I’m sure there are many good things I have inherited from my mother, but the two best ones I can think of are: 1. The ability to make a bloody good cake, and 2. A trick that works when you can’t get to sleep. I’ll be honest, you’re not going to much like it, but trust me, if you follow my rules (they aren’t complicated), then I bet this will work 90% of the time….
I’d like to begin by saying this tip to help you sleep will only work on the odd night when you can’t drift off into gentle slumber naturally; not for persistant insessant insomnia. (I’ve been there and done that too, but it’s more complicated. Just quickly, I will say that it’s basically down to working out what’s causing you stress (whether you think you’re stressed or not) and then working out ways to combat it. I find lists are very good.)
You also need to give yourself every chance in falling asleep and put yourself in a calm, warm, quiet and comfortable position. My advice to get to sleep isn’t going to work if your other half (or dog) is snoring like an sea-lion and your window is open in February with sirens blaring all night! I personally don’t necessarily agree with the advice to avoid all screen time before bed. I find scrolling through Instagram on my laptop with an episode of Poirot or Midsomer Murders on the telly is just the ticket to get me all relaxed and ready to shut my eyes peacefully; an episode of Silent Witness however, or even dramas like Game of Thrones, not so much. Reading novels or non-fiction gets my mind whirring, so what else are you supposed to do before falling asleep? (Now, now…!) Well as you mentioned it, sex or a bit of self-enjoyment is pretty effective too. Obviously don’t expect to fall asleep straight after checking e-mails, coming home from socialising or stressful work, or a spinning class. But you probably know all that already. So I’ll get on with it.
It’s doing your times tables. As in multiplication.
I did warn you you weren’t going to like it! Rain and Jude sometimes have trouble sleeping and they won’t even try it. You were probably hoping I was going to tell you to wear cotton pyjamas, squirt lavender room spray, bury a potato under a full moon or something simple like that. But no, I’m afraid it’s those horrible tables you spent hours trying to learn between the ages of eight and eleven. The reason why it works is this: It’s just taxing enough on your brain to avoid it spinning around with other thoughts; but boring and mundane enough to send it to sleep. It’s a straightforward rota of
one times two is two
two times two is four
three times two is six
and you keep going. You’ll almost always fall asleep before reaching twelve times twelve.
Other thoughts will do their utmost to creep in and interrupt. Of course they will – they’ll be a million times more interesting, but you mustn’t let them, so here are the rules:
- If you have any other thoughts you have to start back at the beginning of the number you’re on.
- If you have thoughts that go on for five sentences or more, you have to start right back at the beginning with two times two.
And that’s it. Here are some additional tips: If I’m really struggling with distracting thoughts that just won’t go away, I literally whizz through the tables in my head as fast as I possibly can, and if I get to twelve times twelve (which even then is rare) then I start to go backwards. Or if I know I’m stressed before I even begin, I do a quick counting session from one to hundred and back again as if it’s a warm up. Sometimes, to keep my mind focussed even more I picture the numbers clearly in my head as I say them.
If you don’t think you can remember your tables, then start with the easy ones, the twos, fives, tens and elevens, and after that; well, you’ve got all night to learn them again! I’m not actually being flippant – that’s exactly what I did. I started having trouble sleeping soon after my babies weren’t waking me up in the night anyway, and I found I had completely forgotten my tables. It turns out learning them sends you to sleep as well and you might have to start a new number each night!
If I do actually get to twelve times twelve and haven’t fallen asleep, I just give myself the chance with some deep breathing and focussing on that, and then I’m off!
I do have one exception – one thing that sometimes happens which triggers me to give myself permission not to even try to sleep, and pick up my laptop and allow all those ideas to come flooding out with some night-time typing. It’s when I start having bad thoughts. I know I’m not the only one. My confession is this: I am writing this blog post at 4:45am and I haven’t been to sleep yet. I thought I’d try and relax by reading blogs for a while, but when that didn’t work I thought I’d write this instead. Sometimes you need more than tables to distract you. For some reason, while I was lying here five hours ago thinking there was no problem at all; I suddenly couldn’t hear Chris’s breathing. I reached out my arm to feel his breath, and he was fine, but it was too late, those thoughts crept in. I was imagining he’d died and was working out ways in my mind for how we’d financially survive and for some reason wording a text I’d send to our mechanic, letting him know what happened and whether he thought it was worth me keeping the camper in case I had to live in it, or whether it would cost too much to keep going. Oh dear. Time to give up. Even if reciting tables does work after that, I usually end up having nightmares. Not worth it! Blog writing time! The perfect first paragraph came into my head anyway and I had to type it up before I forgot it.
Ok, you can probably tell what time it is because I’m rambling now. However, suitably distracted now to lie down and get started.
One times two is two…..
I actually wrote a sort-of poem one night about this when I couldn’t sleep, if you’d like to take a look.
And if you have any tips yourself about how to get to sleep, please share them in the comments. If you try my advice and it works, please let me know, and let your friends know by sharing this post. Thank you!