I Do Everything I'm Supposed to and I Still Can't SleepSep 25, 2023
Anytime a client comes to me complaining of insomnia and circular thoughts I get curious, and not just about their sleep. What does the rest of their day look like?
It is common for people to want to “do all the stuff.” Depending on a client’s priorities they could be striving to do everything right- care for their family, succeed in their career, be the perfect yogi, biohacker etc.
Anyone Can Experience Insomnia
What is really interesting is that, even though all these people live very different lives with different priorities and levels of self-care, they come to me with similar insomnia and anxiety stories.
I often meet people who assume that it is only “unhealthy” people who experience insomnia and that if someone leads a healthy lifestyle it won’t happen to them. In my experience this is simply untrue.
There are many people who regularly meditate, do yoga, breathwork, journal etc etc (all the stuff!) and STILL experience insomnia and anxiety on a regular basis. Why would this be?
Intention is Key
It often comes down to intention. Society as a whole has a do more attitude. We take on healthy practices because they are what we “should do” to achieve enlightenment, sleep, and be an ultimate perfect being, without really understanding or examining the motivation behind these practices.
It is said that boredom is the birthplace of creativity, and, in ayurvedic medicine, creativity is the antidote to anxiety (which leads to insomnia).
Are You Relaxing or Stiving for Perfection?
How then, does it serve us to rush from 1 activity to another? Always chasing achievement and perfectionism, so wrapped up in our lives and goals that we never allow ourselves to be bored? There are many ways to avoid boredom and uncomfortable emotions. Whether it is breathwork, Netflix or Instagram, the end result is the same.
We are a world of constant movement and gratification. When we are bored, we do something- meditate, go to a yoga class, check Instagram, listen to a podcast etc.
It isn’t about the activity. If we feel uncomfortable and we instantly go to do something about it, we are treating this discomfort as a problem that needs to be fixed, something unacceptable in us and our experience, which lowers our tolerance to discomfort over time.
Our Brains Need Silence
The brain needs downtime to process. Process thoughts, process the day, our feelings and life events. When we are constantly distracting it with new stuff all day every day and the only unstructured time we give it is at bedtime, it’s no wonder the brain has trouble winding down to sleep.
Relaxing into sleep takes time, it is not an immediate process. In this world of instant gratification, many people have not cultivated the patience needed to allow sleep to naturally unfold.
Given this, you would expect meditation and breathwork to be good things, and they are if done properly. The problem is many people have heard that it is important to do mindfulness, breathwork or meditation in order to sleep and feel less anxious. So, they take up the practice to feel better and get rid of these uncomfortable (bad) emotions. Experiences that they don’t want to have.
Are You Willing to Feel Discomfort?
There is a big difference between cultivating a daily practice you enjoy to support your system, and one engaged in specifically to not feel or to achieve something.
When we over fill our schedules to the point where we are human doings instead of human beings (in other words we are doing mindfulness instead of being mindful) or doing a practice to shield and protect us from thoughts, feelings or experiences we don’t want to have, we are doing mindful practices unmindfully and this will also contribute to the insomnia and anxiety experience.
The next time you are around a cat, or a dog (any animal really) just observe it. Is the animal “doing” 20 minutes of mindfulness before rushing to yoga or is it just staring blankly into space with no agenda?
There is a reason that yogis and health practitioners still experience insomnia while animals do not.
Intention is important to the process. When we drop achieving and avoiding, just practicing to practice, we can then derive more benefit in the long term.
Setting Up a Routine
This is why experts recommend doing a set practice daily for maintenance, regardless of your emotional state (like brushing your teeth). Choose a reasonable amout of time to spend on your self-care, something very doable that will not over fill your schedule and cause you to rush, leaving plenty of down moments to just be.
Try to think of this as part of a long-term health strategy to cultivate balance in the nervous system vs an in the moment “hack” to “fix” something you do not want to experience.
It is from this place of allowing, without expectation, that change begins to occur.
If you would like to learn more or book an individual session, please visit the Memberships page.
In the meantime, I would like to leave you with this important message. You are not broken! You are whole, perfect, and healthy exactly as you are, and you CAN sleep!
SUBSCRIBE FOR WEEKLY SLEEP TIPS
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.