What do you do when you can’t get to sleep fast?
While I don’t have any trouble falling or staying asleep these days, that wasn’t always the case.
Tip #1: Ashtanga yoga
I didn’t start my near-daily Mysore yoga practice to sleep better, but it turns out to be huge side benefit. Huge. Maybe it is just the 60 minutes of sweaty exercise–and any form would do, but I think it has something to do with the repetitive, silent nature of the practice and especially the meditative quality of the breathing and movement.
Yeah, yeah, before you get too annoyed with me for telling to devote the first part of every day to yoga, I’ll tell you what else has worked for me.
Tip #2: sleep with an old British man
Melvyn Bragg’s BBC podcast In Our Time, is soooo relaxing. I’ve rarely made it through an entire episode. Once a week he talks with three British academics for about 45 minutes about a fairly narrow topic from history, philosophy, religion, literature or science. British! Academics! Talking calmly! These lovely, educated Brits–they’ve got this. I can sleeeeeep.
I love the function on my iPhone which lets me set the podcast to stop at the end of the episode, rather than playing episode after episode.
What do they talk about? Utilitarianism, Frida Kahlo, the Science of Glass, the Lancashire Cotton Famine, Hatshepsut, The Mamluks….
I have to admit that some of the episodes are actually too engaging for snoozing. I especially love when they cover some bit of American history from a British perspective. I’ve had to listen to episodes about Benjamin Franklin and the California Gold Rush in my waking hours.
Tip #3: pretend you have to do something really annoying
Pretend you have to do something that’s a huge hassle, but you are very, very, very sleepy…so sleepy that you are fighting sleep. Sometimes I think of having to watch a super boring online tutorial on coding. I have the best luck when I remember an actual time when I was nodding off, but trying not to, like that sleep-deprived afternoon I spent at the local children’s museum in the dimly lit, completely padded, toddler play area. Meredith does something very similar, imagining she has to do something rather tedious like getting up with a crying kid. Walking through the effort she’d have to go through gets her sleepy.
Tip #4: organize your breathing
My last method is one that I sometimes use any time I’m feeling anxious, too. I picked it up from Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, a useful, gentle, funny book by Karen Maezen Miller. It is simply this: breathing naturally, count 10 breaths, then count down from 10. Then repeat. Up to ten, down to zero. Sometimes this is the only thing that works if I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m in a brain spin.
But for me, nothing beats Ashtanga.
What works for you when you can’t sleep?