To Sleep or Not to Sleep ?
We’ve all been there.
Something is on your radar for tomorrow that demands you to be at your best; your sharpest, and one of the best ways to position you to put your best foot forward is to get a good night’s sleep.
But as the clock crawls along inexorably, your eyes are still wide open, and dropping off to sleep seems as remote as a quick visit to Tahiti.
So, how to fall asleep when you’re not tired?
Without getting too Zen, the article below rolls out a few ways to help you drop off. So instead of stressing out over not getting enough quality shuteye, give these a try.
1. Counting Sheep
Okay, this NEVER works. Or does it? The saying had to originate from somewhere, right?
There is actually logic behind this tactic, and it ties into the central concept behind these suggestions; which is to get your brain into a relaxed state. Counting objects that have no significance is monotonous, and unless you’re a shepherd, sheep pretty much have no significance.
So the concept of counting is indeed a form of meditation. Instead of chanting, you’re counting! Monotonously. Surprisingly, it ends up into a kind of droning chant, unlike “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”.
The trick to making this work is twofold:
- You’ve got to tune out external interruptions; ie., jarring noises that will derail your count, and
- You’ve got to stay focused on the count, at least initially.
One could argue that these two points are relevant for every technique, and for non-pharmaceutically-induced sleep, that would be a reasonable argument.
2. Read Yourself to Sleep
Ask any college student cramming for their Celtic History finals; this works!
Find something somewhat dry, pretty light and not really very engaging, and avoid material with a lot of images and visuals. If you’re a guy, most modern romance novels will do the job very well. If you’re a woman, check out Field & Stream for your invitation to snooze-land.
This technique forces the mind into a relaxed state by, again, another monotonous activity that requires very little cranial expenditure. It’s a form of meditation without the chanting (or counting) that ropes the eyes into the ‘ohhhhmmmm’ state, which—depending on the material, could eliminate a form of distraction.
3. Go for a Drive
Okay, this one has an element of danger, so BEWARE. I am NOT advising you to go for a drive and to fall asleep behind the wheel. In fact, it would be better if someone else would drive you instead.
So, if you’re cruising along and your driving partner is not chatty and if the sound system is NOT blasting out Rammstein, you’re already well on your way to Snoozalooza. Try this to help nudge you there faster…
Watch the road. Don’t look out the side windows or up at the stars through the moonroof. Watch the road. Watch the white or yellow lines on the road as the car you’re in zips over them. Keep your eyes right… there! Ignore those oncoming headlights and that family of deer that’s pranced right in front of your hurtling vehicle. Just watch… the…
There, I said it. It’s what all this other stuff boils down to anyway.
But the average Western mind is just too overrun with all the sensory data our brains have collected over the course of the day, and it all seems to come to a head just when we lay our heads on the pillow.
So meditate it away.
That’s a whole lot easier said than done.
Meditation requires constant practice to develop the discipline to keep the focus of the mind down to a laser point, which is why it’s such a difficult thing for the Western mind to accomplish. But the Western mind is also a practical mind, so there’s an additional aid to help achieve that Zen state.
We all do it, even fish! It’s an unconscious act, much like the beating of our hearts or the blinking of our eyes.
Ah, but when we apply the previously-stated technique of counting our breaths, the equation changes dramatically.
Controlled breathing is far and away the fastest way for the human mind to achieve a Zen state as it focuses our attention internally, AND by regulating how we breathe, we actually force our bodies to relax; reducing stress levels and reduction of the standing respiratory rate to a calming pace that’s both comfortable and relaxing.
Thus, both the body and the mind achieve a relaxed state harmoniously.
But again, techniques like that seem much easier to say rather than do.
So start with baby steps.
Lie on your back, close your eyes and your mouth; you’ll be breathing exclusively through your nose. Breathe in for a count of four, nice and steady; hold for a count of four, then release your breath for a third count of four.
Keep your eyes closed and feel the slowing of your pulse; listen to the beat of your own heart as you keep the four counts going. You’re going to like how this technique makes you feel in the morning!
Okay, okay, there are times when dropping off to sleep in a reasonable amount of time just seems… well, unreasonable.
Is it a good time to self-medicate?
I can only speak from personal experience here, and the answer to that is a resounding NO for me, especially if I want to be fresh and rarin’ to go in the morning.
Even over-the-counter sleeping aids will flat out knock me silly for several hours and will have lingering effects well into the next day. And if I ever hit REM sleep while on OTC sleeping aids, I sure wouldn’t know it.
So if you’ve got to be on your “A” game the next day, it’s a good idea to avoid self-medicating, although a sip of high quality vino wouldn’t hurt (for the antioxidant properties, you know).