By Brittany Ryzenga

You’re lying in bed and your mind is racing, keeping you from falling asleep. It’s a frustrating scenario that’s familiar to far too many. Now with heightened worry and stress of the unknown due to the covid-19 pandemic our world is currently facing, the race isn’t slowing and it can be even harder to ease the mind.  Many across the world are now faced with fear for theirs or their loved ones’ health, concern for the future, or uncertainty of employment or ones’ business causing the perfect storm for a preoccupied mind.

When we think of ways we can encourage a more restful night, clearing or easing the mind and lowering stress, especially before bed, plays a big part. Meditation and exercise (in the first part of the day) can help to reduce the potential arrival of anxiety. In addition to those preventative health measures, avoiding excessive news during a global pandemic where news can be overwhelmingly stressful and cause worry, can also help prevent an anxious mind.

It is also important to shut your mind off from work before bed. Today, when many people are working from home and home IS the office, it can be difficult to do so. When working from home, try to find a way to have set hours so the constant need or internal pressure to check in 24/7, including in the middle of the night when the mind should be resting, is reduced. By setting work hours while working remote, work and home can be separated so you’re not always turned “on” and can be present “at work” while working as well as present at home/with family while home. Also, creating a separate workspace that is not in the bedroom helps to ease the mind of work while in bed. When the workspace is visible from the bed, or even IS the bed, thoughts of work, email, deadlines and to do lists easily arise in their familiar environment… which should not be where you sleep. This way, when you’re lying in bed, your mind is less likely to think about the tasks.

In the same way, it is good to train your mind that the bed is a place you sleep so when you lie down the brain expects to relax. Things like doing laundry on the bed or even scrolling social media while lying in bed don’t allow for a rested mind.

In addition, there are things we can do outside of easing the mind to promote better sleep like limiting the amount of blue light throughout the day, as well as avoiding screen time the hour prior to going to bed. Creating a good sleep environment will also support better sleep. For example, having a dark room with a white noise machine.

Often, you may wake and are unable to fall back asleep. When thoughts start to pop into your mind, try telling yourself that you’re comfortable and calm, in order to change the direction of your restless mind.  If you’re awake in bed, unable to fall back asleep for more than 20 minutes, try getting out of bed and going to a different room instead of lying in bed getting frustrated that you’re unable to fall sleep. If you’re consistently lying in bed frustrated that you cannot sleep, the brain will naturally start to think of the bed as a frustrating place that you “just can’t sleep.” Then, as soon as you get into bed the next night, your mind will begin circulating the same thoughts of, “well, I won’t be able to sleep again” causing a vicious cycle. If you find yourself lying in bed getting frustrated that you cannot go back to sleep, get OUT of bed, go to another room and do something that causes sleepiness (not something that will increase brain activity or stress like checking email, news or social media). For example, reading in low light, then returning to bed sleepy.

Hopefully, these tips will help to promote a better sleep environment but also assist when you may be lying in bed unable to fall back asleep… Wishing you a good night’s sleep!