How to...,sleep

Pain, ya got me up all night. Any tips on catching some ZZZs?

The biggest things that help me get to sleep, and stay asleep are 1) putting my phone on a dresser across the room so that I don’t instinctively try to look at it in the middle of the night as screens are really bad for REM sleep, 2) go to sleep at a consistent time every day! This sets your circadian clock up for success, 3) drink lots of water during dinner and before bed. Waking up with headaches or fatigue can be horrible, and being hydrated can help a pleasant morning!

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I would say some of my tips fall in the “general sleep” category, and others fall into the “working with pain at night” category.

For the working with pain at night category, my main strategies actually involve having my phone nearby LOL, though not to scroll (I agree with @Hunter.Yates , screens are really bad for sleep), but to have quick access to a couple of my favorite tracks with mindfulness and self-compassion practices to soothe my nervous system, as well as a couple of somatic tracking and visualization practices to work with pain. I also have a couple of relaxing tracks with soft music and sounds of nature, and a care kit next to my bed that includes relaxing essential oils and a few pebbles I’ve brought home from trips that bring a lovey tactile sensation along with good memories. I do make sure, however, to have my phone in “do not disturb” mode, which will turn off notifications.

For the general sleep category: avoid screens an hour or two prior to sleep, as well as stressful stimuli (like watching/listening to the news); go to sleep and wake up at consistent times; hydrate well throughout the day but not too close to my sleeping time, because then I’ll have to get up to go pee; in my case, I avoid caffeine completely, and alcohol for the most part; get a cuddle with my partner and/or my cats just before I go to sleep, and meditate for a few minutes once I’m tucked in.

For both categories, whenever I struggle with sleep, I just re-focus my mind - I’m creating a nurturing and restful environment for myself, whether sleep is part of the equation or not (sometimes sleep won’t come, but I can still rest and soften into my bed). Throughout my healing journey, restorative yoga was a lifesaver, as it helped me teach my brain and body to relax even in the presence of pain - this is not a quick fix, though, it takes time, patience, and repetition.

Sleep was the final frontier for me when recovering from chronic pain. I had a lot of anxiety around getting a good night’s sleep so my therapist had me practice reframing how I think about sleep and it helped a lot. Instead of saying I need to go to sleep or else I’ll feel awful tomorrow (very high stakes), she had me lower the stakes by renaming it “rest”. She also asked me to remind myself that one night of poor sleep doesn’t have to mean that the day that follows will be bad. My reframing sounded like this: I am going to rest now. If I sleep, that’s great. If I don’t, that’s ok too. I’m still resting my body and mind.

I have also had success with sleep meditations and journaling when I can’t silence my busy brain. Good sleep hygiene is important, but for me, lowering the stakes and taking away the anxiety was the most helpful intervention.

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Something that’s been helpful for me has been to shift my mentality after a bad night’s sleep. My instinct if I sleep badly is to wake up and think “my day is going to be ruined because I’m so tired… I’m definitely going to get a headache and my brain will be foggy… etc”.
But I’ve realized that simply questioning that assumption is helpful. I’ve started telling myself, “yes I’m tired, but my body can function on variable levels of sleep. maybe I’ll get a headache, but maybe not. I’m feeling tired right now, but maybe my mind will clear in a bit.”
Just remaining curious and open to different outcomes has been really helpful for me. And it lowers the pressure to get enough sleep on any given night.

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soooo I got 6+ hours last night for the first time in months! listened to a podcast and then put on a 5 minute meditation. rocked me right to sleep. thanks everyone!

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When my pain flares up, sleep can the magic pill. If I get a night of good sleep, my brain calms down and I am able to cope with my pain better. That’s why I am so focused before I go to bed to sleep at the right time (not too tired) and relax my brain before I fall asleep.

love this. super helpful. thank you

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I’m a huge fan of putting on a yoga nidra recording, especially if I wake up in the middle of the night. It falls into that category of “I am resting and it’s ok if I don’t fall asleep - I am doing something good for my brain and body” – like @mimik said!

I’ve heard that 45 mins of yoga nidra equals 3 hours of sleep. Not sure how they calculate that, but I’ll take it! It really helps me.

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I would agree, Yoga nidra or other type of non sleep deep rest meditations really help me when I am having trouble sleeping. Sometimes I will even get out of bed and do some yoga stretches which can help relax the muscles enough to reduce pain sensations.

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Nothing much happens podcast… Great and easy option!

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@Aaron_Robbin any particular episodes?

@cindy have you tried deep breathing or only yoga? definitely interested in the former

I’ve tried both - I usually work with the deep breathing first, either while falling asleep or if I wake up. I find it also helps on the out breath to release any muscle tension, in fact you can just go around the body breathing and releasing different parts.

It doesn’t work that way. They all do the same thing and you won’t remember the stores anyway.

-Aaron

I like keeping my focus each time I wake up on, “hey if I woke up I must have been asleep.” Then I tell my body how nice it is that it can sleep when it needs it. Somehow that positive frame really helps me stay calm and get back to sleep . . .

Two great tips:

  • Only use the bed for sleeping which means if you are in your bed awake for more than 20 mins (this could be going to bed, middle of the night, in the morning) get out of bed and do something non-stimulating.
  • Once you wake up for the day, get out of bed and go outside and get 15+ mins of sunlight (don’t wear sunglasses). This will set your circadian clock and is the single best sleep tip I’ve encountered. I actually go for a walk and get Vitamin D, exercise, and set my circadian clock.

@criess this has been super helpful during the long weekend. How do you manage to keep this habit when you get busier?

If you are pressed for time, you can eat breakfast outside.
Here is a list of more sleep tips: