I didn’t sleep for years. Years and years. No exaggeration, I did not sleep for a very, very, veeeeeeeeerry long time.
It wasn’t the sleepless nights with newborns, or toddler night terrors, though those definitely wreaked havoc on my life for years. It wasn’t even the fact that my daughter, to this day, insists on waking me almost every night to tell me how much she loves me (no, it’s not cute, so don’t you dare “awwwww”, lol). I didn’t sleep because I had insomnia.
My insomnia began about four years ago. Yes, my kids were still little back then, but my lack of ability to sleep carried on even when my kids began to (mostly) sleep through the night.
It’s not that I didn’t want to sleep. I did. I just couldn’t.
As an entrepreneur, my mind is always working. So, if I woke up at 3 am, my brain would start grinding and coming up with idea after idea after idea and I could never get back to sleep.
While this was fine for awhile, after a few years of about four hours of sleep per night, my body started to break down.
I was exhausted, stressed, malnourished and trying to grow an empire. I was routinely told by my doctor that I needed to get more sleep. In fact, she said any sleep would be amazing.
Yeah, no shit. Oy.
But, how does one turn off her brain? She doesn’t listen, in fact, she’ll start wondering how sleep actually works and will try to solve all problems as soon as she is roused. Best to just get up and get to work versus lay in bed and think about all the things needed to be done.
Until one day, I couldn’t. I became exhausted and very sick. Light headed, anxious, depressed, angry, bitter. I lost weight, I lost hair and I lost myself. Yup…lack of sleep will do ALL OF THAT.
I’ve made some pretty serious life changes this past year and one of the most important changes I’ve made is my commitment to rest and sleep.
But, how does one get sleep if one’s brain is on HIGH? You can’t just say “Brain, we need sleep, that’s enough…SHUT IT DOWN!”. She gets pissy. Uber pissy.
With my daughter constantly waking me, my husband snoring next to me and my entrepreneurial brain on overtime, there was no way I could ever get back to sleep in the middle of the night, even though I knew I needed to.
Until…I went to counselling.
Oh, and FYI…yes, I tried medication. I tried melatonin. I didn’t like either.
My counselor listened to me and in the first session said “Lindsay, you need sleep. You need rest. So, I’m going to teach you how to do it. She then introduced me to two-syllable breathing and it has been a LIFESAVER.
If I get woke in the middle of the night, I force myself to shut down my thoughts and begin two-syllable breathing. It works. Every time.
You hear me? Every. Time.
Here’s how to do it:
First, you need to imagine yourself in a calm and safe place. Put yourself there. Mine is on a beach, waves rolling in, book on my lap, sun on my face, eyes closed.
This is my place:
Then, you choose a word that has two syllables. You can also choose two words, one syllable each if you can’t figure out a two-syllable word that calms you.
On your inhale, think the first syllable. On your exhale, think the second syllable.
Feel the sun on your face, listen to the waves. Inhale the first syllable, exhale the second syllable.
My words were originally “The Lake”. The syllables are supposed to be something that has positive memories or means something wonderful to you. Memories of the lake growing up were what I thought would work.
But, it turns out my mind liked to screw around with that and play the “Remember when this happened” or “Oh yeah! What about that time that _____ happened!”…so then she went crazy with memories and got seriously nostalgic…not calming at all.
I had to change my word.
I decided on the word “sunshine”. The word makes me happy and it reminds me of my daughter.
I inhale “sun” and exhale “shine”.
I have NO IDEA why this works, but if I practice it when I get woke at night, I almost always fall back to sleep.
Same goes for if I’m having trouble getting to sleep. If I practice my two-syllable breathing, I fall asleep.
I don’t know the science…but if it works, I’ll take it!
My son uses this strategy to battle his anxiety, as well. He also fights sleep and this breathing technique works almost every time.
His word is “Mommy”.
He inhales “Mom” and exhales “my”.
If you have trouble getting to sleep, or if you have trouble getting BACK to sleep, try this two-syllable breathing technique. It’s changed my entire life, so I sure do hope it works for you.
You need sleep, babe. Truly. Don’t be like me and go years and years without it…trust me…it is NOT a good place to be. xoxo