Having trouble sleeping after a busy day? Harriet Bremner has some suggestions for combating fatigue.

You get into bed at night and close your eyes, you are exhausted and have been looking forward to being horizontal since 3pm when you really could have slept while you were rolling that paddock but… you can’t switch your mind off. It goes around and around.

Hours later you find you are either still awake or have woken back up to the same issue – your mind going at 1000 clicks.

What can we do about this common problem of adults who are tired yet cannot sleep? It even gets to the point when sleeping pills don’t help much and make you feel a lot worse the next day.

Consequently, all you want to do is sleep at 3pm while you are at work because you have been awake for way too long and this is when you can strike issues on the farm.

Fatigue and making good decisions don’t go hand-in-hand and this is when things can go wrong very quickly, simply because you are tired and your brain is elsewhere and busy, very busy.

In the modern world, we find ourselves living in a constant state of anxiety or flight mode. We are always contactable, there is no downtime, life is just chaotic as it feels, and we don’t take time to simply take a breath.

What is the answer? I recently went to a seminar with Nathan Wallis and Lance Burdett and they talked all about stress, anxiety, breathing and the brain and it all made sense. I also took myself off on a wellbeing one-on-one retreat where I focused on learning how to deal with my grief and trauma in a helpful way other than just being busy all the time to avoid how I was really feeling. Between the two, I have been reminded how incredibly important it is to put yourself first, take a break and breathe.

I am unsure there is a magic answer but nothing will fix you in the click of your fingers but some simple things can really make a difference to your sleep and your busy brain.

Some simple tips and tricks can help quieten your mind. Some may sound not up your alley but trust me, they work if you believe they will and what have you got to lose?

Worry is something we can most likely relate to on a daily basis so how do we deal with it before it turns into something bigger? Lists. Yes, I said it, lists.

Prioritise what you have to do during the day, and you will be amazed at the satisfaction as you tick off activities as you complete them. This reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed and gives you a plan to follow.

Humans have been writing lists since way back in the cave man days and this is why we find it natural to still do it today.

Stress is Latin for stretched. Makes sense that when you are stressed you feel you are being stretched too far and that is because you are.

You are able to deal with tolerable and come out the other side but toxic stress is bad for you as it has a negative bias and so you need to make sure you don’t turn tolerable stress into toxic stress.

I would start with writing a list in the order you are going to complete tasks with the high-priority ones at the top.

Breathing is also a key factor, before you start the day or start a new job do this simple breathing exercise. It stops your busy mind and stops you feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

Top tip

Breathe in through your nose and then out by sighing heavily – really heavily. Do this several times and it will stop a negative thought in its tracks.

Another tip to help with worry is to keep hydrated – this also helps to reduce general worry and anxiety.

The voice inside your head has a lot to answer for when it comes to how you are feeling in yourself. This can be very distracting and damaging to overall wellbeing. You need to focus on making the voice inside your head your friend and not your enemy.

Your brain will always automatically choose survival over the sympathetic understanding brain which puts you into flight mode – handy when you are being chased by a bear but not so much when you are trying to sleep or concentrate on the task at hand.

You must consciously tell yourself things that are positive – what you are grateful for in that moment while breathing. 

We are wired to worry so you have to make yourself think positively otherwise your voice in your head is beating you up and pulling you down.

Top Tip

If someone comes to you with a worry or that they are stressed about you can start the conversation with them after they have told you what is wrong…

“I can see that this is making you feel upset/angry/mad…” This validates how they are feeling and very helpful when talking to them about it.

Top Tip:

A 15 – 20-minute walk at the end of the day burns off adrenaline and cortisol. This will help you be more able to calm your mind and sleep more easily. Have you ever wondered why great ideas come to you while you are walking, showering or doing something calming? This is because you have worn off the adrenaline which allows your brain room to think more clearly.

Top Tips for sleeping: 

  • Have a really hot shower (after the walk) and exactly 45 minutes later go to bed and close eyes.
  • Must be 45 minutes otherwise you miss the waves of dopamine hit which helps you sleep.
  • Have a small piece of protein before you go to bed like a handful of almonds or walnuts – not a whole steak.

We are naturally wired for two sleep cycles, so it is quite normal to wake around 3am – although not helpful. If this happens you try this breathing technique to switch off that busy brain and you’ll be asleep in no time, but you must be focusing on this alone:

  • Breathe in through the nose but imagine one nostril has cold air going through it for the first three breaths.
  • Swap nostrils and do another three breaths imagining the cold air going in and out the second side.
  • The last three breaths imagine cold air going in and out both nostrils as you breathe for three breaths.
  • Most people are asleep by the third lot. It takes your mind off what you are thinking about and helps put you back to sleep.

If you have suffered trauma or heavy grief in your life then you are going to be living in the emotional part of your brain, just as I have been.

You will require cognitive training to help change the behaviours ingrained in your brain.

Four things are really important to living a healthy and balanced life: 

  1. Socialisation
  2. Exercise
  3. Sleep
  4. Food

Combine these with the top tips I have pointed out for you and if you are really keen to change your habits try meditation and yoga – this is amazing for quieting the mind and body and you will be amazed at how refreshed and ready to take on the world you feel. You can just YouTube these or go to your local yoga class if that’s possible.

The first step is recognising your brain is busy. Well done if you have taken that first step and good luck on the journey to finding peace with that voice inside your head and enjoy sleeping again – I know I am.

You can contact:

Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254

Call or text 1737 at any time

Farmstrong: https://farmstrong.co.nz/resources/