How many sheep do you have to count before you get frustrated and give up on sleep? Here’s another option to get your mind to settle, and help you fall asleep.
There are many changes you can make to improve your sleep hygiene, and counting sheep does not have to be your only option. Whether you have anxiety or not, it’s natural for the mind to ruminate at bed time when you’ve got no other distractions to occupy you. Just because your body is physically done for the day doesn’t mean your mind is automatically ready to calm down.
I’m sure many of us have tried counting sheep and it hasn’t been a hundred percent successful. Instead, I’d encourage you to focus on some elaboration strategies. This means thinking about and expanding on a NEUTRAL topic. Some options include: thinking about the ending to a book you’re reading, imagining being at your favorite vacation spot, running through the steps of a recipe, decorating your dream home, etc. These are not the most exciting topics and that’s actually the point. If you focus on an issue that is important to you, you will become hooked and your mind will keep racing. For example, if you go to bed thinking of your to-do list for the next day, chances are your anxieties will just escalate.
My favorite elaboration strategy is playing scattergories in my mind before falling asleep.
- Step one: choose a category of your liking (i.e. countries, TV shows, food)
- Step two: start with a letter and run through all of the examples you can think of under that category (I.e. Angola, Australia, Argentina, Albania…)
- Step three: when you run out of examples, move on to the next letter.
- Step four: continue for as many letters as needed.
I love this strategy for two particular reasons. First, the categories are neutral. I won’t get caught up in a story or memory. My self-esteem will also not be crushed if I get stuck on the letter Q. The second factor is mindfulness. Yes, that term gets used so frequently nowadays, but it really is helpful! With scattergories, I can be mindful of bringing by attention back to the last letter I was thinking of before getting distracted. It’s rare to get to the end of the alphabet because most have fallen asleep at some point throughout the exercise. My fellow sleep-deprived friends, this is only one strategy!
There are lots of factors that go into improving your sleep hygiene. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to review some suggestions for your specific concerns.