Do You Panic When You Can’t Sleep? 5 Techniques to Get You Back on the Sleepy Land Rocket

It’s three in the morning and you’ve already been awake half an hour. You’re desperate to get back to sleep because you’ve got to be on top form for a meeting tomorrow. The longer you stay awake the more anxious you get and the more you worry you’re not getting enough sleep the longer you’re awake. Does that sound familiar?

That was certainly my pattern. It became worse because the more often it happened the more I recognised the various symptoms I would suffer the next day, namely:

I’d be inexplicably emotional, prone to feeling tearful for no good reason. This was weird because it is absolutely not my default setting.

Simple tasks and decisions would seem oddly bewildering. Often I’d have to leave them to the following day when I hoped I’d have a more serviceable set of brain cells available.

I’d feel more hungry than usual.

I’d look and feel tired and washed out

I’d feel it necessary to consciously pay more attention when I was driving because I didn’t fully trust myself on ‘autopilot’.

People often can’t sleep because they are worried and during the night problems have a habit of magnifying but for me that wasn’t always the case, I could be just as prone to being awake because I was excited about something and my brain wouldn’t stop thinking of new ideas. In fact the creativity aspect of my insomnia was a sort of ‘positive negative’. I’d be still be concerned that I wouldn’t be fully operational the next day but I sometimes took a ‘what the hell’ approach and let my brain wander on.

The insomnia became such a problem that I had to develop some strategies for getting back to sleep. These are the ones that worked for me:-

I started to write a book in my head chapter by chapter. I found this better than reading something. I did this so often I eventually wrote the entire book. One of these days I’ll actually get it on paper as the plot is still firmly in my head. Now I find if I pick up a chapter, I don’t get far before I’m asleep.

A technique my sister uses is, ‘clothes I have worn’ and this one is quite entertaining. Think of clothes you wore years ago and places you went whilst wearing them. It’s surprisingly amusing what you can remember before you fall asleep. Works with shoes as well.

Another thing I learned was to clear my mind completely – thinking of nothing takes quite a lot of practice and perseverance but I eventually got to be able to do it at will.   It’s a technique used in meditation and there are lots of articles online about how to start. The breathing exercises taught in meditation also help.

More recently, I’ve read about a technique the author Andy Shaw teaches. He suggests that if learning to clear your mind is too difficult at first, practice by learning to maintain15 seconds of positive thought. Recall a really happy event in your life and keep going until you can maintain the happy memories for 15 seconds and then keep extending the time. From that base you can then start to learn to clear your mind.

Fortunately, these days because I work for myself, I don’t get anxious if I wake up during the night because it doesn’t matter. If I’m in a creative space I just go with the flow and make some notes. If you still have the problem of having to get up at a set time and you’d like to work towards escaping the nine to five routine, you might like to check out the path I’ve taken. There’s a video series you can watch here where you’ll learn how you can create an online business around ‘you’ and start to live your digital life. Eventually those meetings you worry about during the night can be a thing of the past.

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Robbie van't Wout - October 17, 2014 Reply

Yep I know that feeling especially near the end of the day. But I don’t often have trouble getting to sleep

Belinda - October 18, 2014 Reply

Hi Chris,
An enjoyable read! Some good tips to keep in mind next time my mind won’t shut down before bed!

Alicia - October 18, 2014 Reply

Thanks for sharing. I have never heard of the “Clothes you were wearing” one. Will have to remember that one. =)

Antony - October 18, 2014 Reply

It’s nice to read from another student of “Creating a Bug Free Mind” and I certainly love Andy Shaw’s books. Great blog and great advice too, Thank you.

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