Insomnia can haunt the best of us, especially during the busy holiday season. Nagging thoughts of end-of-year reports, visiting family members, and the growing list of to-dos--they'll keep you awake or rouse you at 3 a.m. You can try to force yourself back to sleep, take a sleeping pill, or attempt to be productive, but you'll be dragging in the morning.
The insomnia story doesn't end there, though. The Restful Insomnia program helps you deeply rest, let go of the demanding mind, and even mimic the benefits of sleep. Here are five steps from the Restful Insomnia program that can lead to a better night sleep and a more rested holiday season.
1. Create a soothing night environment. Spending time in the middle of the night looking for tissue, chap stick, or fresh water can waken your body and mind. Instead, build your own Night Nest full of soothing sleep goodies to keep near your bed. By having everything you need at hand, your mind won't cogitate if the lip stuff is in the drawer or briefcase. And you won't see the unmade lunch as you search the house for it. Your Night Nest can include book lights, eye masks, a glow pen, paper, lavender cream, photo of your favorite vacation spot--whatever supports your nightly peace.
2. Befriend the body. We're on the go from the alarm clock to lights out, with the mind leading the way. During Restful Insomnia at night, your body leads the way and helps you rest. But you may need to get acquainted with it again. Start simply, just focusing on your physical self: your big toe, right elbow, ribs expanding. Notice your skin, what touches it on the outside, sensations on the inside. Come back to your focus again and again when your thoughts horn in. By focusing on the sensations, you will feel better connected to what the body wants at night: to move into a deeper state of relaxation
3. Diminish the overwrought mind. When your mind is obsessed with an argument with your girlfriend or the fear of getting the swine flu, it's hard to rest and sleep--an obvious statement to most insomniacs. Even the obsession with having to sleep can keep you awake. To help your mind calm down, give it something else to do, just like you distract a demanding two-year-old. Befriending the body is a great place to start. Become aware of your breathing, your skin, or even the pit in your stomach from anxiety. (Don't think about the pit, just notice its location temperature, movement and color.) Or let your mind solve a puzzle, such as counting backwards from 3594 by 7s. How about humming a little tune--it changes well-worn brain patterns. Remind yourself that rest solves as many problems as obsession.
4. Release the hold of emotions. Emotions make thoughts more real, more vivid, and more compelling. This can be a wonderful sensation or a horrible one. Many think they need to control their feelings by controlling emotional triggers--telling off the boyfriend or creating a "perfect" Christmas. However, you can use variations on acupressure to release the intensity of emotions. These techniques are called Energy Psychology. They involve touching or tapping specific points on your face, hands and torso while focusing on the emotional sensations as they wane. One simple calming version is to put a hand on your forehead and the other where your neck meets your head. Or run your fingers on your scalp just outside your ears, from the temples, up and over to the neck. You can rest more deeply when emotions are not running the show.
5. Tap into the natural or spiritual self. It's not all about you--which is a humbly powerful deal. After all, you can't save the world at night. However you can find your Spiritual Center (whether you call it God, science, or some higher power) to rely on something beyond your mind's ability to solve problems. Spend some time visualizing and talking to your God, Goddess, Jesus, Natural Flow, Allah, or Divine Spirit. Ask for help getting rest. At the very least, you create a way to let go.
Find your unique Restful Insomnia techniques to let go at night. When you do, your body leads the way to rest, giving you the benefits of sleep, and perhaps real slumber, too. So when snores from your visiting relative make the floor rumble, simply reach for your earplugs from your personal Night Nest, tune into your body, and rest well. You'll be rejuvenated in the morning for the holiday excitement. Embrace relaxation and enjoy your nights!
Sondra Kornblatt is the author of Restful Insomnia, How to Get the Benefits of Sleep Even When You Can't (Conari Press, January 2010).