“When you’re having trouble getting to sleep, you usually do the wrong things right away,” Spiegel declares. You look at the clock to calculate how much sleep you’re losing, or you think about your jam-packed to-do list the next day, which only arouses you more. “Your body gets tense, your muscles get tight, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, and you have more trouble sleeping,” he adds.
Instead, he recommends comforting your body. “Imagine you’re floating in a bath, a lake, a hot tub, or floating in space,” Spiegel says. You also may want to practice what he calls a cyclic sigh, “where you inhale halfway, hold your breath, and fully and slowly exhale through your mouth,” he explains. “As you do that, you trigger the soothing parasympathetic autonomic system and help your body relax.”
Keep floating in your imagination, and if you have any negative thoughts about your sleep habits or upcoming work schedule, detach them from your body—project them as if you were watching them on a movie screen. “You may even think of something you can do to help with the problem, but you’re experiencing your thoughts as if they were just flowing through you, not something you need to act on,” Spiegel adds. “And that can help people get to sleep.”