To Overcome Insomnia, Welcome Your Sleep Fears
Your survival response is your body’s way of preparing itself for danger by readying you to either stay and fight or run to safety. Whilst such a response is great if you’re being attacked by a predator, it’s not helpful if you are trying to sleep. Unfortunately, every time you struggle against sleeplessness you are in fact triggering this survival response, essentially reaffirming your brain’s assumption that it should stay alert. With time, the brain links the act of sleeping with your survival response kicking in, and makes sure you’re alert and ready to deal with this stressful situation. This would explain the racing mind, rush of adrenaline, knotted stomach, or feelings of anxiety that show up when you’re trying to fall asleep.
Learning to Welcome the Unwelcome
Learning to welcome your insomnia and all of its known associates is a powerful way of untangling yourself from worrisome thoughts and strong emotional reactions, and a vital part of retraining your brain to sleep. Only by choosing to accept your sleeplessness in the moment will your brain finally realise that it needn’t be on red alert and that it is once again safe to sleep.
Welcoming Your Unwelcome Thoughts
Your thinking brain is a 24-hour thinking machine designed to ensure your survival. It does so by using your past experiences to try to predict what could potentially go wrong in the future. If you’ve struggled with sleep in the past, you will have created a sleeplessness library from which your brain generates worry about how you might not sleep tonight, or how sleeplessness could affect every aspect of your life. Whilst this can be very frustrating and a contributor to most people’s continued sleeplessness, it is important to recognise that your thinking mind is just doing its job. How you choose to relate to such thoughts is what will determine your response to them, and ultimately their overall power over you and your ability to sleep.
Welcoming your thoughts is not to get rid of them or change their content, but rather to untangle yourself from them. By no longer fearing them, they show up less, wake you up less, and your sleep quality improves.
Welcoming Your Unwelcome Emotional Reactions
Like your thinking mind, your body is also a 24-hour feeling machine designed to ready you for action. Any sense of danger results in a series of chemical reactions causing your heart to race and breathing to quicken, ultimately putting you on red alert to ensure your safety. A knot in your stomach occurs as blood is shunted away from your digestive system to the meet the needs of your muscles and brain. The physical nature of such emotional reactions can feel overwhelming, especially in the middle of the night, which explains why you struggle so hard to get rid of them. Sadly, like your thoughts, the harder you fight, the stronger and more conditioned they become.
Getting in the habit of describing your emotional reactions either out loud or in your head, can be a helpful way of untangling yourself from them. Recognising that you can’t control them but you can control how you respond to them is a powerful insight and the key to lessening their strength and getting back to good quality sleep.
Choosing to welcome your insomnia is not naturally intuitive and certainly requires a level of willingness. It is also a gentle and compassionate process that takes time and commitment to implement. However, for those willing to welcome their insomnia overtime, it’s a practice that can offer good quality natural sleep on a regular basis.