Falling asleep (and staying asleep) has been a struggle on and off for much of my life. Even though a few years ago and after a LOT of trial and error, I managed to find a set of habits that work nicely for me, my system isn’t foolproof.
During a recent string of rough, nightmare-filled nights, I started to dread and avoid bedtime like I used to years ago. I was convinced I’d repeat the same story of the nights before, living out worst case scenarios once I finally and fitfully fell asleep.
That fear, of course, did nothing to help me fall sleep.
You and I both know that if we could just relax, sleep would almost certainly come easier, but unfortunately it’s not in the least bit relaxing to force ourselves to sleep.
So my focus shifted to dropping the obligation to sleep all night entirely. That way there was nothing to dread and nothing to force. Once I ditched the fight to be unconscious for 8 hours, a compelling option I’d completely forgotten opened up.
Instead of duking it out with sleep, I decided to focus on simply resting my body.
When you’ve got a complex relationship with sleep, focusing on rest is MUCH more accessible, because, unlike sleep, you can rest consciously. I might not be able to force myself to sleep, but I could make wakeful rest feel good. That included gentle yoga to wind down, reflective journaling to assuage my anxieties, and aromatherapy to make rest feel like a trip to the spa.
Having stretched and written and aroma-ed, I got into bed and turned off the light with the goal of meditating and resting my body with closed eyes, for as long as I could. Everytime my mind tried to pick up the anxiety again, I used that as a reminder to relax my body further.
Eventually, by accident, I fell into a comfortable sleep.
Repeating that for the past couple of weeks is how I changed my story about sleep. How will you change yours?
PS: By popular demand, I’ve added another date for my Yoga and Mindfulness for Sleep workshop, at Hillsborough Yoga Company, on Saturday, October 3. Save your spot here.