I’ve started sleeping with my best friend. You should try it.
For a lot of my adult life I have had trouble sleeping.
I can count the number of times I have slept through the night this year alone on one hand. For those of you who can relate, you would know what a shitty feeling this is. A lack of sleep can be linked to a decline in mental health, increase in anxiety and depression, moodiness, a foggy brain and as you may have heard, in some cases, ‘clinical insanity’.
In other words, sleeplessness is serious.
It was no wonder the continuous nights of shitty sleep started to drive me a little mad. I began to feel trapped...trapped in my body, trapped in my mind, trapped in the night. I would be lying in my bed, quiet and still, but internally I would have the urge to jump up and down on my bed and scream. My body, exhausted and desperately wanting to sleep and my mind wired, racing and chaotic.
On some level I knew this experience of sleep was not ‘normal’, but it had become ‘normal’ for me. I would chat to friends about their experience of sleep and usually they shared they had little to no problems. I no longer had a reference for what problem-free sleep was. So I started to speak with various health professionals about my sleep troubles. I was told that I had insomnia. They also have also talked to me about having adrenal fatigue, and linked my issues with sleep to having PTSD. All of this made sense to me, but knowing this was not bringing me closer to a peaceful nights sleep.
Sleep had become something I dreaded. I began to resent the idea that I had to go to bed every day. I instead wished we could batch our sleep into blocks of time once a week, or better still, once a month. That way if I didn't have a good nights sleep at least I didn't have to worry about it for another month. But this whole every 24 hours thing, I couldn't bear it.
One of the main reasons I couldn't take much more of it was because often during my sleepless nights I turned on myself. Blaming myself, being angry at myself, speaking negatively to myself. We have a tendency to do that don’t we? Turn on ourselves in hard times.
Something had to change.
I decided it was time to start sleeping with my best friend.
Movies have been made about this idea of sleeping with your best friend. Often the best friends way up the pros and cons of this new sleeping arrangement but usually always get into bed together. Well I am happy to report, for me there have only been pros. I might just clarify though, the best friend I am talking about is not the one usually featured in the movies... It’s me. In your case, it’s you.
We can be our own best friend.
Initially it seemed just about impossible to be my own best friend in those sleepless moments. But I was committed to giving it a go. The idea was inspired by a sleep meditation by Abraham Hicks, when you couldn't sleep, you would practice speaking kindly to yourself. At first I found this challenging, as for sometime I guess you could say I had been sleeping with the enemy. Another movie idea I believe.
Arrianna Huffington, in her book: The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time, talks about sleep giving us "a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are." It's during this time of our day we can reconnect with ourselves, "and in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away." I haven't yet mastered sleep, but by sleeping with my best friend I am able to find that place of connection. Before I share how I got there I want to say, if you are struggling with sleep do what you need to do. It might be medication, it might be meditation. Talk to a sleep specialist, talk to your therapist.
You do not have to suffer, but you do have to sleep.
Here's how I started sleeping with my best friend:
1. Get out of your head, focus on your breath.
I believe our breath is one of the most powerful tools we have to support us in any difficult moment. But I will not pretend that just focusing on your breathing will fix everything, but it will help.
Focusing on your breath is like your first date with your best friend. No pressure, just breathing. First base kind of stuff. This is the time to get to know each other, to simply spend time with one another. The key here is to get out of your head where the dysfunctional soundtrack is looping, saying things like:
'I should be asleep by now, why can't I sleep, OMG I have to be up in a few hours' WTF why can’t I sleep? What is wrong with me? Shit did I leave the oven on? OMG what was that noise, is someone breaking in? Oh it's just my tummy rumbling, should I make some toast? Or do I have cancer? Haha that was a pretty funny thing that parrot said in the meme I saw today on Instagram. OMG why the fuck am I thinking about the parrot, I should be sleep.' (...I did mention I went a little mad didn't I?)
Being with your breath brings you into the present moment, creates a body awareness and therefore distracts you from your mind.
There are some amazing breathing techniques you can try. I always recommend Heart Focused Breathing developed by the Institute of HeartMath. Along with breathing techniques you could also try soft music, you know, to set the mood. Or go for a guided meditation. Occasionally this worked to get me out of my head, giving me something else to focus on. Often the noise though just kept me awake. Speaking of being awake it might take some time to build up your breathing practice so while you are doing that another way to get out of your head is to get up, briefly, to break the pattern. I have been known to do star jumps at 3am.
2. Create an ‘I’m awake but it’s ok’ script
I had been doing the whole sleeping with your best friend thing for a little while and recently had the chance to take things to the next level.
A few weeks ago I had to be up at 6.30am for a full day of looking after a 2 year old. So around 8pm I started my bed time routine. By 9pm I was lying in bed and I felt calm and tired, a great feeling – sleep could be possible! But just that thought alone woke me.
That night I did not sleep, not a minute. Having to be ‘on’ the following day would usually send me into a state of panic, making the whole lying awake all night thing just so much worse. But on this night I remembered that I was now sleeping with my best friend and if it was going to be a sleepless night I didn’t have to endure it, I could actually enjoy it. So just as Abraham Hicks had done, I began to create my own 'script' in my head, of positive self-talk to support me through the sleeplessness. It went something like this:
“It doesn't matter what the time is. Instead lets focus on how peacefully quiet the world outside your room is. There are no cars, there is no sound of the gate opening in your apartment block. This quiet is so nice... Have you noticed how gentle the darkness its? It feel so soft doesn’t it.
Rosie, would you like to try a moment of rest now?
No, that’s ok, it's great just to check in every now and again, but there is no pressure. This doesn’t have to feel hard. So let’s go back to the softness...
Shall we try sitting up? Yes, ok. Good on you for trying something different. Are you cold? Let’s pull the blankets up. Would you like to lie down now? Ok.
Still awake? Let's not worry about sleep, instead let's think about the mattress. What colour is it? How does it feel to lie on?
I know it’s been hours now, of being awake. But it's also been hours of spending positive time with your best friend. It has felt really nice. I like spending time with you.
The sun is coming up. Oh the birds are quite loud, but that’s ok. They are just being birds.
Rosie, it’s time to get up now. I know that feels funny to get up, when you haven’t yet slept. I know your body is aching and your eyes sting and you are worried about the day ahead having not slept. It's ok, I will be with you, we will get through the day, together.
Let’s take it one moment at a time. Start with having a shower. I know the yawning wont stop. Don’t count the yawns. Instead let’s focus on how well you are doing. Look at you getting into the shower. You go girl. Remember to hold on the rail, sometimes you sway or nearly fall when you are tired. But let's not think about being tired because how nice does your soap smell?! And look at that bamboo plant in your shower, it’s so lovely.
Today just be with your breath. Go slowly. You don’t have to pretend you are full of energy. The day will pass and tonight we can try sleep again. But don’t worry about sleeping tonight. Instead look for one thing today that brings joy to your heart. Once you start looking, it’s all you will see.”
Through that night and that morning I felt like I had a guardian angel. To have such comfort and positivity be with me at a time that usually felt like despair has been a powerful reference for me.
We all have protector, a guide, a best friend within us. Someone we can call on at any moment to offer us words and feelings of reassurance and of love.
It may feel difficult to start the conversation with that part of yourself, to be your own best friend, but once you do, trust they will know what to say. If you are stuck here is a simple way you can begin the conversation:
‘Hello, are you there?
I need you...’
‘I am here.
Tell me what you need.’
A lack of sleep is not something you have to suffer through. See your doctor. Talk to someone about this. There is support available. It can, and will get better.
Feel free to share this blog with friend or leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you and find out what it’s like to start sleeping with your best friend ;)
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