I have suffered from insomnia since I was a child. I have periods of sleeping well and then during times of stress, excitement or sometimes when there is seemingly no reason at all, I will suddenly find it impossible to sleep.
I have tried pretty much everything you can think of: melatonin, sleeping tablets, herbal remedies, bedtime tea, lavender essential oils, guided meditations, cherry juice, yoga.
But sometimes no matter what you do, you just can’t sleep.
Last night I was awake until past five am. Luckily I didn’t have anywhere to be the next day and largely I was awake thinking about all of the exciting things coming up in the next few months. But it was still frustrating and during the night your mind plays tricks on you. You start to think, what if this happens the night before a busy day at work? How will I cope? Will I ever sleep again? Have I literally forgotten how to sleep?
Sometimes I use a really simple form of meditation where I use the mantra ‘I am safe, I am comfortable, I can sleep’ and say this to myself over and over, paying attention to how comfortable my bed is and eventually I will drift off.
However, once you get past about three am you usually need to do something, to change up the pattern of lying awake thinking, lying awake thinking, lying awake thinking and not sleeping.
Often, at this point I will get out of bed, go downstairs for a drink, sit in my armchair and read or watch an episode on Netflix or just wander around my room and then get back into bed. This is normally enough to make me go to sleep. However it is so cold at the minute, that getting out of bed and walking around felt like too much!
My other option is to write. Sometimes what is keeping me awake is a really good idea for a story, a scene I want to write, a blog post idea or some article proposals. So I’ll write for half an hour and then try going back to sleep. Normally this is enough to persuade my brain that it’s done enough work and can now go to sleep.
Last night though, after writing half a chapter and a few article proposals, I was still awake. So I decided to journal and my journalling turned into a form of meditation that may help you to sleep.
Basically, I listed all of the things I noticed around me. I wasn’t searching for things to be grateful for, I wasn’t listing my worries or things I’m grateful. I was just noticing things and writing them down. I don’t know why it was more effective to write down the things I noticed, but for me I love the process of writing down and quite often my brain can’t let go of things until they have been put onto paper. Once I had written a list of things I was noticing, I turned to my breathe and noticed the inhale, exhale until I was ready to fall asleep.
My journal entry ended up being something like this;
I’m trying to slow down and be ok with this present moment rather than always rushing on to the next thing.
This breath moving in and out.
This bed is warm and comfortable with heaps of blankets to keep out the cold. The smell of fresh sheets and lavender. The gentle light from my SAD lamp. The butterflies on my wall paper. The soft cotton of my bed linen. The stacks of books by my bed. The cushions at the end of my bed.
Relax my jaw. Relax my brow.
Relax my neck and my shoulders.
This might be a useful exercise to help you sleep next time you have insomnia. Even just noticing the things around you and paying particular attention to feelings of comfort and safety, not even writing them down, might be enough to help.
I hope this post finds you well and that you sleep soundly tonight!