If you’ve ever been very stressed, then you’ll know that this can make it very difficult to get to sleep. Common when we’re stressed is to lie awake listening to our hearts thudding in our chest and getting even more stressed that we’re not able to drift off and thus re-energize for the days ahead. This is what makes the situation so bad: we know that the less we sleep, the worse the stress is going to seem tomorrow. Ironically, we’ll experience more of the very same stress that is keeping us awake!
So what can you do to overcome that stress and just drift off?
The Right Frame of Mind
The key thing to remember here is that you can’t ‘force’ yourself to overcome stress and you can’t ‘force’ yourself to relax. The whole idea of forcing yourself to relax is actually contradictory. This is where many people fall down: in trying to make ourselves fall asleep we will often start tossing and turning and even getting frustrated and angry that we aren’t sleeping. This only increases our stress more, increases our heart rate more and continues the vicious cycle. If you have ever looked at your alarm clock at 4am in the morning and felt like you’re the only person awake, then you’ll know this well.
So how do you break this cycle? The solution is to stop forcing yourself to sleep and to instead just let it happen naturally. Specifically, this means you should remove the pressure of ‘having’ to fall to sleep. In fact, remove the objective completely.
So when you go to bed, you’re not going to bed in order to sleep any more. Instead, recognize that simply relaxing and resting can actually be very good for you too and allow yourself to do this. Focus on how nice it is to just lie back and not need to do anything and remember that even if you only do that, you’ll still be relaxing and rejuvenating to some degree.
The irony is that as soon as you start enjoying being in bed and as soon as you take away the ‘need’ to fall asleep, you will almost always drift off right away. And not only will this improve your ability to get to sleep but it will also enhance your quality of sleep as you’ll be much more restful.