For the first few months after quitting your addiction, you’ll go through periods in which sleep feels like an impossible feat. When I quit drinking, my insomnia was intense – my sleep patterns didn’t completely normalize until nearly a year after I’d quit.
In the meantime, I discovered some very effective ways to help myself relax before bed and fall asleep as fast as possible.
If you haven’t yet tried my strategies to relax when you’re restless or craving, check out this article. If none of those help you sleep, try these:
1) Progressive Relaxation
When you lay down in your bed, focus on relaxing your eye muscles. You might be surprised that they weren’t really that relaxed to begin with! Next, relax your entire face. You’ll notice your cheek and jaw muscles becoming softer.
Repeat with your neck muscles. Do the same with your back, then legs, then feet, then toes – and arms, wrists, hands and fingers. Don’t rush the process. Feel the softening of your muscles up and down your entire body. By the time you get to your extremities, you’ll be significantly more relaxed and more prepared for sleep.
Don’t knock this one until you try it. Relaxation is a choice and I’ve performed the routine above for the past year with great results.
2) Passionflower Extract
As with all extracts, it’s important to find an alcohol-free (usually glycerin-based) brand. I’ve used this brand with great results. Passionflower has been used for centuries for its relaxing effects and sedative properties. It is non-addictive, and research has even shown passionflower extract to be as effective as some benzodiazepines in treating anxiety. (Note: I prefer this herb to valerian extract, which definitely made me drowsy the next morning – and which can cause liver damage in moderate to high doses.)
3) Make a List
If certain thoughts keep cycling through your mind on repeat – for example, the next day’s tasks, or someone/something that is bothering you – it can help to turn the lights on and make a quick list. Consciously remind yourself that the thoughts you write down can wait until the morning, and resolve to let them go for the time being. Since you’ve written them down, you can assure yourself that you won’t forget anything important, and that there’s no need to ruminate while you should be getting in some solid sleep.
4) The “4-7-8” Breathing Exercise
This technique has been widely discussed on internet forums, and I can attest to its effectiveness. It doesn’t always knock my out right away, but it definitely relaxes me noticeably and probably speeds up the time it takes to fall asleep. It’s quite simple: Breathe in slowly through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and breathe out slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. Repeat this three more times. See the video below for more details.
I’ve successfully meditated myself to sleep on more than a few occasions when nothing else would do the trick. I make myself comfortable in my bed, leaving only my himalayan salt lamp on, and listen to the video below with headphones until my mind clears. It’s usually only 10 or 15 minutes until I drift off into a peaceful sleep.