When you can’t sleep, as I couldn’t last night, your mind can start to run riot with thoughts. And of course those thoughts can actually make the situation much worse! Here is my experience of coping with those thoughts and hopefully this will give some useful tips for others in the same position.
What Do You Think About When You Can’t Sleep?
I suffer from several autoimmune diseases and Fibromyalgia. Disturbed sleep is unfortunately part of the pattern. Typically for me that will mean two or three nights each week when I don’t sleep well. By that I mean I am often still awake at 3am. If I am lucky I get four hours of deep sleep from then until Barnet Boy gets up to take the dogs out for their morning walk.
I wore a Fitbit for a while to see what was happening in the night and I actually found that I was actually sleeping more than I thought. But the problem was I was waking up every 15 minutes so rarely got into a deep sleep.
Preparation For Bedtime
I follow all the suggested preparations for bedtime, including not eating after 7pm. I am usually ready for bed and tired but between going to bed and going to sleep my brain just ‘keeps the light on’.
I also suffer from Tinnitus which is much worse at night. However, my Mum recently bought me a sound pillow which has made all the difference, I wrote about it in my blog. Taking the Tinnitus out of the equation has helped enormously and I am sleeping much better in general. I also give myself a self-Reiki treatment at night and often drop off to sleep in the middle of it. But there are still nights like last night when sleep just won’t happen.
When You Can’t Sleep
I used to really beat myself up over the fact that I couldn’t sleep. I realized quite quickly that I had to just accept that was how I was and learn to deal with it constructively. And that means dealing with thoughts and worries that arise in the wee dark hours.
One of the pieces of advice when you can’t sleep is to get up and move around and then come back to bed again but I find that doesn’t work for me. The animals get disturbed and in the winter it is too cold to wander around this old farmhouse at night.
I have learned to deal with the situation by using my mind to combat my mind!
A Typical Worry Scenario
See if this sounds familiar.
Laying in the dark, wide awake, listening to BB and the dogs snoring, my mind starts to wander. Something I am worrying about creeps into my mind. And without even really giving it any effort I start to create a whole scenario around it. I imagine what might happen next. What I might say to someone and what their reply might be. How I might feel about that. I play out a whole scene in my mind and generally get myself worked up. Over something that hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to happen. But I create a whole alternative reality where it does and experience all the anxiety and stress that goes with it.
Of course, this does me no good at all! And is not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Learning To Control And Channel Thoughts
My Buddhist teacher told me one of the most important things to remember is ‘to keep your mind on a lead’ (leash). So these days when those thoughts start I try and catch them pretty quickly. I acknowledge the concern I have and then distract myself by purposefully channeling my thinking in another direction. Then I run through some mantras in my head. I have even planned the redecoration of a room in my mind in order to focus things in a more positive direction. I also come up with ideas for blog posts when I am laying there wide awake – like this one! If find it satisfying and that I have accomplished something and that often leads to me dozing off.
This isn’t to say I manage to crush all the worry scenarios, because they are cunning little beasts and sneak in and you don’t realize you have fallen for them. But I have got much better at catching myself doing it and distracting my thoughts.
What do you think about when you can’t sleep?
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!