Trouble Falling Asleep: Perspectives on Insomnia

Trouble Falling Asleep.


Night is a friend to the slow process of maturation that every ambitious project demands: it provides us with the cover to grow into our more complete selves.

- The Book of Life

1:38 a.m.:  toss and turn; change positions; remain optimistic 
2:17 a.m.:  stare at the ceiling; worry about all you have to do tomorrow; dread sets in
3:30 a.m.:  thrash about; consider not going into work tomorrow; anxiety creeps in 
4:54 a.m.: $#@%!!!

We are constantly told about the importance of sleep. Its critical role in maintaining concentration; improving mental productivity; elevating mood; and regulating weight. Sleep is considered a cure all for general health and well-being. We are told that anything less than 8 hours compromises the optimal functioning of the human subsystems.  

And so, countless articles have been written about insomnia and the troubles of falling asleep and staying asleep. A myriad of tactics and strategies have been offered from just about every discipline about how to bring sleep: regular cardiovascular exercise during the day; instructions on what to eat or drink before bed; the importance of a consistent sleep schedule; the need to turn off electronics an hour before bedtime; listening to relaxing music or sitting in quiet meditation during the evening; drinking chamomile tea; and diffusing calming essential oils.

All great suggestions. Truly. Each of them can help with insomnia and trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. There is no one magic bullet. Not even prescription pharmaceuticals alone are a surefire cure for chronic insomnia. To have any sort of chance at overcoming insomnia, a comprehensive approach is required to quiet the mind and settle the body.

And so, for those who have trouble falling asleep or suffer from periodic bouts of insomnia, it is absolutely necessary to immediately and urgently marshal all the available tools, tactics and strategies to battle the body tensing, sheet clenching, anger inducing and emotionally demoralizing journey that makes up one single night of trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

A significant portion of the stress and anxiety of insomnia and trouble falling asleep comes from ruminating on the impact that one poor night of sleep will have on the many responsibilities and commitments scheduled for the rapidly approaching day. This only compounds the problem. So when faced with this, it is understandable that we focus all of our available attention and efforts on manipulating these tools, tactics and strategies to find sleep as quickly as possible.

But what if we did not have to worry about the consequences of the next day?  Maybe our insomnia is actually trying to tell us something? Maybe we are having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep because problems of the soul or our deeper selves have not been given due reign during the daylight hours and now they are demanding our attention at night. Insomnia may be the consequence of the many big thoughts we have not had time to nurture or process during the day now relentlessly insisting we deal with them. 

It is only in the middle of the night when the bully realizes that she may be cruel from anger and disappointment. At night she may recognize that she is lonely and ashamed. A readiness to admit weakness, confusion, insecurities, to be ashamed, to be sorry are not qualities encouraged by the routines of the day. Only at night, without fear others or humiliation, can we explore the more subtle aspects of our nature.

Insomnia may be a gift. A latent education. In the dark we become philosophers.

But there is a crushing reality approaching.  It's now 5:16 a.m. and your first meeting is set for 9 a.m.  

We need a restful night of sleep to meet the considerable demands of the next day. Some nights, it is necessary to find sleep as quickly as possible.  


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