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While there are many ways to make your environment more conducive to sleep, there is another, more direct approach that you can take: working with your mind.
All the way back in 2019, we already tackled the topic of sleep and gave you several tips on how to sleep better.
However, perhaps you have already tried many of these methods. Or maybe you just don't feel like making changes to your bedroom or preparing a warm drink before going to sleep. If so, you're in luck, because in this article, we will cover an approach that can be done in just a few minutes and the only thing you need is your mind.
Straightforward, but critically important: DO allocate time for a "sleep ritual". For any work with the mind to be effective, setting the right intent is paramount. By consciously deciding to take some time to observe your mind before going to sleep, even if it is just five minutes, and trying your best to make it a habit, you make it clear to yourself that sleep is something that is important to you.
You can do these exercises in bed. If you are sharing a bed with someone and don't want to bother them, you can also do them anywhere else. The only thing to keep in mind is to do them as closely to your actual bedtime as possible.
Rule No 1: DON'T carry the day's confusion into the night. Many people have a habit of falling into their beds at the end of day and drifting off to sleep mindlessly. In a world that has become increasingly exhausting and traumatic, this is not surprising. But we should realise that holding on to an anxious mind, abuzz with a thousand thoughts and worries, will almost certainly result in a restless night's sleep.
For this reason, the first thing you might want to do is take a moment to review your day. Often, a specific memory will almost instantly come to mind. This is a sign that this experience is particularly charged with emotion. Observe the memory and how you feel about it. Try your best not to judge, neither the experience itself, nor your reaction to it. Recall it as you would a dream from the previous night. When you feel that you are done, let the memory go. If you are unable to, pretend to let it go – "fake it 'till you make it" works more often than we would like to admit.
Review everything that happened during the day in this way: Non-judgmental (as much as you can manage) observation followed by letting go.
Next, DO consider doing breathing exercises. After filing away the experiences of the day, it is a good idea to further calm your mind and ground it in the present moment. Breathing exercises are a simple and efficient way to accomplish this. There are countless to choose from and some are more elaborate than others. Some even involve visualisation. But if that is not really your thing or you don't really feel like doing any research, the classic "take three deep breaths" always delivers.
Relax and DON'T overcomplicate it. Depending on your goal and preferences, you can add several more steps to this night-time routine. For example, if you have prior experience with meditation or are interested in giving it a try, feel free to include a session. However, don't feel like you have to do anything. For this routine to be effective, you would ideally do it every day. If you think that keeping it short and simple will help you do this, then by all means, keep it short and simple. Reviewing your day and a set of breathing exercises can easily be done in five minutes or less.
In general, DO pay attention to your sleep. This will happen almost naturally once you start doing this. You may notice that simply reflecting on your sleep, for example, noting when you sleep well and when you don't, will help you improve the general quality. The same goes for your dreams. While we can debate endlessly about what dreams are or why we even dream in the first place, it seems fairly evident that our minds use them to process experiences and feelings. You don't need to share your dreams with others, if you are the kind of person who thinks that is silly and pointless. But you personally may want to pay attention to them, as they are often related to underlying emotional patterns and can give you hints as to what you may need to work on.
Finally, and in a way most importantly, DON'T blame yourself for not sleeping well. Thinking about your sleep in a dualistic "good/bad" way will almost certainly get you trapped in an endless cycle of judgments. If you had a restless night, take note of that but try not to assign any qualities to it or beat yourself up over your apparent "failure." You may have noticed that if we want something in life and start grasping for it, things have a tendency to run away from us. Giving up this mental grasping gives way to a sense of openness and fluidity. It is in this state that we can see situations more clearly and – sometimes – find the ability to resolve recurring negative patterns in our lives.