Imagine that tomorrow, you have a really important presentation to give to the board of directors at your company. This presentation could make or break your career. Which situation below would you be most likely to follow?
Mindset 1: When you go to bed, your body relaxes, your mind lets go of the day and you slowly but surely drift off to sleep. You awake the next day revitalised and full of energy.
Mindset 2: When you get into bed, your body tenses, your mind fills with thoughts, so many issues that need sorting, anxiety kicks in, you start to doubt if you will ever get to sleep. You close your eyes, but your mind chatters away. “Will you shut up!” you think to yourself, “I need to be up at 7am tomorrow for this presentation!” But your mind continues to chatter away. Then you get a horrible sinking feeling, “am I really prepared enough for tomorrow?” Three hours later, full of stress and worry about the presentation, you fall asleep due to shear exhaustion. You awake the next day sleepy, grumpy and anxious.
The examples above reflect the same person, with the same circumstances but with one big difference, mindset. A change in mindset can decide the difference between a chronic insomniac and natural deep sleeper.
No matter how long you’ve been suffering with insomnia or problems with your sleep, you can go from a mindset 2 to a mindset 1, and I’m living proof of that!
How can you do it? You need to do absolutely nothing. The difference between the two mindsets is that mindset 1 is focused on nothing where as mindset 2 focuses on everything it can sink its teeth into. It sounds simple and it is simple (sort of), but when you’ve gotten into that habit using your brain while lying in bed things can easily spiral out of control. But getting to mindset 1 is just a matter of training your mind to blank out and allow sleep to happen naturally.
In this article I’ll explain exactly how this can be achieved. But don’t expect your mind to give up its privileges without a struggle! It will take a bit of will power, you are breaking a habit after all, but once it’s broken having a calm mind in bed will just be part of your everyday sleep routine.
Having the right mindset for sleep will not only improve the quality of your sleep, it will also make you calmer and less stressed throughout the day. Taking control of your mindset is not only useful for sleep, but it’s a powerful skill for life in general.
In this article, we’ll begin by talking about how you can reduce stress and anxiety before you go to bed. Then we’ll discuss what you can do to reduce anxious thoughts if they appear while you’re in bed. Finally, we’ll cover what it means to have a positive attitude towards sleep.
How to reduce anxiety before bed
Even if you’re completely calm and relaxed, it’s so easy for your mind to keep chattering on. It goes through what’s happened in the day, relationships, career, anything it can get its hands on. Heres how to just let go, forget the day and fall asleep.
Put the day and your life on standby
It’s a habit that’s very easy to slip into, but don’t let your bedtime turn into a strategical life planning session.
When you’re in bed, you need to be in another world. A completely separate environment. The day is left behind in the distance and all you have to look forward to is deep refreshing sleep.
Your brain needs to calm down before sleeping and solving problems keeps it awake. What’s more, you start disassociating bedtime with sleep and more with high mental thinking. Problem solving and planning your days are very important activities, so make time for them in the day, while washing the dishes for example
There’s merit to the saying “I’ll sleep on it” used when someone waits overnight to make an important decision. Studies have shown people are able to solve problems 40% quicker if the time they have to solve the problem includes an overnight rest. But this is due to the processes of sleep, not conscious thinking. So if you’ve got a problem you want to sleep on, write it down on a piece of paper, go to bed, forget about it, and pick up the thought process in the morning.
Transfer your thoughts from your mind onto paper
If you find it hard to let go of an unsolved problem or find it hard to store away all your thoughts for the morning, consider keeping a journal.
The idea is that you document all your current feelings, thoughts, problems and solutions just before you go to bed. By doing this you can completely let go of them, safe in the knowledge that they’re safely stored and ready to access for when you wake up.
It’s like putting a computer in hibernate mode. It saves all the processes to main memory and powers down with the all processes ready to be picked up for when it’s next turned on.
You can also create a task list in your journal, or multiple ones for different activities. Break everything down. What do you need to do to complete the tasks? Squeeze every last drop of thought from your mind. Once you’re done, you can be confident you’ve taken all the time you need to plan the day and resolve any problems.
Your journal can be anything, from a scruffy notepad to a highly organised project folder. As long as it can hold all your thoughts and feelings until the morning. It can even be computer based. I use a mixture of Microsoft Outlook and The Journal for mine, but any word processor will do the job.
For a complete foolproof solution, consider keeping a dictaphone or a notepad and pen by your bed to just in case you want to add anything when you’re in bed. Once you’ve received a thought just write it down, let it go and pick it up the next morning.
How to reduce anxiety in bed
Getting to sleep needs be a relaxing experience, not a stressful one. To sleep, your mind needs to slow your body and reduce its thoughts.
Can’t sleep? Don’t worry.
Worrying about not sleeping causes your mind to fill with thoughts and your heartbeat to race, stopping you from sleeping, stressing you even more. It’s a vicious cycle.
There’s just one thing you need to do to break this cycle, stop worrying. It’s much easier said than done but the worrying could be exactly what’s causing your sleep problems in the first place.
Some find reverse psychology helps them get to sleep. By actually trying to stay awake, they remove the stress associated with not being able to get to sleep and end up falling sound asleep. This concept is mentioned in the Insomnia Beater hypnosis pack, which further helps to reduce stress and anxiety if you can’t fall asleep.
Listen to something relaxing
It’s easy to have thoughts in a quiet atmosphere, because there’s nothing else to focus on. You own mind chatter becomes the loudest noise inside your head.
By introducing a sound into your bedroom, particularly one you find relaxing, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep by shifting your attention from you own thoughts to the relaxing noise in the background.
This source of relaxing noise could be white noise, such as that coming from a fan or a dedicated white noise machine, or nature sounds, like rain or a flowing river.
Some of the most relaxing sounds I have found on the internet come from Brain Sync. They have a range of downloads utilizing Binaural Beats, that depending on the download, contains calming music, nature sounds, or both.
Pay less attention to the time
One of the main causes of stress and anxiety is an activity I call watching the clock.
If you’ve got the time lit up in big red numbers, it’s hard not to notice how long you’ve been awake for and how many hours you’ve got left until you need to wake up, which can be very stressful.
It’s easy to misinterpret the amount of sleep you’ve actually had. Some people swear by the fact they’ve had no sleep all night, when they actually have, they were just in the lighter stages of sleep. If you’re woken when you’re in light sleep, you might not even know that you were ever asleep at all.
If you need a clock for an alarm, consider using a mobile phone or a clock which doesn’t constantly emit light. Or just turn it away from you so you would have to sit up to see it.
Just by having the time lit up in another colour other than red can make sleep feel much more soothing and relaxing. I noticed a huge change when I switched from a red backlit clock to a blue backlit clock. Time no longer seemed a threat, it felt much more positive. Kind of futuristic. Now I use one with a green backlight which is only lit up with the press of a button and that works even better.
The right attitude for sleep
Your own conscious thoughts and attitudes have a direct impact on your sleep. These thoughts can either have a positive or a negative impact on your sleep.
Negative thoughts include:
- I’ll never be able to sleep again
- My sleep is broken
- I have to sleep throughout the day to get the sleep I need
- I have to sleep [incorrect] hours
- Sleep is something I dread
If these sound familiar, imagine how much better your sleep would be if your mind transformed them into these thoughts:
- My sleep is deep and refreshing
- Sleep is relaxing and nourishing experience
- I get all the sleep I need each and every night
- I wake up fresh and alert, ready to start the day
The first set of thoughts is the mindset of an insomniac, while the second set is the mindset of a natural deep sleeper. If you can shift your mindset away from that of an insomniac, you’re taking an important step.
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Your mindset can be the difference between lying in bed awake and lying in bed in a deep sleep. Your mind likes to stick to a routine so don’t expect any major changes straight way. The time you spend adjusting your mindset for sleep will be very much worth the effort in the long term.