• Dr Phoebe Lau

5 ways to fall asleep as quickly as possible

Trouble with sleep is one of the most popular topics discussed in my therapy room. It’s an integral part of our mental and physical health, and our cognitive abilities such as memory, reasoning and problem-solving.

That’s why we might feel off-balance when we’ve had long periods of troubled sleep. Our sleep is easily affected by changes in our environment, stress, and mood, with some people more sensitive to these changes than others. Here are a few ways to get you off to sleep as quickly as possible:

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1) Check your environment

Your bedroom should be a cool, comfy, and technology-free haven in the evenings. This means removing all technology from the room if possible. I tend to use my phone as an alarm clock so I do keep it beside my bed. To remove any temptation of checking social media or emails, I switch my phone to silent and turn-off the vibrate function. I also turn my phone upside down so I’m not woken up by notifications flashing up on my screen. Clear out any clutter before you go to bed like throwing out rubbish, removing dirty drinking glasses, and putting anything (books, clothing, children’s toys) away that you don’t need as you’re going to bed. To make your room extra comfy, your bedroom should be cool and aired out, with limited (none is preferable) artificial light peeking through your curtains. 

2) Set a bedtime routine

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times - we’re creatures of habit. Our body and brain thrives on routine, so create one in the evenings to help you get the best sleep possible. Your bedroom routine should begin at least 30 minutes before you get into bed. This half an hour is your opportunity to wind down and de-stress. Instead of watching another episode of that thrilling crime show or working in bed, put everything away for a relaxing bath or shower, make yourself a decaffeinated cup of tea, turn on soothing music or listen to a podcast. Just make sure the podcast isn’t too gripping!  Maybe find one that’s on a super boring topic.

3) Write it down

Notice that the moment you close your eyes, your mind is buzzing with thoughts - a list of "to-dos" and "what-ifs". Keep a notepad or journal beside your bed and write down anything that you seem worried about or need to remember for the next day. This may be a part of your bedtime routine. It’s better to write it down on paper rather than in our phones because we don’t want to be tempted by social media or emails again. 

Photo by Kate Stone Matheson

4) Mindful breathing

After writing down your thoughts, take a comfortable position (try to limit tossing and turning) and notice your breath. Take slow, deep breaths like you’re already asleep. You may like to place a hand on your stomach or chest to feel the rhythm of your breath moving up and down. Just notice this feeling. If any thoughts creep in just gently refocus your attention on your breathing. Remember to write down any thoughts that are bothering you or keep circling your mind. 

5) Self-talk 

Self-talk is important for most situations including when you’re trying to fall asleep. Thoughts like “I’m never going to fall asleep” and “I’m going to feel awful tomorrow” often makes us feel more anxious and frustrated. The more anxious and frustrated we feel, the less likely we’re relaxed enough to fall asleep. Try (1) letting go of these thoughts by bringing your awareness back to your breath, and (2) reframing your thoughts.

Reframing your thoughts means changing the way you speak to yourself or the way you look at a situation to be both positive and realistic. 

Instead of:

“I’m never going to fall asleep.”

You may say to yourself, “Eventually, I’ll fall asleep.” 

Instead of:

“I’m going to feel awful tomorrow morning.”

You may say, “I won’t feel the best but I’ll survive.” 

The goal here to minimise negative thinking patterns around sleep so you feel calm and relaxed to drift off into a restful night’s sleep. 

These are only a few brief suggestions among many strategies to enhance sleep. The best approach if you’re struggling with sleep is to book an appointment to discuss your individual circumstances and needs.

#mentalhealth #mentalhealthtreatment #womensmentalhealth #innercollective #stressmanagement #burnout #sleepstrategies #melbourneclinicalpsychologist #melbournepsychology

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