While all parents experience different and unique journeys, there is one thing that all parents can relate to: sleep. It doesn’t seem to matter if you have a great sleeper from birth or one that needs a little extra “practice” to get it down, we can all share our war stories surrounding sleep.
As parents, it isn’t just our children’s sleep we talk about, often it is our own. Recently I went through a period of a couple months of getting poor sleep (despite my children snoozing soundly for 8+ hours a night) and realized I didn’t have many of my own tactics to help me fall asleep. While I wasn’t against a sleep aid, it was important to me to try all non-medicinal options, just as I worked very hard to teach my children to fall asleep on their own.
Out of desperation, I tried what seemed like every trick in the book to help fall asleep and personally, these were the most helpful techniques to help me fall asleep. I would love to learn about your tried-and-true methods to falling asleep, because as parents, we know we need all the sleep we can get!
- Free-floating imagery thoughts–this is what helps me most often, by giving my brain permission to stay “turned on” but the key was directing my thoughts ever so slightly. It sounds hokey but this form of meditation was very helpful! I would start to think of one thing and picture it (for example, yellow umbrella) and let my brain come up with the next associated image, perhaps a lake that I was at where I used a yellow umbrella. The next image may be a duck (from the lake) which then would remind me of a school mascot which then makes me think of my college colors and so on. The trick is to try and think in images allowing your brain to do the association automatically. It takes a lot of practice but everyone that has practiced this technique says it works for them too!
- Counting breaths—counting sheep is so 2007, counting your breaths is 2018. Again, another use for imagery, but I would imagine my breath controlling a tumbleweed or the long branches of a weeping willow back and forth for a long two-count in, long two-count out.
- Getting out of bed—I would give myself 15-20 minutes of trying to fall asleep and if I couldn’t, I would get out of bed to get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, or quietly read in another room with a dim light. Often, once I came back to bed I could attempt another one of my trusted techniques to help fall asleep.
- Relax from head to toe—starting with my forehead and moving down all the way to my toes, I would tense each part of my body individually for ten seconds and then relax for five seconds before moving on to the next body part. Once I finished with my toes, I would tense my entire body for 20 seconds before relaxing, imagining my body melting into my bed and I would immediately go into counting my breaths. I found this made my body heavy and sleepy-just the right cocktail to help me get to sleep.
- Paying attention to my five senses—starting with sight, I would pick five things I could see (the moon shines in my bedroom window so it was always just shadows of things), four things I could feel without moving, three things I could hear, two I could smell, and one I could taste. This trick allowed me to move into the present and away from any cluttered thoughts, often relaxing me enough to help fall asleep.
These were great techniques to make sure I was sleeping like a baby!