Well I used to put it down to early menopause but I have gradually come to accept that sometimes I just cannot sleep! I think it is mainly down to my Fibromyalgia.
Sometimes I Just Cannot Sleep
Disrupted Sleep Pattern
In any given week I probably have one or two nights where I sleep well. At least one where I am still awake hours after going to bed. And several others where I get up for a visit to the bathroom in the night and then lay awake for hours unable to get back to sleep (listening to Barnet Boy snoring). I am so envious of his ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep all night! From discussions with friends I know I am not alone in my sleep problems!
Sometimes there is a good reason for not sleeping
My tinnitus keeps me awake but my new sound pillow helps wonderfully with that.
I remember the night before I went in for surgery a couple of years ago I gave up on the concept of sleep. Sometimes worries take advantage of the still of night and creep into your mind no matter your good intentions not to give them lots of space – and once you take them out of their box and look at the them and allow yourself to start developing scenarios, boy are you in trouble as your mind races off in all directions. Then you really are wide awake.
I try not to disturb Barnet Boy
It doesn’t matter how quiet and still I am in bed (or think I am) when I just cannot sleep I start to get backache. My arms seem like they belong to someone else and before long I am tossing and turning. Then I wake up Barnet Boy unintentionally who then starts to grunt at me and … I might just as well get up. Unless it is winter and it is so cold here I can’t face the prospect of getting out from under a warm duvet!
Thoughts Creep In
My theory is that during the day there are so many distractions that there isn’t time to sit and just be and whilst we think we might be coping with things they are actually just zipped away. So my image ‘Thought Control’ shows a mind where love, joy and serenity is expressed but anger, worry and other negative emotions are zipped shut. Some, including fear, guilt and worthlessness are also secured with a padlock. But, in the dead of night some of these zips open and things we have suppressed start to come to the forefront of our mind.
Hidden depression, that you can stave off to some extent by keeping busy, can’t be denied when you are quiet and thoughts creep in.
Keep Your Mind On A Lead
My Buddhist training teaches me to ‘keep your mind on a lead’. Not to let your chattering ‘monkey mind’ take you down dark alleys. Giving a lot of time and space to negative thoughts is unproductive and drains you of energy but it is hard to stop negative thoughts arising, I know, I am working on it every day and I am improving but am still a work in progress. If you ever seriously try meditating and quieting your mind you will be amazed at what thoughts run rampant and how hard it is to actually get your mind to settle down.
Positive overcomes negative
Buddha says that to dissipate a negative thought you only have to think or do something positive. So, I am in bed not being able to sleep and worrying, so dancing to music, singing, helping someone or reading positive quotes is not going to be a possibility as it would be during the day. But making a list of things to be grateful for might work. Or thinking of things that make me happy and smile. Also changing the focus of my mind’s activity. So I focus on the act of breathing and try and keep my awareness on the breath as it goes in and out; it really does calm me down and I have fallen asleep doing it.
But do you know, sometimes I lay in bed and I feel well, I ate a long time before bedtime, didn’t have caffeine or alcohol (I don’t drink either anyway). I am not obviously worried about anything, I am tired and ready to get a good night and – I just cannot sleep. No obvious reason for it. Those nights I just have to go with the flow and accept I am awake and not stress about it! Some of my best ideas come to me in the early hours of the morning!
Originally written in 2016, this article was updated and republished on 19 March 2022.
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!