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Don't Read This if You Can Sleep Through the Night (but definitely read it if you can't)

Updated: May 5, 2023


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash


It’s 2 AM and I’m awake and before my body has a chance to go into the familiar anxious sensations and ruminating thoughts, I picture myself taking out all of my plates in my kitchen cabinet…


one at a time.


And then I see myself putting them all back.


I move on to bowls.


Then cutlery.


And since I’m still awake I move on to lesser used dishes.


That is the last thing I remember until I woke up at 6:30 the next morning.


OMG!


I fell back asleep and didn’t wake again until morning?!?!?!


This is HUGE for me!


I know my actions of “mentally taking out and putting back the dishes in my kitchen” sounds very strange but hear me out.


At some point I developed the habit of waking in the middle of the night, feeling extremely uncomfortable sensations in my body and thinking anxious thoughts.


To go back to sleep I would try things like moving to the couch, listening to a meditation or 2 or 3 and then I might fall back asleep.


I decided to try what I learned in the podcast “All in the mind – The battle for better sleep” which is called “cognitive refocusing or cognitive distraction.”


Melinda Jackson, a sleep researcher and psychologist says the idea is to “change the style and content of thoughts to reduce cognitive arousal by replacing unwanted thoughts with more pleasant things.”


Do this by “thinking about a topic that is compelling and engaging enough to maintain your attention but that is neutral, not emotionally arousing, negative, exciting or worrisome.”


(This is where the strange actions of mentally inventorying my kitchen cabinets comes in.)


The next night when I woke up in the middle of the night, I decided to try it again.


As I went in my mind’s eye to the dishes it felt too boring.


So, I decided to try taking out all my mismatched glasses and mugs.


(Mentally of course.)


Sure enough, I fell back to sleep without my typical ruminations and uncomfortable bodily sensations.


Next time maybe I’ll make banana bread muffins or my famous lasagna!

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