Better Sleep in 2014
It's 3:00am and you've just woken up. You don't know why; you don't know how. You only know one thing: you are not getting back to sleep. Or if you do, it'll be about 10 minutes before your alarm is set to go off.
Does this sound like you?
Too many people aren't getting a good night's sleep, and it affects more than just how nice their hair is the next day. Not getting enough sleep can mean that a person loses productivity at work, it can mean a shorter fuse and more strain in relationships. It can also mean death. Studies have shown that driving tired can be just as hazardous as driving impaired. For me, I haven't had a night like this in some time. That's not to brag or make light of the situation. I wasn't always so lucky, but I changed a few small things which made all the difference for me. It wasn't my bedding, my sleeping position or my pillows that I had to change: only my mind.
It was a two-part transformation for me. The first transition happened years ago when I first became aware of just how long it normally takes me to fall asleep in the first place. I was fairly young when I discovered that my brother has this insane ability to fall asleep in the blink of an eye. We were playing before bed one night, and he ended up in his bed. As I rounded the corner to his room, not a minute after, I could see he'd already fallen in to a deep snooze.
I remember thinking how unusual that was, as I had a long and complex getting-to-sleep process that involved a certain number of tosses and turns. I estimated one time that I take about 50 minutes to fall asleep.
Knowing that I generally take a long time to fall asleep, I thought the same applied for me to get back to sleep, should I wake up in the middle of the night. While that's not necessarily true, it's what I believed. So, on those occasions when I awoke in the dead of night, I calculated those 50-odd minutes into the amount of sleep I'd still be able to procure if I were able to fall asleep right now.
And the countdown starts. Is that how you cope too? Perhaps we all have some belief that doing math will put us right to sleep, but it never works, does it? (except in algebra class). As soon as I've figured out how long I have left to sleep, minutes have passed and I need to redo all of my calculations.
There's also a desperation that comes with this line of thinking. It makes me think there's a shortage, a lack. And while there might actually be a lack, I've learned that it's not helpful to dwell on it.
Obsessing over how much sleep I could still get, and how I'll need it to cope with my day tomorrow, just winds me up instead of relaxing me. I would argue it generally does the same for others. Well, this effect is the exact opposite of what we really need to get back to sleep: relaxation.
So I learned to give up the countdown. Instead I started to trust and to believe that I would get the required amount of sleep, whatever that may be.
I had to give up the 'truth' that I formerly believed and start believing a new truth. After all, it wasn't really a truth. It was just something I believed all my life. And it totally worked! I'm getting faster and faster at falling back asleep. I still wake up from time to time, but it's rare that I'm ever awake for more than 20 minutes.
My second revelation involved how I would cope the day after a poor night's sleep. One night, only a few months ago, I realized I was having difficulty getting back to sleep. I was worried about the next day, and about how I'd be grumpy with my co-workers and friends.
Suddenly, a thought came to my mind: "Why do I have to be grumpy?" The truth is, I don't. Think about it: haven't there been times when you've gotten very little sleep, but have been able to be pleasant, if not excited? What about preparing for a long-awaited vacation? Haven't you arrived somewhere exciting, with very little sleep, but in a mode that was fresh, happy, thrilled even?
Yes, it is possible. I've found that it doesn't matter as much what happens; it matters more what I think about what happens.
It's all about recognizing that the way you are now, the things you do and believe, are just one way of being and believing. It's totally arbitrary why you've learned to be that way and not some other way. Once you realize this, you can decide if it's the best way to be, believe, etc. and change if you so desire.
Whether I believe I'll be OK, no matter the amount of sleep I've had, or that I'll have a terrible time, I'm likely to be right.
So if you're tired of missing sleep (pardon the pun), flip the pillow over to the cold side, and give your mind a rest.
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