I have an insane life. Work full-time. Run two small businesses. Have two teenagers and anyone who ever told you that teens need less time with their parents than youger children, lied to you. So I am thinking about marketing, and finishing up products, and getting my daughter to this dance audition or that rehearsal, and helping with homework, and writing articles, and working out, and so on and so on. We each have just 24 hours in a day, and I try to squeeze every last minute out of each one. Usually when I go to bed I can fall sleep within a few minutes. I do not think of it as falling asleep so much as falling unconscious. It drives my wife nuts.
My problem is not going to sleep, it is staying sleep. Give my brain a little rest and it starts working on problems and running through tasks. Often about three in the morning I find myself waking up and running through all the things I need to do for the day. This totally blows. With all that I do I usually only have about six hours a night to get my Z's which leaves 18 hours to ponder all that needs to be done. More than enough time, right? Evidently not, since my mind gets racing and starts work early. I have heard this from a lot of people too. Waking up too early seems more the norm than having trouble going to sleep. Yet, all the TV ads hawking the latest meds are about getting to sleep. That is how they make money, their goal is not really to solve it the problem. The makers of Lunesta are not motivated to solve your problem; if they did you would not need their product any more.
So what do you do away from checking the clock every two minutes? Crap! I only have 2 1/2 hours to sleep. Crap! I only have 2 hours 15 minutes to sleep. Crap! So on.
First let's start with what not to do. Drugs are not the answer! At three in the morning and you have just a few hours of mattress time left, if you took a drug, even something natural like melatonin, it takes a while to kick in, and when you have to wake up, it is still in your system. Bad way to start the day. Plus, at least for me, I do not ever feel like I have rested. Sleep aids give me nasty dreams and I wake up feeling lethargic and without any energy.
There are a couple of solutions. The first is to change your environment. I get out of bed, go downstairs, wrap myself in a big blanket, sit in our most comfortable Barcalounger, and read for about an hour. Even if I do not feel tired, this submersion in a totally new environment slows the mind down and shuts off the annoying monkey chatter.
This second option is a bit earthy, but I have found success with it. I read a book when I was a kid called Self Hypnosis. It seems like a precursor to some of the meditation techniques available today. Some research on meditation provided valuable insight in shutting down the mind. So here is what I do.
First I try and get as comfortable as possible. Then I envision laying on a warm pad, like they have for massage tables. Next, I try and clear my head of thoughts. Really. Try and not think of anything for a minute. Now, take stock of your whole body and try to relax all your muscles. Think of them as weighing thousands of pounds. From this point forward focus on just two things. The first is your breathing. This should be first and foremost in your mind. Focus on what it feels like having the air run down your throat, filling your lungs, and coming back out. While you are doing this, starting at the top of your head, focusing on each part of your body and command it to relax.
Focus on all the muscles in your forehead and the top of your head and command them to relax. After that, work on the back of your head and top of your neck. Make it relax. Move down to your shoulders, your arms, back, chest, abdomen, thighs, calves, and feet.
Spend a minute or so on each part, making sure all the tension is out. Chances are likely, that you will not make it to your feet. You will be off in dreamland.
Your mind is like a puppy though. It has a super-short attention span and will wander. When it does, bring it back and refocus. Starting over if necessary, pushing away thoughts, focusing on your breathing, and re-relaxing each part.
This does not always work and when it does not, then I resort to getting up and reading. But if it gets me some more of the manna from Heaven that is sleep, then I am willing to do it.