I picked up my cell phone and looked at the time - again. 1:57 am. I tossed my covers off of me, turned over, closed my eyes and willed myself to sleep. Then my husband snored. Irritated, I yanked on the covers that covered him hoping to barely wake him up but perhaps assist him in changing his sleeping position and stop snoring. It worked. I closed my eyes but my mind swirled with irrational thoughts and my heart beat faster. Ugh! I looked at my phone. 2:03 am. I feared I was going to endure another sleepless night. Discouraged. Frustrated. Angry. Anxious.
All sorts of negative emotions seemed to rear their heads in the dark and kept me from a peaceful nights sleep.
I've had trouble sleeping for a long time. But, I've been doing well for the past few years. Then, recently, the battle for my mind and a good night’s sleep started up again. I found myself lying in bed wide awake but this time I had a battle plan.
(By the way, did you know more people experience difficulty sleeping during the holiday season?) I imagine I am not the only one awake during the wee hours of the night. For those of you, like me, who battle falling asleep and/or staying asleep and don't want to transform into the Grinch this Christmas, here are eight tips that have helped me and I hope will help you.
1. Sleep Hygiene. Establish a regular routine each night before bed. Maybe you drink a cup of chamomile tea, take a bubble bath, then brush your teeth, wash your face, read for 30 minutes and then sleep. Schedule your sleeping times. Go to bed and wake up at the same time as much as possible. (For me 11:00 pm to 6:00 am works.)
2. Avoid electronics. Research shows screen time before bedtime is not conducive to good sleep. If you like to watch a little Netflix watch it in another room, then start your bedtime routine.
3. Avoid stressful pillow talk. I’ve had to ask my husband to not bring up stressful topics as we’re lying in bed. Have these conversations during the daytime or shortly after dinner.
4. Avoid chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol in the evenings. For example, I love a chocolate dessert but if I get a hankering for some good chocolate I have it during the day, like after lunch instead of after dinner. Or even for breakfast. Alcohol steals peaceful sleep and obviously caffeine will keep you awake.
5. Write down your anxious thoughts. Keep a little notebook next to your bed and if you’re awake with anxious thoughts write them down along with some positive solutions. Get them out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Practice clearing your mind.
6. Write down helpful Bible verses claiming rest and peace and keep them by your bed. Two of my favorites are Proverbs 3:24 and Matthew 11:28-30. Read these or recite them in your mind.
7. Get up. I’m always afraid if I get up then I’ll never go back to sleep. I’ve found sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t sleep that night. But, if I get up and do something productive at least I've used my awake time and not let it be completely useless time.
8. Pray and think positive. Negative thoughts about sleeping often lead to frustration that creates a vicious cycle. Accept the idea that you might not sleep for a night or two but it will be okay. Spend this time in the night as a unique time for you to have meaningful conversations with Jesus.
God created us to rest. It's for our own good and the good of those we live with.
I hope these tips help you make the most of those sleepless nights and then sleep peacefully.
P.S. If you can’t sleep for 3 nights per week for 3 months, suspect you have a sleeping disorder or are experiencing hormonal imbalance, then please call your doctor.
Jeannie Blackmer is married to Zane and mother of three sons. She's the author of Talking to Jesus: A Fresh Perspective on Prayer, She’s also authored three books, contributed content to more than 20 books, and written articles for a variety of magazines. She loves her family, salt, chocolate, scuba diving and being outside as much as possible. She's managing the blog for the Flatirons Women's Ministry and is looking for writers!