I don’t always exercise as often as perhaps I should. My gym membership is current but my attendance is sporadic. My mind, however, is highly active. It never skips a beat. If my body exercised as much as my brain does, I would be considered an elite athlete.
My brain does not switch off
The trouble with a hyperactive head is that sleep becomes problematic. Insomnia becomes a word that is bandied about endlessly – so many causes, so few cures.
During a sleep study in 2019, I was told I had hyperarousal – that my brain just doesn’t switch off. It is wired up and raring to go 24 hours a day. I felt vindicated. I wasn’t just making things up, there’s a graph to prove my point. If my brain doesn’t slow down when I’m actually asleep, what chance do I have when I’m awake?
I took this new information to heart and started researching solutions.
An open mind and willingness to persist
I read up on mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, prayer, hypnosis, white noise, sleep apps, and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). It all seemed a little bit useful and none of it cured me instantaneously. But I felt an open mind and a willingness to persist would do me no harm. So, persist I did.
Everyone’s experience is individual and what has helped me may not help others. Conversely, the magical cures that have been waved in my face have often had no positive impact on me at all.
Focusing on the present moment
There is a commonality to all these brain ‘tricks’ that were suggested to me – they all involved focusing on the moment rather than being stuck in the past or the future. As someone who lives through periods of depression and anxiety, it is important for me to learn how to stop ruminating on what has been and catastrophising about what is to come.
I make a conscious decision to relax
I found the art of mindfulness hyped up my head – I would tune in a little too hard to the sounds and sensations around me and that would irritate me.
But I found that combining relaxation techniques with a little creative meditation exercise would see me unwinding and becoming calm. I make a conscious decision to relax my body – all the bits that get tensed up and need to be deliberately softened for sleep to descend. Then I often create elaborate ‘daydreams’ that slowly morph into sleep.
Medication + conscious meditative work
My sleep is not a flawless process. I still need medication and I have accepted that I will always need sleep aids as basically, my body doesn’t have that ability without assistance.
Medication alone does not bring me sleep – I still have a very busy mind that needs to be corralled. Relaxation and meditation alone do not bring me sleep – my body naturally fights an essential process that is for most people, perfectly natural. But combined together, pharmaceutical support calms my body and conscious meditative work calms my mind. And this calmness sometimes brings me sleep.
The art of conscious daydreaming
It is not a guarantee – I am not heavily sedated and normal stresses will keep me awake just like anybody else. But when life runs smoothly, the art of conscious daydreaming and intentional muscle relaxation has taught my busy brain to calm down for a few hours. I am blessedly grateful for the resulting sleep.
Have you entered our HoomBand Wireless Headphones Giveaway?