Bring on the Night

Bring on the Night

sleeping and thinking

Does this look familiar? Even now with mindfulness practice and CBT, I still struggle occasionally with getting a good night’s sleep. For me, falling asleep is generally quite easy, but I know for many this is a problem. I tend to wake up at 3am and allow my thoughts to run away with me which really causes problems.

So how can we stay mindful in the dead of night, when there is very little to focus our attention on?

Throughout therapy, I’ve been working on some techniques to help alleviate this problem. The first I identified was that lying in bed and worrying had become a habit. If I woke up in the night, it was normal for me to start worrying about something. In fact, one night I noted that I’d said to myself “I’m not worrying about anything – there must be something I can worry about…” Habits are hard to break, so the easiest thing for me to do to start with was to remove myself from the bed and bedroom completely, as soon as the unhelpful thinking habits started.

Luckily we have a huge comfy sofa, so when this happens I can take myself into the living room and cozy up on there. Even the walk through to the other room takes my mind out of that negative space. Sometimes I make a cup of (caffeine-free) tea, or I read a book, or I watch TV. I always put the lamp on, which creates a sense of being back in the land of the living instead of in a dark and lonely nighttime. I always fall back to sleep on the sofa. It doesn’t happen straight away, but I don’t clock watch or worry about not getting enough sleep. I distract my attention with something on TV and suddenly the alarm is going off and it’s morning.

Another technique which I’ve tried, and which works, is mindful breathing.

The primary focus in Mindfulness Meditation is the breathing. However, the primary goal is a calm, nonjudgmental awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance.

Source: http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/mindfulness.htm

This technique allows the mind to calm and stop its focus on thoughts and feelings which distract you from sleep. A particular favourite of mine is to count your breath backwards from 1,000. The in breath counts as 1, the out breath as 1.  It is important here to only focus on the breath, how it feels as it goes in and out of your body, and what changes it brings to your body as it does so. Along with counting, I will never reach beyond 900 before I am asleep again.

Why not try The Worry Warrior’s technique too:

I’d love to hear which techniques you have used to get a better night sleep while struggling with anxiety! Please leave them in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “Bring on the Night

  1. The counting sounds like an interesting idea, I should try that too sometimes. I got the tip to focus on the fact that the floor (or whatever you’re sitting on) is not moving, that the ground under your feed is stable. It’s a really nice method as well.

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  2. Hi, I don’t suffer from anxiety, but I did suffer a lot from severe work related stress and frustration that would wake me up in the middle of the night or early morning for weeks. So first thing that allowed me to overcome this was meditation: if you learn to ignore your thoughts during the sitting and practice long and diligently enough the same thing will happen when you don’t meditate. When I did wake up during the night and could not silent my mind I would put some music on my headphones. I have a habit of falling asleep while listening to music and on those occasions I tend to listen to the same albums over and over again, so when I could not fall asleep I would just listen to the music that I naturally associate with falling asleep. Also – and more importantly – I would pay attention to the sounds, focus on certain instruments for example, and once my awareness drifted away from running thoughts and got engaged in the music, my mind would naturally relax and I would fall asleep again.

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