By Dorothy Segovia





Admit it. You’re wide-awake, it’s 3am and there’s no chance of getting back to sleep. Now what? If you decide to surrender to your body’s alarm, and follow these easy steps, then maybe you’re wake up call can also be some relaxing soul time.

There are three basic techniques to heading back to the land of nod: journaling, relaxing and meditation. One technique may work for you one night, but another might work best the night before that big project is due. Once the basics are learned, you’ll naturally gravitate toward the one that suits you.

Journaling is the technique used to dump excess mental energy from your day. Keep a notebook on your nightstand so you’ll be ready if you suddenly wake up. The key to this technique is to simply put your pen to the page and start writing. Let the words flow freely, without engaging the inner editor. One way to do this is to keep the room lighting soft, or squint your eyes slightly so that the words are blurred. Keep your hand moving for at least 10 minutes. This gives your brain enough time to move past surface thoughts and into what writer Natalie Goldberg calls “monkey mind.”

Monkey mind is the unconscious part of your brain. By moving past intentional thought you might discover something that is bothering you more than expected. Thoughts that circle your mind are like worry sheep with nowhere to go. The act of writing brings the “thought sheep” out of your mind and onto the page. Words in our mind are elusive. Anchoring words onto the page keeps your mind free enough to go back to bed.

Writing works even if you don’t have specific worries. Jotting down the next day’s to do list or brainstorming creative ideas can release the stress of having to remember daily tasks. According to The National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to sleep research and education based in Washington, D.C., stress is what most experts’ site as the No. 1 cause of short-term sleep difficulties. This includes lifestyle stressors such as drinking alcohol or beverages containing caffeine in the late afternoon or evening, and engaging in strenuous mental or physical activity just before bed.

While the journaling technique can help you pinpoint any specific worries, remember that writing itself is the point. With the word sheep resting peacefully on the page, sleep is often just around the corner.

Another method for getting back to sleep is to do relaxation breathing while listening to a peaceful CD or cassette. You can also use an eye pillow filled with chamomile as a treat for your self. The chamomile not only soothes your eyes, but it helps to ease away any tension.

For this method, make sure the room is completely dark. Lie on your back and take a few deep breaths. Adjust your body so that your arms are slightly out from your sides. Now inhale deeply for 5 counts and then exhale for 5 counts. Keep your breath natural. It may feel awkward at first, but trust your body to find a rhythm. While your counting, listen to Bed Time Stories by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes available at the Sounds True, Inc. website at Nature music is an excellent choice as well and can be found at most record stores.

A Peaceful Company, an Internet retailer that sells eye pillows and the new Delta-Sync Sleep System Cd by Dr. Jeffery Thompson is just a click away at The sleep system Cd coaxes your brainwaves towards the most rejuvenating, deep sleep stage known as Delta Sleep. The Cd comes with an instruction book that also teaches you the different stages of sleep. Relaxing to a peaceful Cd is a comforting way to keep your mind occupied so you can nod off quickly.

Meditation techniques can also send you into a deep slumber. These are different from relaxation practice because ALL of your attention is focused on the breath. According to Puran Bair, co-founder of the Institute For Applied Meditation and author of "Living from the Heart" (Random House, 1998) it is easy to pass from meditation to sleeping if you are relaxed. In his column posted on The Institute for Applied Meditation, Inc. website Bair writes,
“One requirement is relaxation. Even though you are lying still, you may not be relaxed. I recommend concentrating on your heartbeat, which you can easily feel, lying in bed, and which is good for your heart as well.”

Bair further instructs that a long exhalation is required for sleep. By listening to your partner sleeping next to you, you can observe the ‘sleepy’ breath. By imitating this ‘sleepy’ breath, which is one heavy exhalation, followed by stillness, then a short inhalation, we can copycat our way back to sleep.

The sleepy breath technique is this: The exhalation or heavy breath is accented by letting completely go, giving your whole being to the breath. Then allow your body to sink into stillness. Your body will know when to inhale. The inhalation breath is short; you are simply gathering enough breath to let go again with your next exhalation. You can read Bair’s column at or find out more information about the institute.

Finally, Mick Winter, a Napa, California resident has taken some time to gather a plethora of sleep tips and has generously posted them on his personal website at Mick has posted some old tips like drink warm milk before bed and a few new ones such as sleep with your head pointing north. He’s even included a new method of counting sheep.

Following these steps can lead to more than a good night’s sleep. Dropping back into dreamland can be a reflective experience. You may also discover a whole new way to relax: even when you’re sleeping.

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© Melt Magazine 2004