(90) The Secret to Falling Asleep (when you just can't)

Updated: Apr 28, 2019

A lack can be devastatingly negative: we make more mistakes, job performance suffers, and we have more accidents (including auto).

Our attention span is shorter, we care less about, well, everything, and many of us turn into the seventh dwarf (right, Grumpy).

And, staying up often includes eating and drinking what we later regret.

Worse? A lack of sleep has been linked to premature aging, weight gain, weakened immunity, high blood pressure and low sex drive.

In other words, a lower quality of life.

Now imagine the life you deserve: a brighter (more youthful?) appearance, stronger sex drive, improved concentration and productivity, fewer mistakes and better health.

How to Stop Tossing & Turning

For years, there were times I tried to sleep, fought to sleep, through hours of damp and tangled bedding. Sometimes, it felt like I was caught in a sleepless nightmare, as I dreaded the coming dawn.

And then I discovered the secret to more sleep. Stop trying.

Trying to do anything automatically means effort and effort tightens body body and breath, fighting what is, denying reality (of wakefulness).

Whether the irritant is our own inner-turmoil, a snoring bed mate or loud party, the underlying cause is the same: a negative feeling churning up a mind full of negative thoughts.

The emotion can be *fear-based concern/worry; *anger-based irritation or anger itself; or *hurt-based sadness/grief. It can even be a positive emotion, like excitement.

Regardless, the solution is the same: stop trying to sleep. Instead, let go.

Let Go?

First, breathe out the body’s tension with each breath; and then let the negative feeling do whatever it needs to do: let it stay in place, move or fill you.

Allowing the emotion releases it. The key is to simply be with it while relaxing.

If your mind tends to skip back into thoughts, scenarios and storylines (all of which re-tighten the body), gently bring yourself back to breathing out the tension.

Note: Your breathing can be used as an anchor. Focusing on your breath can keep you relaxed for longer periods.

However, if there is a lot of a negative emotion (or snoring bed mate or loud party), it might take awhile to let go and get some rest. It could even be most of the night; but, continuing to breath out the tension will give you more rest than fleeing into your thoughts or trying to sleep or giving up and getting up.

It also helps to turn your clock around. You might be surprised at how quickly the night passes.

Can’t Get Yourself to Bed Earlier?

In the beginning, you read four paragraphs of pain that come from a lack of sleep. But if sleep is so essential, if life is so much less without it, why don’t we give ourselves enough?

If you have ever tried to go to bed earlier, you know the answer: no amount of reasoning or scientific studies, not even the toughest New Year’s resolution (or clever ways to trick ourselves) can get some of us to bed any earlier—at least not permanently.

This is because staying up “just a few more minutes" with the tv, social media or a novel is a reward (for getting through another tough day or period of our lives). A reward we (desperately?) need.

Here is How

The key word is REWARD, because every positive reward we bring into our lives weakens the negative ones.

If you do not have enough positive rewards in your life, go on a campaign to discover a long list of things you like and like to do: dive into your past; go on the internet to find energizing fun; and check out your local rec dept and YW/YMCA.

And of all you discover, have at least one reward that can be done first thing in the morning, because it is easier to go to bed earlier if you have something to look forward to.

And remember, every positive reward you give yourself weakens the negative ones.

Another way to get yourself to bed earlier is to avoid making drastic resolutions.

Instead, gently decide to go to bed just ten minutes earlier than usual; do this until it becomes consistent and then a habit (usually 1 to 3 weeks).

Then, and only then, go to bed ten minutes earlier than that.

Oh, and instead of relying on the National Sleep Foundation (7 to 9 hours for adults, 8 ½ to 9 ¼ for teens), consider using your own experience: right now, you know how much sleep is too little; and you know what is too much; so, consider giving yourself just a bit less than too much.

And enjoy the difference.

Before Television

Amidst the loud chaos of daily life, Mom single-handedly raised three wild boys and a girl (before disposable diapers, instant dinners and automatic dishwashers).

It was not until long after her death that I realized the depth of her struggles; with us, yes, but more with her own battles against smoking, weight gain and alcohol.

Mom fought, failed and fought again; only to fail again.

Toward the end, she mostly won, but the negative feelings! My own failed resolutions have included, painful disappointment, guilt and shame, as well as a loss of self-esteem.

Pushing Back


Any time we cause ourselves a period of discomfort, or pain, there is an eventual 'push back,' which is why Mom kept failing.

Her diets were pain filled. She could not eat her favorite foods, and she was hungry too.

More exercise meant, long, boring walks.

And the harder she pushed to keep going the more pain she felt, which created more, and then more, 'push back.' Until it was just all too much. And she would quit. Again.

Looking back, I wish I could have taken some of her pain; at least shown her that positive change can be made without the struggle, without working against herself. And that she could use that 'push back' to her advantage.


Free: Permanent Resolutions Without the Struggle: 4 simple concepts

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Note – These concepts work easily with positive changes like less TV, more exercise or less weight. They do not work with addictions (e.g. drugs).

Permanent Resolutions Without the Struggle

2 additional resources to find sleep sooner:

Sleep Before Midnight


Go to Bed Earlier


Lack of sleep? An abundant mind-set, includes the perfect amount of sleep:


The very foundation of personal improvement is self-care/self-love. At this link: https://www.danielsperaw.com/blog/the-essence-of-personal-improvement

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