An exploration of sleep and insomnia, with a single destination in mind:
a good night's sleep.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

If You Can't Sleep, Stand Up

By Bill Adler

It's normal to have insomnia every now and then. Every living human being has nights where sleep doesn't tumble in, where our eyes are exploring the cracks in the ceiling, and in which there seem to be an infinite number of sheep to count.

The first important thing to know about occasional insomnia is not to worry about it. Like many other temporary maladies such as headaches, stomach aches, colds and sore backs, it's going to happen. And just as with a headache or a cold, you'll recover fully.

Photo by Anne Marthe Widvey. Licensed under
Creative Commons. 
But what should you do about that temporary insomnia? Should you continue to count sheep until you reach a number higher than you've been taught? Should you work? Watch late night television?

There are a number of possible tools that you can employ to try and get back to sleep. You could drink a glass of warm milk. Take a bath. Listen to relaxing music.

Or, you could stand up. Here's how. Stand in your dark bedroom. Face your bed and under no circumstances allow yourself to get back into bed for five minutes. That's key: No matter how much you want to, you may not return to bed for a full five minutes.

Here's what's going to happen while you stand.
  • First, you're going to become bored. And while boredom is the enemy of many things, boredom is your friend when you're trying to get to sleep. The more bored you become, the fewer distracting thoughts there will be to keep you awake. When you finally return to bed, your mind will be more receptive to instant sleep. 
  • Second, you're going to covet your bed. You can look at your bed, but you can't get into it, and that's going to make you want to get into bed. But you can't. Not for five minutes, five very long minutes. The more you want to get into bed, the faster you'll fall asleep when you finally do. 
  • Third, you will get tired. Standing is tiring. Your legs will get weary. Your feet will feel like they're liquefying. You will ache to lay down. But not yet. You have to wait and wait. After five minutes, you can lay down, you can close your eyes, you can let your mind and body fall asleep.
Where does this grand sleeping tip come from? It's from you, human beings in desperate need of a good night's sleep. It's from trial and error and its foundation is rooted in the notion that the best ideas for getting a good night's sleep often come from people who stumble upon that idea as they pursue the path to sleep.

For those nights when occasional insomnia strikes, add standing and staring at your bed to your supply bag of sleep tricks and tips.

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