5 Quick Tips To Try When You're Lying In Bed And Can't Sleep

Fight insomnia with these game-changeing bedtime routines

April 20, 2016 | By Dr Barbara Mariposa

What do you do when you're lying in bed and just can’t manage to fall asleep? Instead of counting sheep, you look at your phone, clock or watch and start to panic about the time ticking away and predicting how awful you’re going to feel in the morning – sound familiar? 

When you’re in bed, you usually remember things that happened to you during the day, and when you’re tired the mind can play tricks on you, forcing you to focus on that embarrassing thing that happened in the office or how you forgot to pay your credit card bill. Issues seem to mount up and you become even more stressed because you know that lack of sleep makes things even worse!

So when counting sheep doesn’t quite cut it, try these 7 healthy nighttime tips when you’re already in bed to fight insomnia and wake up feeling well rested:

1. DON’T FIGHT IT

Here’s something to mull over – the idea of an eight hour sleep each night is a new invention. Most other animals sleep in varying chunks of times over a 24-hour period. Humans too, up until the early 19th century, used to sleep in two chunks of four hours, the ‘first’ and ‘second’ sleep.

Research from Oxford University shows this is your natural sleeping pattern, which means that people vary with how many hours of sleep they really need in one go. Accept that right now this is how your life is. Acceptance has a powerful, calming and healing effect, whilst what you resist persists. 

There is no normal ‘good’ way to sleep, so try to remember that even if you’re tossing and turning for a couple of hours, you can still feel refreshed and energised on 5 hours of sleep!

2. RESTFUL CONSCIOUSNESS

There are many other phases of consciousness that are restful, so instead of stressing out that the clock is ticking and you aren’t already asleep, try and stay at the half way point of being fully awake and asleep. 

Meditation techniques that help you to take a mental step back and observe your thoughts with curiosity, rather than being sucked into them have proven to help with feeling rested. There’s a silver lining to this method – this particular phase of sleep is when your most creative thoughts come together, which in turn can naturally put you in a state of calm when you’re lying in bed and can’t sleep.

3. TENSION RETENTION

Daily life can add tension to your body, and not getting much sleep may make you feel even more stressed and uncomfortable. Use your time in bed to consciously relax your body, releasing any tension in your muscles. Starting from your feet, explore your body systematically with your mind, noticing how each part seems to be at that moment and inviting it to soften, release and expand.

4. LIGHT UP

If you are still struggling to fall asleep when lying in bed and different thoughts and ideas keep going round and around in circles in your mind, write them down. Keep a notebook and pen on your bedside table and release the stream of thoughts that don’t seem to quiet down in your mind. Empty it onto the paper just as it is, not worrying about commas or any grammar or structure at all, then lie back on the pillow and go back to the body release exercise.

5. 4x4 (THE BREATHING EXERCISE, NOT THE CAR)

This is one of the most effective breathing exercises to help calm and relax the body and mind. First, breathe deeply into your lower abdomen, allowing it to fully expand, to the count of four. Then exhale slowly to the count of four and pause. Repeat this in and out breathing three more times. Then do the whole cycle of four in and out breaths for three more times, so you do sixteen breaths in total. This lowers brain wave activity, calms down your whole system and is deeply restful.

Using these 5 simple tips to help fight insomnia when you’re lying in bed can be the game-changer you were looking for – helping you relax and allow sleep to come more easily in the future. 

Insomnia can be one of the most stressful and debilitating illnesses, however worrying about sleep doesn’t need to take over your life, you just need to try these useful tips and await a good night’s sleep – sweet dreams!

Read next: Health tips on how to fight insomnia.