Monday, April 12, 2021

SHUT UP MIND

Pretty sure a lot of us have problems these days sleeping. There is a whole industry devoted to sleep aids  Either getting asleep or staying there is a goal for many.  Some of  you go to sleep when your head hits the pillow and don't awake till morning. You guys can skip this post  and I might hate you a little:)

Some sleeplessness is age related, some due to personal issues and some just stress related.  Thanks to an upside down world right now with disease and people behaving badly, we can become sleep deprived or at least I have.  

I go to sleep quite easily but a few hours later I am awake and the rest of the night is a struggle.  Sometimes, I will go on an hourly schedule. One hour asleep, 30 min awake, then another hour asleep. This rotation goes on till I give up trying and just get up. 

I have tried it all. Some things work for a while but then my body gets bored and wants a new solution.  Reading, deep measured breaths or picking a letter in the alphabet and  trying to think how many words start with that letter are temporary solutions. They do for a while take my mind off deeper or personal thoughts but the effectiveness tends to wear off.  I've tried sleep aids and while they do work, the things they do to our bodies are not healthy. I have enough underlying conditions thank you.

A week or so ago my mind was galloping during a moment of wakefulness in the wee hours. I had a thought that turned out to be productive. I'd discovered a while back that I had a cure for songs that become earworms and are annoying. I found that if I told my mind to just "Stop," it would for an instant shut down the song. Then  I repeated the command each time it tried to start up.  After just a few tries, the worm would give up and disappear. 

Now the "stop" command had to be told in the same tone you tell a dog to "sit". Not angry, not irritated,  just firm.  So maybe I could get my mind to give up racing in the dark hours trying to solve the world's problems? Worth a try.

So as I lay there and my mind started going over the events of that day, I told it "stop thinking" in the same tone as "sit."  Whoa, for a bit my brain became blank. It was like there was a rectangle of nothingness up there. I had to repeat it a few times but it really worked. 

But I really wasn't sleepy so I tried one more thing. I concentrated on making my forehead relax. I was surprised when I could feel the softening of the wrinkles. Then I told my eyes to relax and they did. To top it off I told the muscles around my mouth to also relax and darned if they didn't also. I lay there with a totally saggy but relaxed face.  Not sure I'd want to see that look:) However, the next thing I knew,  I was in the middle of a pretty neat dream. 

I still have moments of wakefulness now but they are quite brief and my sleep time has really increased. Last night I got a full 7.5 hours. Maybe our brains can be trained kind of like a dog. Who said an old codger can't learn a new trick? 

If you have no problems sleeping, you are so fortunate and bless you. But if you do, this is a non-chemical option. You just have to get bossy with yourself. 

Have no idea if this would work for you. Your mind might not be prepared to obey without question  as mine is but if you have sleep problems, give it a try.  Hey, the price is right and no side effects.

48 comments :

  1. I'm impressed with your ability to command your brain, Patti! Not a good sleeper myself, I usually listen to podcasts to drift off. As for ear-worms, I play a few bars of the pesky tune on my piano and then replace it with another song or two to satisfy my too easily influenced control centre.

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    1. Florence,
      That sounds like it really works for you and earworms. I use to get the lyrics on the computer and sing the song all the way through. That worked but I often get them while driving and found "stop" works then.

      Delete
  2. Well I do plan to try it. I'm bad to get up, sit in my recliner and turn on the television. For some reason television helps me drift off. But the mind racing is a usual culprit of keeping me up.

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    1. Ann,
      I understand the sedative effect of TV. I use to have one in my bedroom and would do that also. Don't have one there now so I had to resort to browbeating my mind.
      Let me know it if works for you.

      Delete
  3. Whatever works!!! Sounds like it is worth the efforts to at least try. I was told that a habit is formed over a week's time, so...don't give up the procedure. Give it a chance.

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    1. Anni,
      You are so right. Pretty sure the waking up was a habit. Hoping I can make this sleeping through also a habit.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Margaret,
      Let me know if it works. I sure hope so for I know you have struggled also.

      Delete
  5. Patti, I have a feeling you just unlocked some big floodgates! Well I feel a lot less alone this morning as this has been a problem with me for a long while now. I thought it'd be gone after I retired in Jan 2015, but it takes me forever to fall asleep, then it's pretty much 'sleep for an hour, wake up for 15 minutes'. I AM going to try your "brain commands" tonight, because I hate being so high maintenance when I go to bed. I take my tablet with me, tuck it under the pillow beside me and plug in my earphones. I either listen to a "white noise" app that plays "Winds over the plains", "Rolling Thunder" or "Radio static in space". Sometimes I go online to youtube, search for "ASMR" and find someone who is just quietly droning on about nonsensical things. I never watch them, listen only--still, I want to do what you do! :)

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    1. Doug,
      Oh how I hope it works for you. All your current methods should work--I once had a device that did the white noise thing and was on a timer. I would wake up however when it would quit. Sleep is so vital to our physical and mental health which is why there are so many pills with unfortunate side effects to get us there. Let me know if it works.

      Delete
  6. I do like the metaphor of training a dog. A mind does so like to take control, not giving our bodies the space to tend to their own needs. Maybe this mind-body disconnect is a reflection of the divisive times we live in right now.

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    1. Olga,
      I just hope my dog mind is a good learner. So far it is pretty responsive. Think you are so right about the times for what use to be an annoyance has become a problem.

      Delete
  7. I've got to try your method! I've been trying to break myself from taking a sleeping pill at night but I HATE not sleeping. It seems like the minute my light goes off it's a signal for my brain to drag up every worry I've got.

    I'm weeks into not watching TV but an hour a day when it used to be the first thing I'd turn on in the morning and the last thing I'd turn off at night and that isn't even helping with the restless sleep.

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    1. Jean,
      I have tried the pill method also and while it was effective, I really worried about what it was doing to my body. I do believe not watching the news so much would be helpful. Might try to do better at that also. Thanks.

      Delete
  8. It is called Monkey Mind or Monkey Brain by Buddhists. I have it a lot lately when worries for my children or grandchildren pop into my head and I cannot shake them. I will lay awake forever trying to get off the worry train. I will try your method. Thanks!

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    1. Annie,
      I am just glad for now that my Monkey Brain is susceptible to direction. I know, I have family members now that I am concerned about. I'll try to save those concerns for the daylight. Hope this works for you.

      Delete
  9. That sounds like a great idea. I'll give it a try.

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    1. gigi,
      Really hope you have similar success. Sleep is just as vital as food and water to our well being.

      Delete
  10. I esp. like your relaxation techniques. I actually have no trouble sleeping ... except when I know I have to wake up early in the morning. Then I wake up around 3 a.m. and can't get back to sleep, thinking, is it time yet? Is it time yet? So now you've given me a strategy. Thank you!

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    1. Tom,
      So glad you are mostly free of the nighttime awakenings. Hope that this method does help with those rare times. I was surprised just how tense my facial muscles had become.

      Delete
  11. That is such a great idea. I will definitely give it a try. I have spent many a night awake for hours. I'm so glad it worked for you.

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    1. robin,
      I really hope it works for you. Those long nights awake are the pits. Let me know if it helps.

      Delete
  12. I've used the relaxation technique but I start the opposite way, by relaxing from my toes to the top of my head. Other times, like you, I have to clear my mind and I will visualize an empty dark space behind my forehead and focus on that void. You can call me empty-headed if you like. :)
    The last technique is counting backwards from 400 by 3...if I find myself thinking something else, I start again. I don't think I've ever gotten to under 200 but sometimes it takes several tries.

    Once asleep, it's the bathroom breaks that wake me or the cats.

    I do believe we can train our brains in many different ways. Never thought of it as a dog, but if it works, that's great. Take care, stay well!

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    1. Eileen,
      I do remember those relaxation techniques from Yoga class. I remember we would always crack up as someone would start snoring before we were done. I have tried to duplicate it at night but guess I don't have the discipline for that. I get distracted.
      I so understand empty headed for that is what I felt when I told my brain to stop thinking. It was really weird.

      Delete
  13. I shall write about this too.

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    1. Just read yours. I'll take an active mind over coughing any day. Glad you found a solution.

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  14. If something is bothering me, it recurs whenever I begin to fall asleep. I think I do something similar to your technique by distracting myself with another thought, or even an earworm. But I actually have little problem getting eight hours of sleep, interrupted by a few trips to the bathroom. I also take melatonin an hour before bed. :-)

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    1. Djan,
      Sometimes just a bit of distraction can stop the hamster wheel of thoughts. Melatonin got me to sleep, wouldn't keep me there.

      Delete
  15. I used to have problems because I HAD to get up early. Now that I am retired, if I can't sleep, I just don't. There is plenty to watch on TV at night or I have my kindle. Still I may try your new method, it makes some sense.

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    1. joeh,
      I know, the Kindle saves my bacon some nights but the loss of sleep ruins my day as I am tired and don't feel like doing anything.

      Delete
  16. Well, I will try this. I also have sleep problems. I never know when one of those nights will strike me when sleep just won't come, or it ends in the middle of the night.

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    1. Linda,
      Yep that sleep ending in the middle of the night is the curse. Hope it works for you.

      Delete
  17. This technique resembles a yoga technique, and I'm very glad it works. I have a few comfort thoughts that usually help me get back to sleep. I have noticed I wake up more than I used to when I was working. I was more exhausted then.

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    1. Margaret,
      I borrowed it from a yoga class I took years ago.
      Think you are right. We don't go to bed tired enough when we quit working.

      Delete
  18. Like DJan, I take 5 mg. of melatonin a night. I think it helps. I’ve also done the deep breathing. Sleep is a problem for me. Art on the other hand knocks out in a couple of minutes. It’s annoying as heck. I shall try your relaxation method tonight. I really appreciate your helpful hints. One of the best ones I got from you was blowing to do your business on the toilet. That has been invaluable. 😁

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    1. Kay,
      I tried melatonin but while it got me to sleep easily, it wouldn't keep me there. Having a spouse who has zero problems is annoying:)
      So glad you are still using the breath thing when on the toilet. Sure works doesn't it? We don't have to worry about death by toilet:) Think it should be taught to children so they grow up with it.

      Delete
  19. I used to be able to sleep all night every night, but not anymore. It's a physical thing. Since I retired I just don't do enough physically to get tired out. So I get two or three hours of sleep then I'm sitting up in bed reading until I fall asleep again, usually close to the time I should be waking up, but since I no longer have to be at work, what does it matter?

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    1. River,
      Pretty sure you are right about us no longer doing enough physically to tire us out like we use to.
      The reason it bothers me is that I am tired the next day and waste daylight.

      Delete
  20. If I exercise during the day and read for a couple hours at bedtime, I usually can fall asleep easily. If I wake and my mind starts going over worries, I focus on my breath until I doze off. However, it is necessary to actually focus as the mind will always want to listen to its own chatter. Of course, if something is worrying me about my family, all bets are off.

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    1. Barb,
      Know what you mean about that chatter. We do seem to be enamoured with our own thoughts and your are right--if it is concern about family-that is a tough one to shut up.

      Delete
  21. This sounds like it’s worth a try. Unless I was exhausted from physical labor I usually laid in bed for about an hour before falling asleep. For some time now even that hour is much extended. I always enjoyed the relaxed thinking during that hour but it has really gotten out of hand and can be all night. Am working on a better schedule.

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    1. Joared,
      I know, can't remember the last time I went to bed actually physically tired. Those wakeful moments are quite sneaky and can really last too long.

      Delete
  22. Glad you found a solution. I am 2-years into hot flashes and would love consecutive hours of sleep.

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    1. Sue,
      You really do have a good excuse for wakefulness with those darn flashes. Hopefully you are about out of them.

      Delete
  23. You've been reading my mail. I really don't know very many women who can sleep as long as they'd like to. For some reason, men don't seem to have that problem.

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    1. Donna,
      I too believe it is mostly a gender thing. I can't think of a guy off hand that when awakened in the night, can't just roll over and go back to sleep. Joeh, who commented above, is the first I have heard admit to wakefulness.

      Delete
  24. I need to try this as I'm writing this comment at 3.30am on a Sunday morning, which shows you how well my sleeping is going tonight!

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    1. Joey,
      Ooh, I have been there too often myself. Good luck and hope it works for you.

      Delete

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