This book, “Bears in the night” was perhaps an early inspiration to my strategy
I am pretty sure I am not the only one in the world who has trouble getting to sleep and I recently heard that one of my bestest, most favourite blogs — “Heaps Good Advice” — was getting a lot of questions about this issue. And just today I was reading this article in the paper and maybe the problem is bigger than I imagined.
So reading that advice in the paper, I felt no personal revelation. I have no troubles with light, I give myself plenty of time to sleep, I can sleep anywhere, I have strict routines etc. See I know exactly what my problem is. And it’s touched upon in point 4: “Put the day to bed long before putting yourself to bed.”
Ridding my brain of thinking and worrying and wondering and acting out what might happen in the future is a huge challenge for me. Ultimately I am over-stimulated and I can easily send my brain into overdrive — especially in the dark, being all still and with no other distractions. Me and my mind get along a bit too well under these conditions and thus we get chatting about all the bullshit we have to constantly deal with.
But I have developed a strategy to combat this. Indeed — I have used the very thing that was keeping me awake at night — that mental hyper-activity.
So this may seem a bit like BULLSHIT — and I understand that assessment — but you’ll just have to indulge me. After all, this is MY blog, and I get to make up the rules sometimes.
See I think that maybe I have worked out a way to self-hypnotise myself. And I have no real qualifications or indeed ANY real understanding of hypnotism — and it’s been a hell of long time since I did PY101 and PY102.
But tricking your brain is not rocket-science. Indeed our brains seem so ridiculously feeble and malleable — and I suspect mine is just that bit more feeble than the average punter on the street — so I feel pretty qualified in saying I can “self-hypnotise” myself to sleep.
A SMALL DIVERGENCE
At this point I need to tell you all about something. You all probably know I am a bit mad — “beautifully mad” I hope — but this little eccentricity I have never really told anyone about.
See as a kid — and indeed well into adult-hood (but not so much anymore) — I would play all by myself. I would find a private space, and wander around in circles stuck inside my head. I’d invent a story based on a bunch of key scenarios – like Star Wars, or Star Blazers or maybe Batman. And then I’d invent the story and kinda act it out right there. If there were lasers or explosions (and there invariably was) I might make those noises. And when space ships were flying around I’d use my arms and hands to animate the situation.
If you ever stumbled upon me doing this you would think I was a fucking nut-case — but I loved doing it. I loved it so much I enjoyed it more than playing with other kids sometimes. For my entire youth I kept it so secret I didn’t even have a name for the activity. I would just think, I am going to do “that” now.
MY SLEEP STORIES
And so what I do when I am determined to sleep is I have these few set “stories” I act out in my head as I lie there in the dark waiting. And these stories are often quite action-packed and about doing things, rather than emotions or complex human interactions. In other words — they settle my mind into a more vegetive state. And consequently they take my mind as far away from my very Earthly problems and conditions.
These tales never get anywhere — there’s no conclusion — if they did then that would defeat the purpose — right? But if I conjured up my bullshit psychoanalysis skills I might say they all have themes associated with sleep or nurturing or womb-like. In other words things like rain, escape, finding refuge in a hole or cave or secret passage, being in a very cold place but finding something to protect me and keep me warm, or exploring a very alien territory.
One of these stories is quite a bleak one.
It begins in a snowy, dark world with me being on the run — like I had just escaped from some form of captivation. But all around me is the sounds and flashes of a war-zone. Yet the battle seems to have moved on and although there are bombs and gunfire — it’s all in the distance. Meanwhile it starts snowing and I don’t have suitable clothing and I am just frantically running until I stumble and fall into a deep trench. And when I stop tumbling down, and my eyes become accustomed to the even deeper gloom, I find the floor inside this stretched-out-hole is littered with dead combatants. I am so cold and too desperate to be horrified. I steal a coat from a dead body, maybe even hunting around for the uniform least saturated with blood. I fumble my way down, hands and knees, the trench twisting and turning and the gunfire and lights becoming more distant. Eventually I find a section of snow that collapses under my arm’s weight. And it reveals a secret door. Inside is a small control or battle room with a very low ceiling. I find a light and then I proceed to explore every inch of this room looking for stuff that will assist my survival…
…and usually by the time I’ve done that for a bit I am asleep.
So that’s what I do. No doubt it will be useless to 99.9999% of you, but I just thought I’d put it down.
BUT IN SAYING ALL THIS
So after all my hard work in getting to sleep, I waste it all when inevitably I awake at about 4am and start wondering about all the shit I said at that party or that club or just a few hours before in the lunchroom when I got a bit too excited. And then I stupidly check my iPhone which is conveniently right next to me. Before I know it 20 minutes of bullshit has passed. Ugh.
Another evil thing I have to acknowledge is that sometimes I actually enjoy processing all those thoughts (all of which can wait for a more appropriate opportunity) in my brain — and completely ignore my hypnotistic strategy in favour of just uninterupted, unadulterated, unfettered — thinking.
So I have no one but myself to blame for staying awake when I should be dead to the world.
I listen to audiobooks to get to sleep, so I guess that is similar to your sleep stories in your head.