5 Top Tips for Getting to Sleep

If you’ve read my other articles written for Thrive Life then you will already understand the importance of sleep and will know some things you can do to create the right environment for sleep. If you’re doing all the right things before bed (see previous article:  “Creating A Successful Sleep Strategy”) getting settled for the night and then struggling  to actually drop off to sleep – this is the article for you! 

If you haven’t yet looked at the improvements you can make to your sleep routine and environment I’d highly recommend doing so first. You may be amazed how easily you can drift off to sleep when you do the pre-sleep work. But everyone is different and there’s no one, simple answer so the following tips could make all the difference.

Why should I use these techniques?

For some people, the main thing getting in the way of actually drifting off is habit. Humans are creatures of habit and routine. It could be that you have “learned” and “practiced” not being  able to go to sleep for so long that it has  become established. Maybe there was a good  reason at the time (young children for example)  but that’s no longer a valid reason to not sleep  (eg: they may be grown up now). In this case,  the act of doing something new, something  different can make all the difference. The following ideas will be something different enough to change your outcome and will help to improve the quality of your sleep too. 

How to Get to Sleep

Hide your clock

One of the most common distractions at night is worrying about not getting  enough sleep. There is a temptation to keep one eye on the time. You’ve done  it right? The late night maths – “If I fall asleep in 10 mins that’s 6.5 hours sleep”  then 20 minutes later you’re calculating it again. One of the best things you can  do is to hide the clock. Then when you lay there, anytime you find yourself  wondering what the time is, see that as a reminder to re-focus on relaxing.  Maybe even using one of the other tips below. 

This will also help if you’re someone who has disturbed sleep. Often people get far more sleep than they realise. Looking at the clock multiple times it’s easy to  remember all those times and not even realise that you were actually sleeping between those moments. The perception that you slept worse than you did  leads to feeling more tired and confirming your expectation of not being a good  sleeper. 

Counting sheep?

So you’ve heard about counting sheep to get to sleep, right? Does this really work? Possibly not but the principle behind it is sound. The  idea is that counting sheep gives you something to focus on, other than sleep, which doesn’t take a lot of attention. Clearing your mind can take a lot of  practice, so having something to focus your mind on instead is much easier. Each time you find your mind drifting from that focus you get more practice refocusing and as such improve your ability to overcome and reduce invasive  thoughts.  

My suggestion would be to count slowly and calmly while focusing on your breathing in a relaxed way. Count a number on every (or every other) out breath, noticing the change on every count as you relax more. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tensing each muscle in turn, working up from the toes. Tense for five seconds  and then relax for thirty before moving to the next muscle group. It’s a very  simple technique and one that can be really helpful. It’s even recognised by the  National Sleep Foundation. I personally find it works even better when  combined with one of the other methods in this article. The tension helps you to enjoy and notice the relaxation more.


Imagine yourself in a relaxing place. (Real or imaginary) Take your time to really enjoy noticing everything that you notice. Involve all the senses – What can you  see, hear, smell, feel, even taste in the air?  

You can do this for yourself. You could even create an imaginary journey to repeat each day, knowing that by the time you reach the end you will drift off to sleep. Some people prefer to use a guided visualisation where someone talks them through it. I’m sure there are some free ones available on YouTube. There are also some available from mindaffinity.co.uk/shop or available as a Relax Club member. 

One of the benefits of this approach is that it really supports the next point.

Don’t try to sleep

One of the most common barriers to sleep is trying to sleep. Partly because when people ‘try’ to do something they are already  expecting to fail. Also, focusing on attempting to sleep just reminds you of the  frustration of not sleeping. Focusing on one of the techniques here, can help  with this. A fundamental change to your thinking that will have a huge positive impact is to accept that if you don’t sleep you can at least enjoy the time spent relaxing rather than stressing about not sleeping. When you just embrace the relaxation you are far more likely to drift off to sleep anyway, just without the effort and frustration along the way. 




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