How to Solve “I Can’t Sleep”


Sometimes we find that we just can’t go to sleep when we want to or need to, no matter what we try. And it’s really frustrating for most of us. But it doesn’t have to be, if you take control of the situation instead of letting the situation take control of you.

A common reaction to such a situation is to resist, to rail against the situation, and to bemoan how tired and worn out we’ll be tomorrow, after a night of little or no sleep. Yup, that’s the drill most of us have gone through. We rehearse it over and over. But why? Simply because it’s an habitual way of handling that situation. Has that ever solved the problem? No. Does that serve us? Definitely not! So what would serve us? Finding a better solution.

A better solution is definitely available, and it’s a lot easier than you might think. Finding it is as simple as noticing what you’re doing when you’re fighting sleeplessness and then giving yourself permission to stop complaining about the situation and replace it with a better situation. And I don’t mean reading a book or watching TV. But those are options, if you want to use them.

If you’ve decided that you can’t sleep, then bemoaning that fact will only increase your inability to go to sleep. And whining about how drug out you’ll feel tomorrow will program you to feel that way, because that’s how you’re expecting to feel. That definitely doesn’t serve you!

A simple and do-able solution would be to just accept the situation as it is, but then improve upon it. If you believe you can’t go to sleep, you won’t, because you believe that. You’re the only “believer” in your mind! So you’re the only one who can change your belief. So turn the tables on sleeplessness!

Decide, instead, to redefine the situation as an opportunity that you’ve been given to simply rest. You’ve scheduled nothing else to do during this time, so just allow yourself to rest. Lie comfortably in your bed and allow yourself to rest: to not fight; to just relax. Your body will definitely enjoy peaceful rest, and you’ll feel a whole lot better resting comfortably than you will by fighting lack of sleep.

Remember, what you resist persists. What you focus on increases. Rehearsing your sleeplessness is definitely not going to solve your problem. But stopping your resistance to not sleeping will free you of all that negative energy that’s causing havoc for your nervous system and further preventing you from sleeping. Focusing on things that delight you and bring you joy will release endorphins in your brain that make you feel better and help you relax. Simply accepting “what is” and then turning it into a better option can bring you a time of rest instead of a time of frustration and anger, which only add to your sleeplessness.

While you’re at it, be sure to “rehearse” having plenty of energy tomorrow and feeling rested. Your body will just as readily obey that command as the one that tells it it’s going to feel awful. After all, you were already rehearsing how awful you were going to feel tomorrow. So turn off that programming and turn on some programming that will help you instead of drain you. You can have it either way. You’re the only one telling yourself how you’re going to feel tomorrow! So why not program yourself in a way that serves you instead of disserves you? It’s your choice. Choose the way that will make you feel better tomorrow.

Do you think this is just wishful thinking? No, indeed. I’ve used this technique a number of times. While agonizing about sleeplessness¬†one night, it occurred to me that I was getting nowhere by resisting the situation. So I decided to re-frame the situation. If I couldn’t go to sleep, I could at least rest. That would help refresh my body too. Giving myself a time of rest was a lot more beneficial to me than deliberately, by my own actions, dooming myself to a sleepless night, by fighting sleeplessness.

Remember, we can’t always control what’s happening in our life, but we can control how we respond to what’s happening. Take back your ability to choose. Don’t let sleeplessness rob you of rest and sleep. Once you’re at peace and relaxed, you’ll probably fall asleep anyway. If not, you’ll at least have a peaceful rest, which is a whole lot better for you and your body than a night of anxiety and frustration.

Making sweet lemonade out of a sour lemon situation is a better choice that’s always within our reach, if we’re willing to recognize what’s happening and then to stop acting habitually and start responding in a way that serves our best interests. Do yourself a favor and remember this tip the next time you find yourself in this situation. Then allow yourself to try it, in Seattle, or wherever you happen to be, sleepless.

Charles David Heineke


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