I have trouble sleeping sometimes. I’m sure that’s something no one can relate to.
In my attempts to get ahold of my sleeping patterns I am actually trying pieces of advice that I have heard along the way but never really listened to because, “sure, studies show that’s true, but it probably wont work for me.”
Last night I tried the thing people say (those are three different links to people saying this) to do where you get out of bed and go do something relaxing for a while and then try to sleep again in a little bit. I decided to write in my journal because I found my mind racing and I wanted to try to put some things on paper. The first thing I wrote was, “I can’t sleep.” And then I got sort of philosophical about it and wrote, “okay, well technically, of course, I can actually sleep,” as though my journal was going to be that annoying kid in the class hanging on semantics and proving everyone “technically” wrong. But it uncovered something cool that I had never really thought about.
I can sleep, or I would have an easier time falling asleep, but there are some things going on in my head that are keeping me awake. The phrase, “I can’t sleep,” is so final. It’s sort of like, “well this is not going to happen, so I am going to be awake the entire night.” And that doesn’t have to be the case. So then I tried another new thing. I tried to really pin down what thoughts were racing through my head, and I wrote them down, one by one.
What am I worried about? I’m worried because I thought grades would be posted today, and they aren’t yet so I could still have failed out of college and not know it yet. I got experimental with a christmas present for someone and I’m afraid they aren’t going to like it. I’m worried because my life feels very meaningful right now and is that all going to come crashing down when I have another one of those epiphanies that nothing really means anything and I really feel it down to my core? There were a number of other things but I’ll stop there, you get the idea. All of the things I am worried about can absolutely wait until tomorrow. Oh well, they are right here, right now, so what can I do about it?
I did a ten minute meditation where I did square breathing one time for every bead on my meditation beads. It helped me separate myself from those worries and come back to the moment where everything is okay and I am safe and nobody hates me because I got them a gift they probably wont like.
Next, I took the big things on my worry list and I sort of debunked them, I guess. It is not likely that I would fail out of college with no idea it was coming. I convince myself that this is happening every semester, and I am usually quite wrong. I wrote, “everyone who loved you yesterday will love you tomorrow, no matter what your transcript says.” Next, I moved on to a question I ask all the time and decided that googling whether cats have emotions is a thing I can do tomorrow and for now I can just tell myself that my cat loves me and the fact that this is a really big worry for me right now says a lot about how good my life is. Of course, I had to then write, “please don’t start feeling guilty for your privilege. That is conversation best had with other people and not the sort of thing that you’re going to get over by yourself at 3 in the morning.” It went on like this for a while. I’m pretty sure the sleep websites were not talking about this sort of thing when they suggested I “do something relaxing.”
What I noticed when I was debunking these worries was that they were going away as I debunked them. I also noticed that I wasn’t going to fool myself. Writing, “wait until tomorrow,” was not enough to convince my brain that it’s okay and it should move on. I really had to look at the worries, as ridiculous as they got, and be kind to them and to myself for having them. I found myself sort of writing to them as though they were little kids. Like, “hey, I hear that this really scares you right now, and this is an example of why you don’t need to worry about this yet and hey I love you, you’re great.”
Ultimately, I would not recommend doing this every time you can’t sleep. After I debunked my worries, I was in a great mood and very energized. I wanted to write this blog post immediately. But I had been up for an hour. But I was hungry, so I made some food. This is the sort of thing that maybe I could try an hour or so before I actually want to go to bed, and not the sort of thing I should do when I have been awake for a long time. Then I remembered that I sort of used to do this with my Guatemalan worry dolls and it was very effective and maybe that would be a more efficient solution in the future.
However, I had to write this blog post because it was a lot to experience and then not say anything about. After doing all this worry-debunking, I got in bed, put on Bob’s Burgers, and fell asleep before the episode was over.