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Quiet Mind for Better Sleep


 By: Lauren A. Salani, LCSW, BCB


Poor sleep happens to many people in their busy lives. Like Jean, she is is so tired. She has been busy with work and family demands all day. She just can’t wait to get into bed and fall asleep. Her head hits the pillow. The room is dark, her pillow is soft, but her mind seems to come alive. Thoughts of pending deadlines, a loved one’s medical care, and how to handle an obnoxious co-worker take the stage behind her eyes. She tries to figure some problems out while lying in the dark. She turns over to begin again, to no avail. Jean’s mind races along as anxiety builds that she is not falling off to sleep.  


According to the National Institutes of Health, Insomnia is a common sleep disorder which can cause daytime tiredness, lack of concentration, irritability, and sluggishness. In primary insomnia the person has been a very poor sleeper since being a youngster. Secondary insomnia is a symptom that all is not right: stress, physical pain, discomfort, another sleep disorder, lifestyle habits, or excitement due to an upcoming event. Most people can return to normal sleeping habits, but some continue to have difficulties on a long-term basis. Chronic insomnia is described as requiring more than 30 minutes to fall asleep or staying up for more than 30 minutes during the night on at least 3 nights per week for at least 6 months.


Jean usually uses her bed to finish her office work, use her cell phone, watch TV, eat and argue. Her mind has learned that her bed was not a place for sleep. Her mind is now triggered into activity just by getting into bed, even though she is very tired.


According to sleep expert, Dr. Alexander Sweetman, Research Fellow at the College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University in Australia, there are 6 ways to spend less time in bed with a racing mind. He recommends:


1. Relearn To Associate Bed with Sleep


Learn to use your bed for sleep and intimacy only. All other activities should take place in another room. Only go to bed if you are very sleepy, if you aren’t sleepy, do something relaxing outside of the bedroom. If after 15 minutes you do not fall asleep, get up and do something relaxing. Get out of bed the same time each morning. Avoid daytime naps.

2. Distract Yourself with Fond Thoughts


Play a positive, but neutral, favorite memory, movie, or TV show in your mind to keep your mind off anxious thoughts.


3. Relax Into Sleep


Try relaxing each group of muscles in your body, one group at a time. Letting go of each muscle group as you slowly breathe. You may want to add soothing music.


4. Set Worry Time


Schedule some worry time early in the day to better work through problems and concerns. Keep a notepad handy to jot down the ‘to-do” list so you can let it go at night.


5.  Know That Waking at 3am Is Normal


Everyone experiences brief awakenings during the sleep cycles. Most people do not remember this happened upon awakening.


6. What If These Don’t Work?


Your primary healthcare physician, psychiatrist, or sleep medicine specialist may diagnose insomnia after asking you a few questions about your sleep habits and ask you to keep a sleep log. They may ask for testing to detect any abnormalities affecting your sleep. A number of studies have shown a connection between stress and disturbed sleeping patterns. Poor sleepers demonstrated that stress and insufficient coping skills contributed to on-going sleep disorders and 41% of insomnia cases were related to stress and other emotional factors. The treatment of insomnia is highly individualized, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-I), for insomnia offers solutions to resolve insomnia for people with anxiety, PTSD, and depression. Poor sleepers may need instruction in muscle relaxation, breathing, biofeedback, hypnosis and emotional regulation when preparing for a night’s rest. 


Addressing sleep disorders lowers the risk of high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Learning how to get a good night sleep can prevent those desperate for sleep from turning to drugs and alcohol. And lastly, getting a good night sleep helps move you toward better performance in all you do. If you are considering Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for an emotional-related sleep issue, please call my warm, inviting office.


Lauren A. Salani, LCSW, BCB, Stress Relief Services, Atlantic Executive Center, 107 Monmouth Road, Suite 104, West Long Branch, NJ 07764, 732.542.2638, Website:


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