September 30, 2011

Passive

I can't sleep!
OK, today's the day: we've dedicated a whole week to crafting the ultimate pre-sleep routine.  We've got all the elements we need to get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.  However, we actually haven't talked about the most critical step of all: falling asleep.  Our routine prepares us to sleep, but what do we do in that final, critical moment when it's just us and our thoughts?  Well, we actually want to do nothing at all; but that can sometimes be very hard.

Previously on The Happy Homunculus, we tried a series of relaxation challenges during the Week of Relaxation.  On the second day, we went through the exercise of being as "Passive" as possible.  In that post, I argued that the last thing we should try to do when we're trying to relax is to, well, try at all. Phew.  Trying is the most counter-productive thing we can do during relaxation.  Similarly, trying to sleep is a contradiction - trying requires energy, effort and focus.  To sleep, we must let go.

So, today, let's revisit the Passive challenge and apply that mindset in the minutes leading up to sleep.

Passive

Task: Lie passively in bed in the moments leading up to sleep.

Info: Close your eyes and let go. Thoughts will come in and out of your mind - this is fine! But, whenever you find yourself wandering, gently return to a more passive state. The key is to not try but to let go.  If your problem is too much thinking, gently label the process "thinking" and move slowly to observing your breathing or the smoothness of the sheets.  Be mindful of your surroundings as an alternative to thought.  If thoughts keep creeping in, be patient and continue to return to a more passive state.  Finally, if you start to get frustrated with your lack of sleepiness, get up and start your bedtime routine again.  Return to bed when you feel sleepy again.

Goal: Maximize the feeling of passivity.

I find that practicing mindfulness meditations help me develop the state of mind needed to let go.  Check out these great guided meditations from UCLA's Mindfulness Education Program for some tips on how to approach passivity.  Good luck!

Further Reading
- Who needs The Happy Homunculus when we have Yahoo Answers' guide to sleep?
- Listen to the Mayo Clinic: Don't try too hard!
- It's not just me: other people think thinking is over-rated.
- Finally, thinking: bad for sleep and feeling good!

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