If You Wake Up Each Night and Can’t Sleep, Try This

Here’s a trick I learned from Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution

It’s no new news that Americans are living with a sleep deficit. We’re plagued with sleepless nights paired with ever-growing to-do lists.

Credit to Fanette for artwork

I have no problem falling asleep. My problem is staying asleep. Each night I wake up around 2:00 a.m. My hyperactive mind then spurts into action, reminding me of every undone task, unpaid bill and unfinished email.

The next hour or two are spent worrying over frivolous thoughts, only to fall back into deep sleep not long before my alarm wakes me for the day.

I used to fight these middle-of-the-night self-torture sessions. I’d refuse to open my eyes or get out of bed for fear it would prevent me from falling back to sleep. But I’ve recently read Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution, and it’s taught me a new trick.

Segmented Sleeping

In her book, Huffington shares a history of sleep. (Who knew there was such a thing?!) In various cultures, prior to the Industrial Age, sleep was segmented. The night was broken in two sessions.

This was often done for practical purposes, to stoke a fire, tend to a tub of brewed ale or, ahem, “make babies.” (It is believed by many to be the most successful time to conceive. Which is why my husband knows I’ll pull his back hair if he gets any ideas!)

Others used it as a time to pray, self-reflect or talk over life issues with their

partner. When else would they have such uninterrupted solace?

According to Dr. Gregg Jacobs, an insomnia specialist, “This non-continuous sleep pattern is characteristic of virtually all mammals and is the pattern we experience early and late in life.”

Perhaps it’s not just our hormones waking us up in the middle of the night, but is instead a “pattern” that is innate in us.

Personal Test

The next night after reading this, I found myself tossing and turning (again) at 2:00 a.m. My gas fireplace didn’t need stoking and I wasn’t brewing any ale at the moment, although a bottle of it may have helped me fall back to sleep.

Instead of interpreting this as a bad thing, I told myself, “this is normal” and interpreted it as God nudging me awake. I spent the time praying, meditating and breathing and in time, fell back to sleep.

The next night I awoke at 2:07 a.m. but this time my mind was blaring awake. I snuck out of our bedroom with a book to read. My eye lids were soon heavy. I tiptoed back in bed and was soon sound asleep.

Both nights, I was awake for around 30 minutes. Not great but much better than the one to two hours I normally spend tossing and turning each night. Plus, these moments were peaceful instead filled with anxiety for not being able to sleep.

This mindset has helped me a great deal, even though it’s not foolproof. There are some days so stressful, they require more time to detox. But there are other nights I merely stir and then fall back to sleep.

I’ve learned a lot in Arianna Huffington’s book and will share more soon. If you’re like me, and struggle with sleep, I highly recommend The Sleep Revolution.

(originally appeared on my blog http://journeyto50.org/)

Arianna Huffington