How To Fall Asleep Fast - Is This Goal Sabotaging Your Sleep?Aug 07, 2023
You want to sleep, and you want to sleep NOW!!!! Have you ever wished that falling asleep was as quick and simple as just flicking a switch? I know I have!
Many people who have experienced insomnia know the pain of lying in bed for hours waiting to fall asleep. The stress of waiting and the inability to control sleep are so uncomfortable that many of us build up a PTSD type response around it.
We expect to fall asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow and if we don’t, then we take this as a sign that we won’t sleep, which results in us worrying and stewing and stressing all night.
The most frustrating thing is that we often feel exhausted and ready to sleep when we get into bed, so why doesn’t sleep come??
I’d like to preference this with the acknowledgement that we are all different and there can be many factors at play here- hormones, life stress, room temperature- all of this should be taken into account.
That said, the most common cause I come across in my clinic is the fear of not sleeping. This fear acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy, not due to the power of manifestation, but because as soon as you think “I can’t sleep or what if I can’t sleep” (something like this) and you buy into this thought as a real possibility, a negative pain inducing situation which must be avoided, you activate your fight/ flight stress response.
Our Emotions are Physical.
They are not just intangible, airy-fairy objects. Each and every emotion is comprised of physical chemical complexes (biochemicals) which flood our system and trigger a corresponding emotion. Dopamine for focus and engagement, serotonin for relaxation and happiness, adrenalin for energy and anxiety, etc.
When you are stressed, angry or afraid the adrenal glands release adrenalin, nor adrenalin and cortisol (remember these are physical things) into the blood stream to activate the fight flight response.
One of adrenalin’s main functions is to heighten mental awareness and enhance cognitive function, memory, and alertness. It sharpens your senses and allows you to be more aware of your surroundings in order to respond quickly to potential danger. It also inhibits the release of certain neurotransmitters and hormones that promote sleep, such as melatonin.
This suppression helps to keep you awake and prevents sleepiness during times of stress, which is very helpful if you are being chased by a sociopath (or a random tiger) but not helpful if you are worried about insomnia.
The fear of not sleeping acts as a positive feedback loop. Every time you think this thought (and believe it to be true) you stimulate the release of adrenalin into your system, and it takes your body about 20 minutes to breakdown and remove the adrenalin.
Unfortunately, you have likely been stressing about still being awake while you wait for this breakdown to occur, flooding your body with more adrenalin (and on and on it goes).
So that’s awesome. What do you do? Practice total mind control?? Unfortunately, you can no more control your thoughts than you can your sleep. Studies suggest that the average person thinks anywhere from 6,200 to 70,000 thoughts per day (the number varies widely depending on the person and the study). In the interest of brevity let’s just round it up to a buttload!
So, the average person thinks a buttload of thoughts per day and it’s completely unrealistic to expect to be able to control all of these, a random thought about not sleeping is likely to creep in. Does this mean you are doomed?
Not at all!
It doesn’t matter if you think it, do you believe it? Luckily beliefs can be changed.
First, it’s important to know the facts. For example, did you know that the average time to fall asleep is up to 30 minutes? It takes the body a while to wind down and relax into sleep. Most of us are talking, scrolling, thinking, and moving all day. It’s not natural to go from a full sprint to comatose (unless you are experiencing narcolepsy).
Understanding this and using awake time in bed as an opportunity to slow down and allow the body to gradually relax into sleep is an important first step in allowing healthy sleep to occur, as it is often our inappropriate, unrealistic expectations of sleep that are causing the problem in the first place.
Many of us live fast paced, stress filled lives and maybe you are to the point where you don’t even know how to relax.
The art of relaxation (coupled with letting go and allowing) is very important for sleep. This is because sleep itself is a passive, relaxed state. We can’t control it, as much as we would like to, and any attempt to do so just pushes it further away.
Because of this, incorporating calming exercises (such as yoga, breathwork and time in nature) into your day can be very helpful because they offer your nervous system a chance to rebalance and teach you how to relax into discomfort.
They do not guarantee sleep, and should never be used for this reason, rather they promote mental and physical health, which sets the stage for sleep and allows it to occur.
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