Are your thoughts in overdrive at 2 am, your mind revved up and not letting you drift to sleep anytime soon? Been there, done that, got the bloodshot eyes and dark eyebags to prove it. If the cause isn’t food, drink related or otherwise attributable to regular causes, here are 3 techniques to put yourself to sleep. They usually work for me on the rare instance my mind keeps me wide awake at god awful hours of the night when I just want some sleep already.
#1 – The 10 Breath Count
This is an oldie but goodie from meditation practice. It focuses your attention on your body, drawing it away from your churning head. This pries you away from the vicious cycle of thoughts when done right, allowing your exhaustion to take over and put you to sleep.
Here’s what you do:
First, gently thank your mind for its input tonight – all were good points and you’ll pick up the problem again tomorrow. This is telling your mind that you have been alerted to the issue and are taking it seriously, not blowing it off. You’re merely tabling the discussion for later.
Then turn to the meditation.
Focus on following your breath in and out, counting up to 10 in and out breaths.
While following your in breath, you can think “in”, then follow it out and think “out”, then “one”.
Follow the next breath in, think “in”, follow it out, think “out”, then “two”
And so on to a full 10 count.
Your mind may try to go back to its previous thoughts. Just notice this and start back with your breaths. You can start over at “one” or wherever you left off if this happens. If you reach a full 10 count, start over with one.
The point is not to successfully count to 10 so don’t get mad if you lose track or your breaths get interrupted and hijacked. The point is to ground yourself in your body, not your head. Your head is causing the problems after all. Once you’re in your body for a few minutes, nature and exhaustion tend to take over.
I’ve rarely ever reached a full 10 count when I do this breathing exercise. I’m almost always asleep before then. Hopefully you will be too.
#2 – Body Awareness
Another good exercise that will get you out of your head and into your tired body is a body awareness exercise. It’s easy for your concentration and great for relaxing you out of your spinning thoughts and into slumberland.
Here’s how it works:
Like with the first technique, kindly thank your mind for its hard work and state to it that you’re tabling further discussion until tomorrow when you’re fresher.
Next, focus your attention on your feet. Breathe in and out deeply a few times while maintaining your focus on your feet.
Move your focus to your legs. Again breathe in and breathe out deeply a few times with your focus on your legs. If your mind drifts, bring it back to your legs.
Move up your body to your hips, stomach, arms, hands, chest, throat, and head in the same way.
Again, this draws you out of your head and into your tired body. The point isn’t to do a full scan but to let the technique relax you enough to drift off. Keep repeating until you fall asleep. This rarely fails to put me to sleep before I finish the first scan. Hopefully it will do the same for you.
#3 – Energy Awareness
This last technique once more draws you out of churning thoughts and into the body.
As before, thank your mind for being helpful with its thoughts and note that you’ll pick up the conversation tomorrow to deal with everything when you’re refreshed.
Then focus your attention on where in your body you feel anxious or edgy. This may entail scanning your body for tightness or areas that burn, tingle or feel upset in some way.
Breathe in and out deeply a few times while focused on these areas.
Usually after a few minutes the tightness or anxiety will lessen as your breathe in and out while focusing there. Don’t be upset by the feeling. Just notice it, breathe with it. This energy can be raw and it’s what’s really driving your thoughts in many ways. By holding this energy, staying focused on the physical location, not the thoughts, you allow space to open in your psyche and your exhaustion to sweep in.
When I do this, invariably the energy unkinks within a few minutes and I’m out. After all, our energy and emotions are not permanent and when examined with awareness instead of feeding the fire with more thoughts, they unknot and dissolve naturally.
These 3 exercises are great at exhausting or relaxing you and your mind into dreamland. The trick is to remember them in time, rather than spinning in your head for 2 hours. You can use one technique or combine them if one isn’t working on its own. If your thoughts stray, just gently return to the exercise and the feelings of your breath or body. Eventually your mind will get the message and go to sleep so you can do the same.
These techniques aren’t just good for relaxing and calming your busy head at night. You can use them in waking life to calm anxiety, hectic thoughts and troubled emotions. It’s not about failing or succeeding at the exercises either. They are simply techniques to take you out of a busy head and into a space of peace and relaxation where you can move on. They are great antidotes for thoughts that just won’t shut up. Use them and enjoy some much needed shut-eye and quiet in your everyday life.
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