It is 3:00 am in the morning, your mind is racing with worry and busy thoughts and all you can do is stare at the clock. How do you get back to sleep? Maybe you never fell asleep in the first place. The Sleep Foundation recommends if you are wide awake for more than 20 minutes, get up and engage in a peaceful activity, and then attempt to go back to bed. How about making a list of what you are grateful for in your life as a calming activity? Counting your blessings is a healthy way to quiet your mind and replace worry with gratitude. In a study reported in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, sleep is improved by gratitude especially if feeling grateful is a pre-sleep thought.
Additionally, if you are having trouble falling asleep when you go to bed, then engaging your brain in an exercise like mentally listing all words that start with the letter “C” or counting blessings can distract your brain and make sleep more likely. But one thing is for sure, you cannot “make” yourself fall asleep. The process of sleep is a passive one, so the more you tell yourself to sleep or demand it, the less likely it is to happen. Cognitive therapy can help you get a handle on your run-away thoughts. This type of therapy focuses on changing black and white thinking or identifying false thoughts, so you can become less attached to specific thoughts and de-charge emotions around them. If you are going to worry, make it constructive according to a pilot with college students conducted by Nancy Digdon and Amy Koble (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01049.x/abstract). Engaging in constructive thinking, guided imagery and gratitude exercises were all helpful in improving sleep overall.
Restful sleep is also an important part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Without proper sleep, your body cannot properly heal or use nutrients taken in during the day. According to the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, half of all older adults experience sleeplessness. In a study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703169/ )which looked at magnesium supplementation as a sleep aid, results were encouraging. Sleep time, sleep efficiency, and levels of melatonin and serum renin increased while cortisol levels and total time to fall asleep decreased. Magnesium is an important supplement for healthy muscle function and if leg cramps keep you up at night, it may be the first supplement to try. So next time you find yourself awake at night, count those blessings and perhaps sleep will be less elusive.