Some nights you can toss and turn until you weigh an ounce, your bed can be as soft as you are, and you can still drink so much warm milk… But you can’t get to sleep. Asleep Like a Rose, Dr. Guy Meadows about this, and I can share 5 tips to finally be able to sleep like a baby.
Monsters in your head
That’s what Guy Meadows calls them: those thoughts that start with “Why can’t I sleep?” and then let you count how many hours you have left. Like monsters, thoughts attack you exactly when you least need them.
In fact, it is a survival mechanism. Your brain is alert to any potential danger and looks to your past experiences to gauge the future. If you’ve been sleeping badly for weeks, your brain increasingly assumes that you will sleep badly more often. That is the beginning of a negative spiral.
Welcome your thoughts
One way to counteract negative thoughts is to challenge them. When the question “I can’t sleep anyway” comes up, ask a counter-question “why couldn’t I sleep?” This way is only very tiring if you really just want to sleep. At such a moment you are already so exhausted that you believe your automatic thought rather than your rational question. “Of course, I can’t sleep, not even yesterday.”
Meadows offers several practical tips on how to welcome your thoughts.
If you notice an unwanted thought popping up, greet them kindly: “Welcome,” “Come in,” or “Nice to see you!” If the thought returns regularly, acknowledge it by saying, “You again?” or, “Nice to see you again.” Then focus again on what you were doing before the thought came up (e.g. lying in bed).
If welcoming something goes too far, you can simply acknowledge your unwanted thought in a neutral way. Describe what you’re thinking: “I feel like if I don’t sleep, I won’t make it.” Another option is to describe what your mind is doing. For example: “My mind is racing again” or: “I’ve heard this story before.” This way you create the necessary distance between you and your thoughts.
‘Thank you, mind, for this thought’: this is another simple, effective and compassionate way to break free from your thoughts. This way you separate yourself from your thoughts and give your brain the message that you are safe.
If you already know your thoughts a little better, you can give them a shortened name and approach them in a playful way, for example: “I’m not in bed yet or the well-known Sleep, Pill, I-go-it-tomorrow- non-rescue and I-look-horrible-tomorrow-thoughts are here again, and it looks like you’ve brought Fear and Frustration with you too! Welcome, everyone.’
5. Playing with your mind
Some thoughts can be very persuasive, making them difficult to let go of, especially at night. In that case, you can sing to them (‘Happy birthday’, for example) or use a funny voice (for example Bugs Bunny’s) – in your head or out loud. This makes them sound silly and less believable. Or you can try changing the tempo or pitch of your thoughts. Distorting how your thoughts sound in your head may be enough to take away the association.
Sleep like a rose
In fact, it becomes simple: when a thought occurs, you make sure that you know that the thought is not you. By addressing or distorting the thought, you make it clear that a thought is a guest that comes – but also goes. So your goal isn’t to stop or change the thought, you’re detaching from it. If you are especially bothered by images, playing with your thoughts works best: change the image’s color, shape, and size. Your goal is to create distance so that you can finally sleep like a baby again.
Finally, an appropriate poem by Rumi, to hang next to your bed as a reminder:
This being human is a kind of inn
New visitors every morning.
A joy, depression, distress,
and a flash of insight come
as an unexpected guest.
welcome them; receive them all hospitably, even when a mob of sorrow rushes
in and violently smashes all your household goods.
Then treat every guest with respect.
Maybe he will clear the
place to make way for ecstasy…….
The dark thought, shame, the venom,
meet them at the front door with a wide grin
and ask them to join them.
Rejoice in all who pass by
heaven has sent them piece by piece to
serve you as your counselor.