Sleep, glorious sleep, why are you so elusive? For me, anyway. How about you? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you getting quality sleep? I don’t remember sleep being so problematic when I was a kid. But, it does seem to be problematic now, so it deserves my attention to make it the best I can.
No doubt. But I’m not getting enough sleep. Are you? What can I do to improve this important area of my life?
The obvious answer is to get more sleep! Yeah, right. I know I need to get more sleep. You probably know the same thing. But you’re not, are you? Why not? Oh, for probably a hundred reasons or so. OK, I’m exaggerating. But, clearly, if it were easy to get enough quality sleep, we’d all be doing that, right? One of THE MOST IMPORTANT things I learned in grad school was this.
“We’re always doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”
Credit goes to Dr. John McGowan for having repeated that sentence enough times during his counseling class that it stuck with me. And I am so grateful because it provides a compassionate view of the way we’re doing things. He didn’t say, “And we can’t do any better.” What would have been the point of being a helping professional? It bears repeating. “We’re always doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”
So, if I go with what I learned from Dr. McGowan, somehow I must be in need of something I “don’t got,” right? What is it that I might be missing? The first thing to recognize is that it could either be internal or external. Internally, it might be something physical, such as feeling too hot or too cold, or having some pain that I’m not able to ignore. Or it might be something on my mind that is worrying me. It could also be something external, such as my old, in-need-of-being-replaced bed, or loud thunder or a dog barking or needing to care for a baby or a sick child. The list could go on and on and on and on… But you probably already know what your reasons are. So let’s follow up on that.
Acknowledgement and Compassion
The next question is, “Have you really acknowledged all of those things that are making if difficult for you to sleep well? Really acknowledged them? Like a wonderful friend would do if you actually told them all of the things you are contending with on your path to sleep? They’d say something like, “Wow! That’s really a lot! That sounds really tough!” They wouldn’t say, “Buck up and deal with it!” But I bet you are telling yourself that. Or perhaps you fluctuate between, “Buck up and deal with it,” and “Oh, there’s no hope; it’ll never change; I’ll never get more sleep!” If so, just tell yourself, “Oh, that’s right. I’m human. I forgot for a while there.”
That’s the kind of compassion I’m talking about. The kind that recognizes that you do indeed have your challenges and that you are indeed doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and that
You deserve compassion and TLC.
Just because. Just because you’re human, not to mention that we all function more effectively with a bit of compassion. So, perhaps you could offer yourself some, or ask a dear friend to listen and let you cry on their shoulder because it’s been really hard… Having that compassion can give you a bit of relief and can often help you towards figuring out what it is that you might need to do to get more sleep.
If you just jump to making a change, it doesn’t always stick. Why not? Lots of reasons, but one is that it’s important to make sure that you
clearly appreciate and understand the problem
so that you have a chance of
choosing the best solution for you!
What works well for me may not work well for you and vice versa. In 12-Step meetings there’s a reminder to practice
They’re in that order for a good reason! You first need to be aware of a problem before you can come to some acceptance of it before you can take appropriate action, not just any action, but action that is appropriate for you and for your situation!
Next week I’ll take a look at possible slumber strategies. Perhaps this week you might practice awareness or acceptance of your sleep issues so that you are one step closer to taking the action that is appropriate for you to get more of the sleep that you may be dreaming of!