines specifically designed to teach you meditation and prepare you for sleep.
What are some other relaxing activities besides sitting mediation?
In addition to sitting meditation, you can also try a number of other meditative activities that can help you relax and switch into the parasympathetic nervous system. Think of activities that help you quiet your mind while requiring minimum physical or mental excursion and do not involve screens. These activities may be:
Write it down
Do you relate to the experience of having your worries surface when you get into bed and circle around in your mind preventing you from sleep? One effective method to release the mind from anxiety is to keep a journal for your worries or other things that are on your mind an hour or two before you go sleep. It may also be helpful to write down a to-do list of all the things you have to do in coming days.
In today’s busy world, often the only chance your mind has to reflect and engage in quiet contemplation is when your head hits the pillow and you are no longer surrounded by distractions. By getting your worries down on paper before you go to bed, your mind will be freed of the need to cycle through them. Your mind is also far more rational before you go to bed than it is when you are lying awake at 4am, so you are in a better headspace to tackle your worries prior to bed rather than waking up and ruminating on them, leading to disproportional stress and anxiety.
Try a Groundd Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets are blankets that have equally distributed weight through out them. This weight provides a relaxing effect similar to how one usually feels after a hug or a relaxing massage.
The pressure from the weight creates a sensation know as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP). DTP is a therapeutic method to relax the nervous system by applying evenly distributed weight over the body. The Occupational Therapy in Mental Health Journal found one of the therapeutic benefits of DTP that is delivered through weighted blankets is a soothing, calming effect. DTP from a weighted blanket is therefore another useful tool alongside meditative activities to switch your nervous system over from the “flight and fight” branch of your nervous system to the calming “rest and digest” branch of your nervous system (parasympathetic).
Weighted Blankets have also been shown to reduce the "stress hormone” cortisol, while increasing levels of the “happiness hormone” Serotonin. The increase in serotonin allows your body to produce melatonin which is required by your body to ease you into natural sleep.
At Groundd, our weighted blankets are designed to provide all the benefits of DTP while using natural, breathable materials in our products. Our blankets are filled with glass beads for weight that are encased in smooth layers of 100% long weave cotton and Organic Bamboo. The naturally breathable materials allow you to enjoy the comforting weight of a heavy blanket while regulating your body temperature so you can use it all year round without overheating or getting too cold.
At Groundd we offer a 14 day risk free trial so if the weighted blanket does not help we offer a full refund, no questions asked. Check out our range of Weighted Blankets here.
Hear from other Groundd Sleepers who have used one of our weighted blankets to quiet a racing mind or manage anxiety:
My 12 year old daughter (ASD, severe anxiety, insomnia) was very happy to receive her Groundd weighted blanket. She has suffered panic attacks, anxiety and waking up 5 nights a week at 1am or 2am and then starting a cycle of tiredness and anxiety everyday. My daughter was so pleased to see the blanket arrive. The first night she tried the weighted blanket she slept through, waking a couple of times where she opened her eyes and then went back to sleep. She has had 5 consecutive nights of sleep and is so much happier and less tired and anxious. She looooooves the blanket so much. Thank you so much for them.
Hey guys Love love love my weighted blanket! I struggle with getting to sleep, staying asleep and stress/anxiety. I have used the blanket for 3 nights now and have had the 3 best sleeps for years!!! We have found this blanket a lot better quality than a Calming Blanket from. Australia which cost nearly double! The ties between the blanket and cover are great, the beads don't end up all down one end, and the cover is so lovely and I don't overheat. I have just recommended these blankets to my workmates as well.
Got this for my partner. as she is sometimes hit with anxiety when trying to sleep. She says using it is like being hugged to sleep. Materials are super smooth and soft as well.
I have struggled with anxiety and depression for years which also impacts my sleep. I usually don't sleep soundly and wake up many times throughout the night. With the 9kg weighted blanket, I am able to sleep soundly and only wake up once some nights. Would definitely recommend!
Tips if you are struggling to fall back asleep:
Over the course of the night, we go through many sleep-wake cycles, most of the time we don’t even realise it and our body has seamlessly fallen back to sleep quickly. Other times, however, we are woken up more fully, be it from needing to use the bathroom or your partner snoring next to you. Once we have been woken, it can unfortunately just take one thought to creep into your mind & disturb your sense of calm, quickly leading to your mind racing and your body switching out of the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system and into the ‘fight or fight’ mode of the sympathetic nervous system.
If this happens, follow these steps to help switch back into ‘rest and digest’ mode:
1. Get out of bed
Although it may seem logical to remain in bed in order to fall back asleep, it can actually be better to get up and do a relaxing activity. The reason behind this is that if you are awake in bed and having worrying thoughts, it can create a cycle of sleep anxiety where you increasingly become more and more anxious about falling back asleep and your growing anxiety makes sleep more and more difficult. And if it doesn’t make you anxious it can certainly make you frustrated. Therefore, tempting as it is to stay in your comfortable bed and “try” to fall back asleep, it is better to leave your bedroom, keeping the lights dimmed or off, have a glass of water, and do a calming activity to distract your mind until you feel the wave of sleepiness wash back over you.
2. Do a calming activity
One calming activity I have found useful to fall back asleep is getting out of bed and reading or listening to some light-hearted fiction on the couch. I usually choose something I have already read before so as to not stimulate my mind too much. If you enjoy listening to stories like I do, there are a number of excellent “bedtime stories” on the meditation apps Calm or Headspace. Be sure to turn on “Night Shift” if you have an iPhone or Night Mode if you have an Android before you go to bed if possible.
Other calming, low stimulation activities such as meditation, breathing exercises, colouring in and using your ‘worry journal’ to get your thoughts out of your head and on to paper can also be very effective.
Once you feel that wave of sleep coming back over you, quietly return to your bed.
Although being kept awake by worrying thoughts can be incredibly frustrating, do not despair. Keep trying new things until you have found what work for you to quiet your worries and get a better night's rest.