One of the vexing problems about insomnia–worrying that we won’t fall asleep prevents us from falling asleep! It’s a vicious cycle.
One strategy to reduce anxiety about insomnia is to re-frame it. There is no law that says you must replenish your sleep debt in one 8 hour shift. Many cultures value the siesta, brief periods of sleep during the day. Instead of dreading wakefulness at 3 AM, call it “the night watch,” and welcome brief periods of wakefulness during the night.
This time can become valuable if spent:
- writing. See Alice W. Flaherty’s marvelous book, The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain.
- praying. For the spiritually minded the night watch is sacred.
- segmented. Periods of wakefulness during the night balance out periods of sleep during the day. Taking is daytime nap is not to be feared or something to be ashamed of. Being awake at 3 AM is not to be feared or cause of shame.
- planning. Silence and darkness are often the creative environments we need to pay attention to ideas we were too busy to notice during the day. Thus, getting out of bed and jotting down creative ideas frees the mind. After jotting down your gems tell yourself, “I don’t need to remember this any more. It’ll still be on this paper when I wake up.”
- creating. Salvador Dali said, “I dream my paintings, I paint my dreams.” Some of the most creative ideas, inventions, and discoveries happen during that halfway zone between wakefulness and sleep.
- soothing. Remember that the world looks terrible at 3 AM so fight the urge to exaggerate our problems, find conspiracies everywhere, and turning mole hills into mountains of regret, self loathing, and depression.
Tomorrow: How to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene