Last week we talked about housekeeping tips to get you to sweet slumber every night. If you followed them, you\’ve made your room dark and quiet, you\’ve checked your mattress, you\’ve banned the TV from your bedroom, watched your intake of caffeine and alcohol, regulated your routine—everything. And there you are, at 4 a.m., wide awake.

What can you do when you\’ve followed the rules and you still can\’t sleep?

Experts suggest you get up and out of bed if you\’ve been unable to sleep for a 15 – 20 minute stretch. That\’s so your body won\’t get used to the idea of lying in bed awake. And the longer you lie in bed the more anxious you get. You\’ve gotta get up in a few hours and the clock is ticking. You need to get your shut-eye right away! The more you realize you need your sleep, the more anxious you become. And that\’s a stress you don\’t need when you\’re trying to relax.

So get up and do something soothing. Take a warm bubble bath. Read a book. Play some music—Brahms, not Pink. Whatever you do, do it away from your bed. Go back only when you\’re feeling drowsy.

You might also try some relaxation techniques. Relax every muscle one at a time, starting with your toes. Move up your body, mindful of your breathing, as you picture your muscles relaxing in your feet, calves, thighs, stomach, chest, shoulders, neck. Feel the tension leave your body.

Or picture a calm, pleasant place where you\’ve felt peaceful and relaxed. A beach, maybe. Hear the water gently lapping against the sand. Smell the salt in the air. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Count the waves as they roll toward the shore. Or count sheep. That will help you get your mind off the fact that you can\’t sleep.

The key is to quiet your mind. Try to put the things that worry you away for awhile. There is nothing you can do to solve your problems at the moment. It may help to write down what\’s worrying you so you can get it off your mind and onto paper. Make a list of things you can do that might solve your problems instead of letting them loop continuously through your mind.

If you\’ve taken yoga classes, you know how to pay attention to your breath. Be fully conscious as you breathe in and exhale. Slow your body down. Practice meditation. It\’s time for Savasana, just like you do in yoga class. Except you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Sweet dreams.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here: