I just want to sleep!!
How about that maddening frustration of being in bed, in the small hours of the night, wide awake? Argghhh! The time seems to slow right down and each minute takes an hour to pass. This is where anxiety and frustration can build into the perfect storm of discouraging or angry thoughts – which then make sleep even more unlikely.
If these kinds of thought-storms create high levels of anxiety and if high anxiety robs us of restful sleep, we’re really up the creek! Not only that, but sometimes the process itself creates more of the same… night after night.
That’s when we can start to feel really shattered. Decent sleep on a regular basis is just that important. There are many solutions to sleeplessness out there and lots of them probably have merit.
- Hot milky drink before bed (advice from the dark ages but it just might work)
- No screen time an hour before bed (definitely makes a difference)
- Mindful breathing (breathe in, breathe out, focus on the process)
- Full body scan: tightening and relaxing muscles as you go
- Reading Leviticus (has anyone ever made it past the first 6 verses before zzzzz?)
- Get a better pillow, listen to sounds of the ocean, burn essential oils….
You may have found some of these, or a variety of others, helpful at times. One of the very useful things I’ve heard is to avoid looking at the bedroom clock while you’re lying there not sleeping. Keeping track of all the minutes that you’re not lost in blissful slumber can create greater tension and nastier thought-storms than you already had.
(I’ve also heard it said that you should do away with a bedroom clock altogether… but this seems like going too far. You’d have to go outside and check the position of the sun to know if you were late for work.)
Last week I was given a really good suggestion. I think it’s the best I’ve heard so far and it goes like this: when you’re lying in bed, not sleeping and not sure why, try saying to yourself, “I’m going to enjoy spending this calm time with myself”. “I’m okay, just being here with myself, in this relaxing space”.
Sound silly? Possibly. But maybe that’s just how it sounds.
I tried it a few nights ago. It was very early in the morning (although I tried hard not to notice the time crawling past) and I said this stuff to myself. And in this simple way, right in that moment, I offered myself compassion and acceptance for my sleepless situation. I didn’t drift off to sleep instantly, or in half an hour, not for quite a long time in fact. But the frustration was no longer in attendance. There was a marked absence of the stress hormone running around in my system. The thoughts were quiet. The storm didn’t eventuate. It was… okay.
You could give it a try. Or read Leviticus.