A doctor recommended mind-body technique to promote better sleep.

Conquering Cognitions

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I live near an Army post and hear “Taps” every night at 9 p.m.

This one-minute bugle call signals the start of quiet hours and honors those service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice. A nightly ritual that reminds me my day is done.

As the holiday season approaches and stress levels increase, we can experiences sleep disruptions. Do you have an evening routine that helps you transition from the busyness of life to the quiet rest of the night? A ritual that ends your day in a way that promotes restful sleep?

If not, here is a technique that could help.

Dr. Barry Krakow, a sleep medicine specialist and the author of Sound Sleep, Sound Mind: 7 Keys to Sleeping through the Night, recommends completing a “Day is Done” ritual a few hours before bed. You begin with a brief SOLO exercise.

  • S: Stop doing (sit still)
  • O: Observe yourself (pay attention to your body and mind — how are you feeling? What are you thinking?)
  • L: Let yourself be (breathe)
  • O: Observe yourself (again, pay attention to your body and mind)

After this exercise, make a short list of all the unfinished business from the day. If you are bothered by a lingering work or home task, jot it down.

You can briefly note any nagging concerns regarding finances, child-rearing, relationships, or your job. A few sentences are enough as this is a “release” activity, not a processing event.

You are simply letting go of these concerns for the night by moving them from your head to the paper.

After completing your list, review it and ask yourself, “Are there any items on this list that I can take action on tonight?”

If yes, do it.

If not, accept that these tasks will require your attention tomorrow, but for tonight, the work is done. Then, continue with your typical evening routine, which may include watching TV, yoga, or reading a book.

If you find that you are not relaxed enough to fall asleep at bedtime, your day might not be done. Dr. Krakow suggests doing the SOLO exercise again and writing down any lingering thoughts that pop into your head.

Then, if needed, create a plan for tackling those issues tomorrow. By acknowledging the pestering thoughts, you clear your mind, which helps promote sleep.

It is difficult to drift off to sleep when unfinished business is weighing on our minds, and few things are more frustrating than feeling exhausted and being unable to sleep.

Similar to turning off the bedside lamp or listening to “Taps,” the “Day is Done” ritual is a cue to our mind and body that our work is complete for the day and it is time to rest.

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sleepsleep tipsmindfulnessnight routine

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Jill is a clinical psychologist who earned her PsyD in 1997. She has over twenty years of clinical experience working with anxiety, depression, and trauma. Jill enjoys writing about personal growth, self-care, and healthy relationships. She is also an outdoor enthusiast, museum lover, and runner.

Colorado Springs, CO

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