We all have those nights, from time to time, when we just can’t fall asleep. For me, it often happens before a day with a big event scheduled, or after a day when a big event occurred. Regardless of the cause, many of us barely get sufficient sleep most of the time, and so lying there wasting precious sleep time only tends to increase the anxiety, which makes it even harder to fall asleep.
Over the years, Crabseye has developed a handful of techniques that, when combined, can usually put even the most tenacious insomnia at bay. It works best for me to go in order with these techniques, but feel free to experiment to find the order that works best for you.
Ready? Off we go, then.
- Regulate your breathing. Oxygen is nature’s wonderful, free Xanax. Some of the experts recommend a 4-7-8 count for breathing to induce relaxation (inhale for a measured count of 4, hold for a count of 7, exhale for a count of 8). Personally, that just irritates me. I like to inhale for a slow count of 2, exhale for a slow count of 2, and repeat until I’m ready to focus on the next technique.
- Progressive relaxation. I start with my toes, wiggle them for a couple of seconds, and tell them to relax. Then I move to my metatarsals, then my ankles, then my achilles tendons, then my shins, and so on. There is no hurry to get finished here. Take your time to focus on every body part you can name, and make it relax and go limp. If you don’t know specific body part names, just talk to that specific area (e.g., backs of thighs, lower back, etc.).
- Sometimes I’m asleep before I get to my internal organs. However, if necessary …
- Count backwards from 100 to 0. (This one, along with regulated breathing, gets me through the occasional anxiety attack.) Repeat a few times if needed.
- Become aware of your feet. Are they cold? Concentrate on making them warm with the power of your mind. Again, don’t be in a hurry, and don’t focus on achieving the goal … focus on making this process work.
- The last technique is: relax your eye muscles. Let your eyes roll up. Don’t tense the muscles to make them look up … relax them. (This technique is the slam-dunk of the process, but don’t go to it too soon … work through the other techniques to get to a relaxed enough state that you’ll just slip into sleep when you get to the eye part.)
There are lots of other random things that work for people: cold shower then quickly get into bed and get warm (the abrupt temperature change often induces drowsiness); melatonin; glass of warm milk; sex; reading. And, of course, pharmaceuticals. Those I avoid unless they’re absolutely necessary.
Hopefully you’ll find Crabseye’s not-really-patented techniques helpful if you ever have trouble falling asleep.