I Can’t Sleep

“I can’t sleep.”
“Why?”
“It’s stress. I’m worried about everything.”

There was no time to talk more. But I promised to think about it.

Not sleeping is bad. Sleep Thieves had me convinced years ago. I know my own price for lost sleep – near accidents, unwise comments, stupid mistakes, and illness brought on by exhaustion. But losing sleep because your brain has found a negative groove, and is working on a new Grand Canyon when it should be recharging, is really bad.

Stopping your brain isn’t easy. But it can be done. I’ve used all of these techniques at one time or other:

  • Don’t just lie there. Get up and address one of the things that’s causing the stress. The thing with the looming deadline that you haven’t even started on yet — start it, or outline what needs to be done. The outline may be enough. Or you may get on a roll, and end up pulling an all-nighter. But that all-nighter will be a more productive one.
  • Before you go to bed, write down everything — and I mean everything — that is stressing you. Put it in a journal, if you have one (and you should). Let your brain go as deep and dark as it wants to go, and get it all written down. This simple acknowledgement may be all your brain needs. You can do this with a person, but writing lets you include everything from trivial to really scary.
  • Talk to someone “outside” the situation and get another perspective. A friend. A relative. A subject-matter expert like a psychologist or a priest or a school teacher or a former colleague. Someone who can relate to the worry, whom you trust to be kind, helpful, and honest.
  • Do something by yourself for yourself — a walk, a dinner out, a trip to the gym — some activity that will get your brain into a different environment. Break your routine, and remind your brain that there is a world outside your worries.
  • Think about whether there is someone else who can take on something that’s on your plate, or give you permission to not do something on your plate. Husbands can cook. Children can tidy up. Housekeepers and gardeners can be hired.
  • Pray to God for help. You can be specific, but you don’t have to. Start by asking for help to get to sleep. And if your brain starts digging, let it dig for a minute, then pause, and ask for help on that part of the groove. “Help me do the right thing” works, especially when you don’t know what the right thing is. “I can’t cope with this. Help!” is another good one. Then trust that God will deliver. He-She-It always will. Or to put it another way, delegate your worry to Someone who can do something about it, and has a much larger set of resources to draw on.
  • Sure, there are biological techniques to take the edge off — sleeping pills, nooky, alchohol — but they’re bandaids. Your brain will be waiting for you when they wear off. So try some of the techniques above. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for you. My Omnipotent Friend can help you, whatever it is that’s keeping you up at night.

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