S.Leep is important. But it is often not easy for those who suffer from mood and anxiety disorders. Sure, one could go the drug route; However, there are other interventions that are worth considering. Get nice and comfortable while we talk about sleep and anxiety …
Look at her, she is in a deep, restful sleep. But it wasn’t always that way because insomnia ravaged her life. She tried medication, but it didn’t work. So she turned to sleep therapy and you see the results.
A sleep psychologist and coach from Somnus Therapy recently contacted me and asked if they could do a guest post. I accept very few so I took my time to check out their website – their work. Yes, I gladly accepted the offer.
Somnus is a personalized sleep therapy program. Whether you want to fall asleep easier, sleep at night, sleep longer every night, sleep better – maybe everyone – Somnus wants to help. The guest post was written for Somnus by Gabie Lazareff, a certified health and yoga trainer and experienced wellness author. Gabi’s mission is to educate her readers about the importance of sleep, not just to survive, but to thrive.
The floor (bed) is yours, Gabie …
How to fall asleep from fear
If you’re scared, you know the struggle that can occur when it is time to fall asleep. It has something to do with going to bed and closing your eyes that suddenly increases the volume of those intrusive, ruminant thoughts.
Fortunately, we’ve built in some pretty nifty mechanisms to calm the mind and body and put us into a sleepy state. We’re talking about methods that can help reduce this feeling of anxiety and essentially activate our parasympathetic response (rest & digestion) which helps the body overcome our fearful sympathetic response (fight, flight, freeze).
Relaxation Techniques for Sleep
I would like to share some relaxation techniques that you can try in bed. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t work for you right away. We are all unique, which is why it is so important that we try different symptom management techniques. This is especially true when we are scared of going to bed.
Let’s think about what happens to our breathing when we are stressed or anxious. We breathe quickly, shallowly and briefly. Now let’s think about what happens to our breathing when we are calm and relaxed. We breathe slowly, deeply and long.
Just as we can identify fear by paying attention to our breathing, we can also change how we internally respond to a situation by using our breathing intentionally. When we can take long and deep breaths, the body sends messages to the brain’s fear center letting it know that we don’t need to be in this heightened state of stress. Obviously, when we can take long and deep breaths, we are in an environment that is safe and out of perceived danger.
Once the fear center of the brain understands this, we can trigger a parasympathetic response and activate our resting and digestive modes.
To practice deep breathing, lie comfortably in your bed with one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Soften your gaze or close your eyes. Relax your whole body. Breathe in deeply through your nose and deeply through your mouth. Continue to breathe in long and deep through your nose and exhale through either your nose or your mouth, whichever is most comfortable. Breathe as calmly as possible. Keep your shoulders and the rest of your body nice and relaxed.
As is common with fear, try to put your focus on your hands when your mind is racing. Does your right hand move more than your left when you inhale and exhale? Perhaps both hands rise and fall equally. Notice the ups and downs of your stomach or chest, or maybe both. See if you can feel the temperature of the breath as it passes through your nostrils, above your upper lip.
We try to shift the focus away from intrusive thoughts to the breath and the way it moves in the body. This encourages the mind and body to have this parasympathetic response. Another way to decrease the volume of ruminating thoughts is to use an internal count that counts to three on the inhale and four on the exhale. You can choose the number that is most comfortable for you, as long as your exhalation is slightly longer than your inhalation. This is the quality of the breath that signals to the brain that we are protected from danger and can sleep safely.
Stand up the wall
Another way to activate our parasympathetic nervous system is to put your legs across your chest. This improves blood flow to the brain, which in turn activates this parasympathetic response (rest and digestion).
To do this, sit on your bed with one of your hips against the wall. Lie down and move around to swing your legs up the wall and bring your arms to either side of your body. While making yourself comfortable here, you can gently straighten your legs and bend your feet for a nice stretch in the hamstrings. This is completely optional. If you want to get straight into our restful posture, you can keep your legs strongly bent while your feet are against the wall for support.
In this pose, it takes about three minutes to activate the parasympathetic response we are looking for. While you are here, you can practice the breathing exercise just discussed. It will continue to put the body in a sleepy state.
The idea is to keep the whole body relaxed. Why not put a pillow under your head and chest, take a blanket and make yourself super comfortable? This posture should be effortless and comfortable. Relax your shoulders, relax your hips, let the whole body be nice and heavy with as little effort as possible. To get out of this position, you can bend your knees, place your feet against the wall and rock gently to the side, or you can hug your knees towards your chest and rock gently to the side.
Try doing these exercises before you plan to go to sleep after setting an alarm or using your phone. We try to break away from the day and put away anything that could bring that fear back. So try to avoid using screens afterwards.
Do not be discouraged
Sometimes the fearful mind is just super loud. The fact that you are ready to consider new methods to calm your bedtime anxiety is fantastic. If these techniques don’t work for you the first time, that’s fine. These are exercises that need to be practiced. They take getting used to, especially if we are new to deep, deliberate breathing.
If you are concerned that you are not getting enough quality sleep to support your mental health, or if you are concerned that you have a sleep disorder, speak to your doctor so that you have access to all possible treatment options.
Okay, Bill here. A big thank you to Gabie and Somnus for the information and encouragement.
Here, too, sleep is important. And you can be sure that I know all about the sleep problems that accompany mood and anxiety disorders – from personal experience. I also know that there are very sensible interventions that are readily available. Sure, medication can count for a while – that is your choice. However, if you are struggling with sleep problems, you should seriously consider a sleep therapy program.
Do yourself a great favor: sleep well. Achieving this must be a priority.
Hey, be sure to stop by and see Somnus Therapy. A wealth of information – help – is always available to you.
Content image: FitTipDAILY
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