I jolted awake from a deep slumber at 2 am to the sound of our son, Brooks, letting out a high-pitched whimper. I peered with one eye at the video monitor to discover that he’s still fast asleep. Phew, now I can relax and fall back asleep.
Easily fifteen minutes have passed, and I’m still fitfully tossing and turning. My mind jumps from one thought to the next like a kid in a candy store springs back and forth between the colorful bins. “Will I ever fall back asleep? How will I get through the day tomorrow?” I worry to myself. Amazing how quickly the mind races to “what if” mode as we’ve discussed in previous posts.
Let’s just say that I know this incessant, worst-case thinking is not the secret to successfully falling back asleep. In fact, these worrisome thoughts are precisely what keeps the body’s sympathetic nervous system aroused, which signals to the body, “it’s not a safe time to relax and sleep.” The irony is, trying to get the body to relax is not the secret either. When we try to force relaxation, the body only becomes more contracted and stressed.
It might sound really crazy, but one of the answers to falling back asleep from a 2 am toss-and turn-episode is to do nothing at all. Rather than trying to make something happen, learn to simply be – in the body, with your breath while sensing the covers on your skin and the pillow caressing your head. I totally get that this “being in our bodies” takes practice, which is one of the places mindfulness training can be hugely helpful. More on this later! For now, you might begin with a simple intention to feel the gentle rise and fall of your breath in your belly whenever you lie down. Then ‘just see’ what happens without having to make something happen. 😉