My best friend confessed via email: she pays for a meditation app yet does not meditate. The horror!
Instead, she explains, “when I finally get to sleep my head spins and spins and I'm drafting work emails and running over to dos in my head. It's a zoo in there!”
I’m grabbing that zoo metaphor and running with it. They certainly can’t be fed at that hour. And visitors will only make things worse. Those beasts need to roam. Release them into the open. The open—not of your mind—but of the page.
As my main man and fellow INFJ Carl Jung says, “what we resist, persists…” Sure, he meant it about more profound stuff than insomnia, but if you aren’t sleeping, I bet catching zzz’s feels pretty significant about now.
By the time you realize you’re losing sleep, you’re too worried to solve anything. The more you concentrate on calming thoughts, the more rambunctious they become. Guaranteed.
Here’s how to get your animals on the page: Leave a pad and pen by your bed and free write whatever’s on your mind, either before you settle in to sleep or when thoughts creep in.
If reminders, solutions, ideas, or tasks cross my mind as I’m settling into sleep mode, I know I won’t be able to conk out until I write them down. These days, I don’t even pause to lament having to lift my head from the pillow. I surrender, accepting that scribbling is the only path to sleep.
The eternal bonus of focusing on your breath is—at least temporarily—dropping your obsession with anything else. But, awake past bedtime, you require something more involved to distract yourself.
To start, just breathe super slowly and pay total attention to it. Fill your lungs to bursting and slowly exhale.
Level up: Same start as above—you’re full of (hot) air. But break your exhalation into halves—slowly exhale a bit, pause for a beat or two, exhale the rest of the air. Take one normal breath, then repeat. Over time, divide the breath into thirds—exhale, pause, exhale, pause, exhale, pause. Then one normal breath. You should start to feel more relaxed soon.
To sleep like a baby…sleep like a baby
First, a shout out to infants everywhere. Whether you’re aware or not, y’all know what’s up. Yes, those incontinent, brand new, responsibility-less folks are hiding the secret to rest in plain sight. Here’s the best way I’ve found to nod off when it feels impossible:
- get rid of pillows
- lie on your belly
- turn your face to one side
See the resemblance to your first year of life? When I heard this strategy I dismissed it out of hand. Don’t infantilize me, I thought. Besides, I’m a diehard, though democratic, side sleeper. Left or right side will do. But this belly bullshit sounded awful.
Clearly, it was an open-minded day. Soon though, I was desperate and tried the regressive sleep set up.
It kept working.
I don’t know how.
I don’t know why.
However, it is considered the worst sleeping position for your back and neck, so try not to make this a nightly event. In my experience, you’ll wake up at some point. Half asleep and appalled you’ve been face down for hours, grab your pillows and go back to sleep. Try! You can do it.
Finally, shower at night. I usually do, but one evening I did it earlier instead. Psyched for a shortened bedtime routine, instead I was shocked I could not settle down. Like a child in need of a nightly bath, I suppose I need hot water to cue me it’s sleepy time? Especially since it’s cold now, this option could be soothing if you normally shower in the morning.
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