How I Sleep (and Wake Up) Anxiety-Free

05/04/2016 01:44 pm ET
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Prospect Photography
Prospect Photography

Did I forget to send the Monday emails? Oh my god. It’s Sunday. I was supposed to write them last Tuesday. Maybe if I get up and write them now, Lisa can still schedule them on time. I suck. How could I have let this happen?

I was half asleep.

When I gained full consciousness, I realized I had in fact written the Monday emails. Of course I had. I’d been writing them every Tuesday to be sent out to 30,000+ people the following Monday for a year.

Yet I didn’t trust myself. I was anxious. I would go to bed every night worried I’d forgotten to do something at work, or forgotten someone’s birthday, or left the stove on.

And I’d wake up in a panic, chest tight, confused about what time it was, and whether I was late.

I couldn’t live like this anymore – I had to do something about it.

As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and copywriter covering holistic nutrition, I had been reading a lot about nighttime routines, but I had trouble sticking to one. I have a freedom-seeking personality and didn’t want to be locked down to some set ritual that I had to do every night before bed.

So I dropped that assumption about bedtime routines and started to simply do a few practices before bed every night. I switched it up often to keep myself engaged, and the results were (and are) life-changing.

Whenever I do a few activities from the toolbox I’m about to share with you, I sink into a deep sleep within five minutes or less (ask my boyfriend – it’s incredible) and I wake up feeling refreshed, happy, calm, and light.

If you just do ONE practice before bed, I highly recommend the one that’s helped me most: Deep breathing while mentally repeating a soothing phrase.

Here’s how it goes:

1. Lay down in a comfortable sleeping position.

2. Place your hands on your lower abdomen.

3. Start breathing deeply, allowing your whole midsection to expand fully as you inhale through the nose, and contract as you exhale through the mouth. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest and digest system. Fitting.

4. Choose a soothing mantra that resonates with you. Lately, mine is “Everything is taken care of.” This has been so helpful in soothing my mind and guiding me into a place of deep, restorative rest. I wake up calm – even if I’m facing a hectic day.

5. Repeat the mantra mentally until you fall asleep. Sweet dreams!

An awesome side effect? This practice supports natural weight loss and maintenance, since it’s difficult to release weight when you’re anxious and stressed out.

In activating the parasympathetic nervous system, you balance your cortisol levels and naturally reach your ideal weight – no dieting involved.

Engaging the rest and digest system is the key to non-diet weight loss, which is my area of expertise.

Now, I’d recommend implementing just this practice for a week and seeing how it feels, but if you’re feeling ambitious and experimental, here’s the rest of my routine:

1. I power down electronics one hour before bed as often as possible. I’m not perfect, but I aim to do this every night, especially if I need to rest extra well for a big day. Sometimes I stay up until midnight watching Orphan Black or Homeland, and that's ok. Before bed, I set my alarm and put my phone on airplane mode.

2. Next, I take a hot bath with Epsom salts. I physically feel my body release so much tension as soon as I sink into the tub. This is great for quickly inducing sleep.

3. After my bath I drink magnesium powder dissolved in warm water. Magnesium reduces stress, relaxes me, and improves circulation. My sleep quality and AM alertness improved by at least 80% when I started drinking this.

4. Short meditation. I do 11 minutes most nights to decompress after the day and clear my head, so I can sleep and wake up anxiety-free.

5. The breathing exercise I outlined above.

6. When I wake up I take some more deep breaths, and I don’t take my phone off airplane mode or look at anything on it until after breakfast. I just turn my alarm off then put it down.

I love to mix it up, but this is my baseline practice lately, and it’s what I’d recommend for anyone struggling with insomnia, or more minor sleep issues, like waking up frequently and morning grogginess.

Do you struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or waking up alert?

Which one of these tools will you put into practice this week?

Share with me in the comments below – I can’t wait to hear from you.

Have a friend who can never sleep well? Send this article to them - they'll thank you.

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