I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Despite organizing my whole business around helping people sleep better, I don’t always sleep that great myself. While I now have MANY more nights than I ever used to have where I close my eyes and wake up in the morning feeling blissfully rested and refreshed, and I almost never have difficulties falling asleep initially anymore, I still experience those pesky middle of the night wake-ups where I don’t fall instantly back to sleep. The big difference between the old me and the new me is that I don’t panic or even get anxious about it anymore. Instead, I get curious.
If I ask myself the question, “Why am I awake?” an answer will usually come. Sometimes I know before I ask the question, other times I have to dig deeper. More often than not, if I tap on all of the emotions surrounding the answer, I can head back to sleep within an hour or so, and feel fine the next day. Most of the time, I have an off-night here and there or possibly an off-week before the cycle breaks, but it doesn’t persist for months at a time the way it used to.
This past month, however, something interesting happened. I am enrolled in a marketing class that is filling me with passion and enthusiasm. I love what I’m learning and I can’t wait to get up every day to do the work assigned. Not unexpectedly I started waking up in the middle of the night, sometimes really wanting to do my work. When I am filled with that much wakeful energy and that much of a burning desire to do something, I know by now that for me, sometimes it is just better to get up and do it. So, for the first week or so, I didn’t worry about this. I was feeling so full of excitement, I felt fine during the day as well.
But then this cycle moved into a second week and then a third, and I began to get cranky. I can last for about a week on this cycle of disrupted sleep, averaging 4 to 5 hours total for the night without noticing it too much during the day. But after a few weeks it starts to get to me. My clients who were having success started sleeping better than I was, and I was getting jealous! I knew that was a bad sign. And when I was waking up at 1:00 or 2:00, I wasn’t feeling that burning desire to work. I was just plain annoyed.
So finally, after a few weeks of being awake at odd hours, I put on my Beyond Insomnia Coaching hat and gave myself a session. “What is going on??!!” I asked myself. And then I knew. I really knew. I had been here so many times before. This is where it all started, this is how so many of my worst sleep periods spiraled out of control.
I was in “Super Student Mode.” For most of my life I have either been in “Super Student Mode” or “Super Teacher Mode.” It happens when I am genuinely passionate about a curriculum and just want to digest every little bit. I want to get it right, be the best I can, and this powerful energy seems to take me over. In some ways I have had success with this. It is what got me into Yale and propelled me through many different challenging work situations. But it has also been my undoing. There is only so long a person can go around like that without feeling edgy, tired, and eventually burned out.
The gift of being unemployed for a year and then working part time for several years at a job that was enjoyable but not very challenging is that I wasn’t in this mode for quite a while. I got to experience what it is like to get GREAT sleep, feel rested and refreshed most of the time, and be fully present and relaxed for the people and activities that filled my days. It was a completely different way of being for me, and while I missed the passion, direction, and focus that has characterized me for so long, in some ways I was happier than I had ever been.
Then came this course and this passion to REALLY go for it in my new business and the old familiar energy returned. In a way, I welcomed it in. This is how I always got things DONE, and God knows I needed to start getting some things DONE and MOVING FORWARD. On the one hand it felt GREAT – both exhilarating and familiar.
But then this sleep thing reared its ugly head, and I knew I had to pay attention. I have found that insomnia for me is my “early detection warning system.” An off night or two is like that light on your car signaling you need an oil change. Not that big of a deal. Usually a little tapping can do the trick, just like a routine oil change will make that light go away. But 3-4 weeks is like a “check engine” light, and I knew I had to really tune in.
I learned some pretty profound things about myself during the stillness of that night. I realized I was afraid to let this energy go because I really want to keep this passion and momentum going and I don’t know how to do that any other way. My whole life I’ve either been relaxed, peaceful, and soundly sleeping, but not super productive — OR passionate, excited, and super productive, but not sleeping well. Does it HAVE to be a choice? Or could there be a new way of being that I haven’t yet experienced?
In that moment I surrendered and asked the Universe for help. I began tapping on all the possible ways I could express this, ending with something like this:
Even though I am afraid of losing my passion, purpose, and productivity if I soften the grip on my focus, I am choosing to SURRENDER and move into a path of open-ness, curiosity and devotion. I am trusting I will be even more constructive and creative if I can SOFTEN the edges of my mind and allow myself to enjoy the fullness of life, including good sleep.
I went back to bed feeling good and peaceful and got a few more hours of decent sleep. The next night I closed my eyes and didn’t wake up until almost 7 hours later. The cycle had broken! Halleluja!! I had hit the real target with my tapping.
Over the last several years where I have slept well more often than not, I have learned to view my little bouts of insomnia as my “early detection warning system.” Sometimes in the middle of the night I tap on interactions with others that didn’t go as well as I would have liked. I clear the energy in my own system, bless and forgive them and myself, and am able to do what’s needed to move on, so that bad feelings don’t fester. Or I clear out fears or irritations so they don’t lodge themselves in my body and become some physical symptom down the road.
But this one of the past month is really BIG. It is about my whole way of being. I love being filled with passion, enthusiasm and focus, yet I also love sleeping well, feeling grounded and peaceful. Thanks to the “early detection warning system” of my insomnia, I am intending to rewrite my usual script of passionate beginnings ending in exhaustion and burn-out. I am setting a clear intention to find a way to be both passionate and productive AND peaceful and grounded. I am open, I am receptive, I am TRUSTING there is a way for me to do this – and when I find it I will be that much better able to serve those who need help finding this too.