• Hannah Hempenstall

5 Antidotes to Insomnia

We've all experienced those out-of-control thoughts that rifle in at 2.30am waiting to be heard. A common response is to spend the next hour or more in a triage situation. Which thought should we deal with first?

They all seem urgent and critical.

If we're lucky we have the wisdom to write them down (bullet points is fine), but for many, the impending issues become a cerebral ICU with additional concerns about how we will ever get to sleep and how crap we're going to feel tomorrow. The insomniac sequence goes something like this…

  • 2.30am Bing! Wide awake…

  • 2.31am Why am I awake? I was exhausted when I went to bed…

  • 2.32 – 4am This is a nightmare… I can't get to sleep… I have all these things I need to do tomorrow and now I'm going to feel like crap … [insert name] next to me is fast asleep (possibly even snoring…) how can they just be oblivious to all these worries … why am I still awake … why can't I get to sleep…

  • 6.30am Alarm goes off Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Excessive thinking takes on many guises but insomnia is where you are left in no doubt that you are a supreme overthinker. So, what can you do about that? Fortunately, there are some simple ways to start switching off the pattern to excessive thinking. 1. Breathe. Connect with your breath. This helps us come out of your head and into the body.

2. Focus on your feet. If you're in your head, get into your feet. The body is the best antidote to excessive thinking.

3. Recognise that you are addicted to thinking and problem solving. Overthinking in the form of problem solving is a stress response that can be down-regulated by connecting with the breath and using the body as a tool for mindful presence. However, those tools only work if you use them. It won't be easy at first so you have to keep trying. Just come back to the breath and the body and feel your resistance to this.

4. Our biorhythms operate in roughly 90 minute cycles. Knowing that can help you recognise that if you get involved with those runaway thoughts you might end up awake for another 90 minutes. And if you choose not to use techniques that will stop the thoughts, that 90 minutes can turn into 3 hours … 4.5 hours … and so on. You have the power to make 90 mins the worst case scenario.

5. Understand that you are avoiding solving the real problem by staying busy and doing, doing, doing during the day… Instead, set aside some time to work through one of the issues that's on your mind. You don't need to solve it right away. Just write it (or them) down. This has a twofold effect …

a) Writing down your problems helps to create more space in your mind.

b) By journalling your thoughts you provide yourself with a more objective view. Ever wondered why you can solve everyone else's problems but never your own? That's because you can't see them in full view. When whatever's bothering you is written down your brain is able to compute the information in a new way. Writing and journalling might not be 'your thing', it might seem too hard and effortful. But doing that one thing will have a positive effect on your whole life. Your sleep patterns might change. You'll learn a new habit that's constructive and can be used whenever you need to problem solve. Our lives are a reflection of the effort we put in to make them good and whole. If we continue to choose habitual stress over trying something new, because it doesn't feel right, or we think it's not our thing, then it's worth recognising that we are choosing our destiny. Life doesn't happen to us, we are co-creators. So what are you willing to create?

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