If you struggle with insomnia, you know how frustrating it can be to lie awake night after night, thoroughly exhausted, yet unable to fall asleep – tired, but wired! There are many practical steps you can take to aid sleep, but the first must be to change your mind-set.
Our culture rewards busyness and exhaustion. We wear our lack of sleep as a badge of honour, but sleep is neither passive, nor less important or productive than being awake. Sleep teaches us to let go, to surrender, to check in, not check out.
How you approach something influences how it approaches you back – and we resist tiredness, then expect to be able to knock ourselves out like robots. But what if sleep is a natural meditation opportunity? What if it’s the secret passageway to our inner beings?
Setting up your evenings so that they are conducive to sleep requires a gradual dimming of artificial light as you prepare both body and mind for rest. Light has a dark side – as David Whyte, the Irish poet, says, “time to go into the dark where the night has eyes for its own”.
We need darkness and night itself; we need rest. We need the gradual winding down at the end of one day to prepare for the next. This requires courage, as our culture pushes away darkness and night. Spend a night around candlelight once in a while, and befriend the night as an essential nutrient for sleep.
As you get into bed, part of your ritual or routine needs to be surrendering to sleep and letting go of waking. Let go of effort and rest on the shoreline of sleep, waiting for its waves to simply carry you. Much of sleeplessness is linked to effort and trying too hard – we lie awake trying so hard to sleep instead of just giving in to it. Letting go of falling asleep is an act of humility – invoke it, don’t grasp it.