5 distraction techniques to help with repetitive thoughts and winding down
It’s no secret that more and more Brits are struggling to get to sleep at night. Our fast-paced lives mean that we’re taking on more throughout the day, which can manifest as anxiety and insomnia once the sun goes down.
Here are five tried-and-tested techniques to help you wind down when it’s time to sleep.
The ‘The’ Technique
This easy technique is also known as the ‘Blocking Strategy’ and revolves around repeating a neutral word such as ‘the’ over and over. The aim of this is to block out thoughts which drive anxiety and stop the mind racing, thus contributing to a more peaceful, deeper sleep and helping you drift off faster.
Repeating a mantra is often used in meditation to calm the mind, if using ‘the’ doesn’t work for you, try thinking one of these until you fall asleep:
I am at peace
I welcome sleep into my being
Let it be
I choose peace
Relax, release, rest
My mind and body are ready for sleep
‘I Will Stay Awake’
Lying in bed willing yourself to get off to sleep is a major cause of sleep anxiety, and can just lead to yet another night of no shuteye. Combat this by facing your fear and thinking the opposite. Try lying down in a pitch-black room and repeating the following:
“I will keep my eyes open. I will stay awake”
This will take off the pressure to fall asleep, instead playing reverse psychology with yourself and tricking your mind into feeling tired.
Another way to use this method is to do something to mildly stimulate your brain, such as reading. This will make it harder for your brain to be over-stimulating and will eventually lull you into a restful sleep.
Try some Breathing Exercises
There are a variety of breathing exercises you can try to help you fall asleep, these include:
The 4-7-8 method: To perform this breathing method, position your tongue so the tip is resting against the gum ridge behind your teeth. Then breathe out through your mouth, before inhaling up through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for seven seconds, before exhaling again through your mouth for a count of eight.
Diaphragmatic breath: Rest one hand on your lower abdomen and the other on your chest before taking five deep breaths. Then inhale and exhale for a count of three each time.
Visualizing breath: As you’re breathing, imagine the journey the air makes. Envision it travelling up your nose and through your muscles as you exhale – all the way down to your fingers and toes.
Lengthened breath: A stressed body contributes to faster, shallow breathing. Trick your body into thinking you’re calm by spending longer on each breath, and you’ll find yourself starting to relax in next to no time.
Schedule a Time to Worry
One of the most common reasons people struggle to get off to sleep is due to worry. One way of tackling this is to schedule in some ‘worry time’, where you can sit and not only worry about situations, but also write them down and come up with solutions to each problem. Twenty minutes per day is all you need to combat anxiety and go to bed feeling more content with what you have achieved.
Get out of Bed
We’ve all been there – tossing and turning in bed for hours on end willing yourself to get off to sleep. But did you know that this is the worst thing you can do? Often the reason that we struggle to fall asleep is that our bodies are just not ready and need more awake time. Next time this happens, get up and do something you enjoy (like reading or doing a puzzle), and you’ll soon feel sleepy.