The “trauma” of sleep

I didn’t sleep much the night before last.

Last night as I was waiting to fall asleep, I was thinking about sleep.

How do people fall asleep?

It’s not something that can be willed — you can’t just say, okay, I’m going to sleep NOW. Some people drop off more quickly than others, but I don’t think they just have a switch they turn off.

I often find myself starting to fall asleep, and as soon as I recognize that’s what’s happening, the observation wakes me up again — I have to shift position, I have to breathe, I have to rearrange the covers, I have to go to the bathroom, I have to get a drink, or I just have to lie there and wait again.

Someone said to me (who was it?) during PPD, when sleep deprivation was at its worst, that peace is more important than sleep. I think Joe has said similar things. Not that you can get by with peace instead of sleep, but that anxiety and panic and worry and willfulness is not going to make sleep more likely, and is going to make miserable the time spent not sleeping.

Finding peace when I can’t sleep is not a skill I am good at yet, but just having it in mind does help, especially when the anxiety peeks out from around the corner, wondering if this is a good time to get scared.

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3 thoughts on “The “trauma” of sleep

  1. I have to keep my mind busy. I do better when my mind is occupied rather than trying to will it to “shut down.” I play the alphabet game. Someone recommended this and it works. I pick a subject that requires me to think a bit, but not too hard. Girls names, boys names, county names, names of friends, street names, fruits, vegetables. Then I go through the alphabet. A is for Apple, B is for Banana……….. I am usually alseep pretty quickly.

    I find that it keeps my mind from wandering to those anxiety-provoking subjects. It also bores me to sleep 🙂

  2. Yes — trying to sleep makes it almost impossible to do so, doesn’t it! I usually end up trying to count to 5000. I know I’ll never make it that far — whereas if I aim at 500 and get there, I would feel defeated. Joe suggested I meditate on something meaningful but simple, but either I don’t know how or it doesn’t really work for me. Meaningless distraction seems more effective… I think he was concerned that it’s dissociative to an extent.

  3. I dont have much difficulty sleeping, usually by the time my head hits the pillow I am so exhausted by the day that sleep just comes. I find reading usually puts me to sleep pretty quickly it distracts me from my own world and tires my eyes so they want to shut. Having said that the times that I have suffered insomnia it is more frusterating trying to sleep than to just get up and watch tv or do something, I usually try to make that something quiet and in a restful position so at least my body gets a rest and if I do drift off I am in a position that allows it.

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