Getting to sleep

There's an experience I had around 1975 that made the problem of sometimes having trouble getting to sleep much less frustrating.  I lived in an apartment, and the people upstairs had two cats, who around 5:30 every morning would start chasing each other around overhead like galloping horses.  I finally decided, "Since I don't get any sleep from 5:30 AM on, why not just get up then, and use the time?"  I did so -- and found myself groggy all day. 

This showed that in the hour when I felt that Kitty and Rosie were keeping me awake, I was either getting on-and-off sleep that I wasn't aware of, or some kind of rest that had a lot of the same benefits as sleep.  I went back to getting up at my usual 6:30; but now I knew that when I found myself awake at night and "couldn't get to sleep", I wasn't wasting the time in bed, but was getting some part of the value of sleep, so that I didn't have to get so upset about it -- which made it easier to get to sleep. 

There are still times when I have difficulty sleeping.  Some people attach great value to moving one's eyes from side to side (or in an X pattern) for a variety of psychological purposes, saying that it simulates the "rapid eye movements" of dreaming.  I have sometimes tried doing this with my eyes shut as a way to get to sleep.  It's hard to tell whether it helps; but I don't have many memories of lying awake after doing it. 

A method I've come up with very recently that seems good is to mentally recite something, slowed down to one word per breath.  I know some long poems, so I might start, say, Paul Revere's Ride :  "Listen (breath), my (breath), children (breath), and (breath), you (breath), shall (breath), hear (breath), of (breath), ...".  Other people might find the words to songs, or the alphabet, better for them than poems. 

I mentally say the word during the in-breath, with silence during the out-breath.  If I feel like repeating some word over several breaths before going on to the next, I let myself.  If I find I've trailed off and am no longer reciting, I accept that it has probably brought me closer to sleep, and gotten whatever else was on my mind out of the way, and I can let the process of getting to sleep take its own course from there. 

8 July, 2008