Self-Help for Insomnia
Having trouble falling asleep? Too much on your mind?
Before you reach for a sleep medication that may have side effects, please try my techniques that I have used for years and have taught to many people.
When a baby has trouble falling asleep, what does the mother do? She cuddles the baby in tight and rocks him/her. She will usually hum a tune or sing a lullaby. Or, put the baby to bed and turn on a mobile that hangs over the crib that moves and possibly plays music. Or the baby is placed in an automated swing that may or may not play music.
The baby relaxes and falls asleep. The baby, sleeps like a baby! Why? Because it is all about repetition and boredom.
Repetition and boredom. These are the key elements to going to sleep.
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Technique #1: “Mr. Sandman, take me for a walk.”
I want you to picture an inviting scene that is totally made up, and contains no people. It has to be a made up place so you will not attach any emotions to it or thoughts that will keep your brain working. We want to bore your brain.
One of my “places” is a long stone path between two high hedges. Way, way, at the end is a little cottage. I will use this as an example. I begin walking down this path. I take time to imagine the smooth warm flagstones under my feet, the small flowers in the hedges, and the sound of chirping birds. I walk slowly down the path. It is important you focus everything you have on this “walk” and its experience. The first few times you may get to the cottage. That is fine. Just start over. That is the repetition part. By starting back at the beginning of the walk, you are basically restarting that crank on your adult size hanging mobile!
Please try this every night. Every time you settle into bed, close your eyes and begin your “walk”. Think of nothing else. You are training your brain. And soon your brain is going to go…”Hey, it’s the boring bedtime story!”…and off you will go to Dreamtown! Soon you may only get to take a few steps and you are asleep. Repetition and boredom.
Other “walks” may be along a beach with the waves gently coming and going, or along a wooden path beside a babbling stream. Or one of my other favorites is to be walking up a grassy hill and at the top is a long clothesline with colorful quilts lightly moving in the breeze. The sky is bright blue with big puffy clouds. Remember, it cannot be a familiar place or have any people or pets in it.
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Technique #2: Moon Melodies.
If you are not the visual type for technique #1, then maybe this will work for you.
Put together a playlist/CD of soothing instrumental music, or songs by a not well-known musician. Once again we are trying to avoid stirring up any emotions or memories, so pick songs that are random to you. Don’t use headphones or earbuds, these can actually be a physical distraction. Sorry, you have to use run of the mill speakers.
Get comfortable in bed, start your music, and close your eyes. Think of nothing but that music. Focus. (If you want to combine technique #1 and #2, that is fine.)
The first several nights you may have to restart the playlist. Don’t fret. You are teaching your brain and boring your brain.
Each night play the same playlist. Don’t ever change it. You are telling your brain..”Oh, this is the bedtime lullaby, time to go to sleep.” Repetition and boredom:
Soon you may only hear the first couple songs before you fall asleep. Eventually, you may only hear the first 30 seconds of the first song before the Sandman arrives!
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And before you give up on these techniques, ask yourself, are you following the steps right? Focus on the “target”, be it an image you have created, or the song playing. Focus ONLY on that. Don’t let other thoughts creep in. It takes discipline at first, but I know you can do it. Being able to lull yourself to sleep is much better than popping a pill. What if you run out of pills, then what? What if those pills give you side effects? If these self-help techniques work for you, you can do it anywhere, anytime, and fall into a restful sleep, or to just relax!
Sweet Dreams, Atwood