By Sarah Ligon, LCSW
Insomnia is a concern that comes up often in therapy. In fact, one in three people have difficulty sleeping at least one night per week. The story line often goes something like this: “I just laid there staring at the clock last night, counting the hours and minutes I had left before my alarm went off. I got more and more anxious the longer I struggled to fall asleep.” The worry around not sleeping well enough or not being able to fall asleep lead to us responding in ways that actually make sleep more difficult! We might try to go to bed much earlier than we normally would, use sleep aids, or lull ourselves off to sleep with the use of a television show or a game on our phone. But we need to start thinking about sleep in a more simplistic way.
If we follow a few simple steps and arrange the right conditions, we can work to eliminate the worry and stress around sleep. So, what do we need to do to allow sleep to happen? It starts with creating the right sleeping environment. This means limiting the bedroom for sleep and sex only! Now I know I am guilty of scrolling through my phone while lying in bed at the end of the day. But if you are struggling with sleep, eliminating TV and phone use thirty minutes before bed can go a long way to a restful night sleep. Establishing a regular bedtime routine is also imperative. This could mean taking a warm shower, light stretching, or reading a good book. Lighting a candle or using your favorite scented lotion are also things I’ve found helpful. This regular nighttime routine will help cue your body that it’s time for bed. Limiting caffeine intake and daytime naps as well as exercising daily are also all things that can help promote better sleep.
With all of that said, even when doing all of the right things, we can find ourselves still experiencing insomnia or worrying about sleep. Checking in with your primary care physician or going to therapy can be a great way to address your negative thoughts and worries surrounding sleep and dive deeper into what may be keeping you awake. I encourage you to try a few of these simple steps and reach out for support if you are still struggling.