Knitting Helps My Sleep – And Not Because It Is Boring!
Last updated: January 2023
When I discussed the connection between knitting and sleeping with my partner, he laughed, essentially saying: 'Yeah, it is so boring looking it would definitely put me to sleep!'
I laughed back, but in reality, for me, there IS a connection between my sleep and my knitting – but it's not nearly as direct as he was somewhat disparagingly suggesting!
Activities that help insomnia
Knitting is both a mindfulness and creative activity for me. I am what the knitting community would call a 'process' knitter (as opposed to an 'outcome' knitter). I care more about the 'doing of the knitting' – the making of stitches, the learning of patterns and techniques – than the thing that is created in the end.
That doesn't mean I don't love what I create – it's just that I would knit even if I didn't create anything at all, simply because I love the act of knitting.
How does knitting help sleep?
How does this help my sleep, you ask?
My hypothesis is that it is simply something that I love doing very much, and it relaxes me and creates a focal point for my downtime. It's very much my view that filling life with things that bring joy can lower arousal and make sleep easier. Contrast this with my partner, who finds the idea so boring it puts him to sleep.
That's the power of perspective!
Doing an activity replace sleep worries
Casting on and starting a new project gives me pleasant anticipation and something to look forward to 'getting stuck into.'
The act of learning new stitch patterns, learning how to fix mistakes, and imagining how a pattern will flow before I get to that spot all feeds my brain for extended periods. That time might otherwise be spent worrying about sleep, about not sleeping, or thinking about 'fixing my sleeping problems.'
In other words, it gives my brain something to do instead of defaulting to worry and negativity, which it is prone to do when it isn't occupied with something else.
Finding mindful alternatives to sleep worry
And for me, the actual physical and mental act of stitch creation is highly mindful. I have to pay attention and count, but it's also repetitive. Knit three, purl one, yarn over, knit three...change colours (and do it, so you have the correct organization of the yarns).
Focusing on the present
It all requires me to focus exclusively on the present moment. (Perhaps more experienced knitters feel differently as maybe they don't need to focus so much, but many veteran knitters tell me they also feel knitting is mindfulness practice for them too.)
Now, if you are a fellow knitter, you probably have several projects on the go at one time, and not all of them need this kind of focus. I have one very simple pattern for the car (like the blanket I've started), one for half-watching television (a simple multicolored hat), one longer-term project which is sometimes easy and sometimes needs attention (like the blue jumper I just completed).
Having multiple activities help
I also have one project that I use as my 'focus' activity (currently a cable pattern shawl). That type of project is often more complex and serves as my 'mindfulness practice.' It very much occupies my attention and keeps me in the present.
Again, I can't then go wandering off into worry or negativity. And I'm focussing on something that feeds me and brings me joy. Both of these things help me stay balanced and calm, give me something to look forward to – and indirectly helps with my sleep. Never mind how much joy the act of knitting brings to my days.
What brings you joy too
My sleep therapy clients often benefit from having – or picking up and learning – a crafting activity that can be done quietly at all times of the day. Particularly if someone is getting up in the night to avoid laying in bed awake, a crafting activity can help occupy time, lower arousal, and feed their creativity – all without waking the family or needing to be outdoors. For me, that was knitting, but it could be anything – crochet, sewing, scrapbooking, anything.
Who are my fellow knitters out there? If you don't knit, do you have a hobby of any kind that has some kind of impact on your sleep?
What activity brings you joy and helps you relax to achieve sleep? Share your story or comment below:
Do you think insomnia has an impact on your mental health?
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