I remember being awake in the middle of the night from at least the age of 6. I never have trouble falling asleep at night, but after a few hours, anything can wake me and then my monkey mind is climbing trees and trotting through the forest. When I was young, I put myself into the books I was reading and let my imagination run wild. In recent decades, 3AM has been a time when my mind can process events (sometimes obsessively), let worries run rampant, repeat song lyrics endlessly, and simply think without interruption.
For a long time, I was able to function pretty well – or so I thought – on a few hours of sleep. When I began an extremely challenging job, it really showed me how much my brain suffered. In addition to feeling tired, I was far more prone to errors and missing small but important details. Still, wanting to sleep doesn’t mean being able to sleep.
A month ago I decided that I was going to add morning and evening journaling to my routine. I realized a few days ago that I have been sleeping much better since then, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. When I’ve processed everything already, putting it into words in a document, there’s less to ponder at 3AM. For my own sleep, I’m going to rank journaling right after exercise and regular hours.
The rest of my sleep toolbox includes more exercise (really, enough exercise so that I’m moving all day, but just shy of my entire body aching, which is unfortunately not compatible with my full-time job), and for those times I awaken, mindfully focusing on remembering a place where I felt completely at ease (I put myself back in the attic bed at my grandmother’s house, for instance), reading a few chapters of a book, or listening to an audiobook until I fall asleep.
But sometimes I just have to give up and accept that I am going to be tired all day.