Thursday, September 16, 2010

How to go to sleep

Sleep is something that should be easy. We need it to survive and pretty much every animal does it in one way or another, but we 'storytelling apes' live in an increasingly artificial environment. We evolved a response called 'stress' to deal with dangers. It allows us to boost our body processes for short bursts and survive more effectively.

The problem starts when our day to day lives involve more and more perceived danger. It's no longer pythons and cheetahs. It's emotional danger like job loss, traffic or work responsibilities that you really, really need to have a good night's sleep behind you in order to get them done.

Sleep is not something you are supposed to do when you're being attacked by cheetahs but our dumb bodies can't figure out the difference between that sort of stress and the stress of knowing that you need sleep but not being able to trip the trigger and fire off to the land of Nod.

Not all insomnia is caused by stress but I'm sure everyone reading this has had at least one moment where they've wanted to yell at them self "WHY WON'T YOU SLEEP?"

Poor Technique
On the occasions that I've had difficulties sleeping I've had the curious notion that getting to sleep involves figuring out the trick. Finding the switch that knocks you out. Each night you have to figure it out anew because as soon as you solve the problem you fall dead asleep before you can put the solution into short term memory.

This is clearly nonsense.

But I did find a trick. It worked for me every one of the dozens of times I've used it. I found myself with too many ideas in my head to settle and was having trouble clearing my mind. I offered this method to a friend who has quite bad insomnia. She said that it worked well for her for quite a lot longer than most other tricks but eventually became less effective as time went by.

Your mileage may vary.
I imagine a stone egg. Like an ostrich egg but made out of dark rock. It sits upright on top of an opaque, still liquid. (Yes I know it sounds stupid and hippy)
A light tan liquid starts to make its way up the egg, making it's way to the top. The liquid slowly coats the egg and represents your restfulness. As you feel more restful the cloak of liquid makes its way up the egg. Don't force it. Let it naturally climb up with your restfulness. If you start to feel more awake let the liquid drop down. The covering should match your restfulness. Eventually the liquid will reach the top of the egg forming a liquid tan shell over the top.
That's the first step. You should now feel totally restful. Now begin to imagine a second covering climbing up the egg. This time it's black liquid. This represents your unconsciousness. That feeling of blacking out. It will climb much slower and your more likely to jump back out of your mental state. Just let the black drop back down and the tan ooze back down the egg. Reassure yourself that it's okay to go backwards.
The goal is to get the black ooze to make it's way around 3/4 of the way up the egg and keep it there. Like the egg is wearing a trench-coat but you can still see it's head.
The hard part is making sure to concentrate on the egg and not let your other thoughts intrude on the exercise. But because it's not boring and you have a goal it's much more effective than counting sheep.
Good luck and sweet dreams, you delicious monkey.

4 comments:

  1. i had to stop mid-way due to drowsiness. this is either due to the awesomeness of the method or the sleep deprivation caused by my most recent sinus infection. either way, i may try this method on my next "sleepless soujourn".

    merci.

    <>

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  2. dammit! i now note to leave spaces betwixt my "<< >>" whilst signing.

    << chasse au renard >>

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  3. 100mg paracetemol 60mg codeine 2000mg valerian warm milk Problem solved ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well I can only give it a try. Not that I have a huge amount of trouble getting to sleep itself - it's more forcing myself to actually go to bed in the first place. The internet can be a powerful force.. :)

    ReplyDelete

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