Probably the most frequent question in my insomnia workshops is what to do about those pesky middle of the night wake-ups. There is no one right answer, especially since it largely depends on what has woken the sleeper in the first place. Today I want to focus on a specific situation common to most every class: “What about those nights when I have NO IDEA why I am awake? Those nights when I am not stressed, upset, or worried about anything in particular, but I just wake up for no reason.”
I know those nights well and they are frustrating to say the least! Here is my advice:
- When you first notice you are awake, try as best you can not to wake up fully. Don’t open your eyes and don’t look at the clock; just try to soothe yourself back to sleep. Sometimes this works.
- If you do fully wake up, go ahead and look at the clock (and go to the bathroom if need be), and then give yourself a gentle window of about 15-20 minutes to fall back to sleep, using whatever soothing, calming, relaxing technique you may know. I sometimes focus on breathing in and out through my heart, imagining white light surrounding me and moving through my whole body. Some of my clients count backwards, others listen to something soothing. Whatever works! If you have not fallen asleep after about 15-20 minutes, ask yourself an important question: Am I genuinely feeling calm, relaxed, and peaceful, or am I feeling frustrated, disappointed or anxious that I am not asleep yet? This may sound silly, but it is a very important distinction to make. In general, for those of us with sensitive sleep systems, emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, and disappointment push sleep away, while feelings of love, safety, and trust invite sleep in. If you are genuinely feeling relaxed, peaceful, and calm you will either fall asleep eventually or at least be able to rest your mind and body. I know for myself, however, with my vast history of insomnia and being miserable during the day because of it, I can go from peacefully asleep to irate that I have woken up in a matter of minutes. Some nights I can tune right into white light, deep breathing, comforting thoughts and soothing feelings and go back to sleep fairly quickly and other nights I cannot. I am simply too angry, anxious, disappointed, and/or frustrated that my sleep was disrupted again. For those nights I recommend the “Release and Replace Technique.”
- For the release part of the process, I tune into the negative emotion, trying to make it as strong as possible, and tap as hard as I can – practically pounding — on the points. For example, while tapping on the side of the hand I might say something like,
Even though I am disappointed, frustrated, and anxious that I am awake at this hour when I was so desperately hoping to sleep through the night, I am choosing to feel these feelings fully and release them.
As I drum on each point, I imagine each emotion releasing as black smoke:
Head: all this frustration
Eyebrows: all this anger
Side of the eyes: so disappointed
Under the eyes: I wanted to be asleep but I’m awake
Upper lip: I am awake AGAIN
Chin: so frustrated
Collar bone: so anxious!
Under the arm: all this disappointment
Then I sit for a moment and imagine all these negative emotions drifting away in a cloud of black smoke, eventually vanishing into nothing.
- When I feel more neutral, I begin the replacing part of the process. The idea is to replace the feelings that keep sleep away, such as frustration, anger, and anxiety, with those that invite sleep in, such as love, trust, and gratitude. These feelings may be harder to get in touch with than the frustration and anger that is right on the surface, but here are some suggestions:
- Focus on someone or something you love deeply: your child’s face, your pet’s expression, or the face of anyone else you love very much.
- Focus on someone or something you are grateful for.
- Imagine a place of deep peace and safety.
- Imagine connecting with a higher power and being enfolded in its arms and comforted back to sleep.
- Think of anything at all that brings a smile or joy to your heart.
For this part of the process the tapping is very gentle and at each point I imagine diamond white light flowing in.
At the end of the process I focus on my heart and imagine the diamond white light filling it with unconditional love. I send it out to the Universe in all directions.
In just a short time I can go from irate and wide awake to peaceful and ready to sleep. The other night I went back to bed and slept almost six more hours!
Next time you wake up for no apparent reason, and you are unable to soothe yourself back to sleep within 15-20 minutes, ask yourself how you are feeling about being awake. If you are experiencing feelings that are chasing sleep away, trying releasing them and replacing them with feelings that invite sleep in. You may be pleasantly surprised to have a decent night after all.