I was up in the middle of the night last night after my husband woke me (and the baby) getting into bed late, and as my mind wandered in between checking the time repeatedly, I figured insomnia would be a good topic for today.
Not being able to sleep is simply the worst. Watching the clock tick on and knowing the chances of having a decent day are getting smaller by the minute is an agonizing process. The most frustrating part is you can't think yourself to sleep because one cannot think their way to a different state of consciousness. So no matter how many times you tell yourself, "go to sleep, go to sleep," it won't work.
The reason most people can't sleep is due to stress. Stress chemistry is stimulating by design as a way of making us alert if there's danger close by. Have you ever almost gotten into a fender bender and felt your whole body stand at attention? The problem is the only way to reduce stress is through letting the body rest, and if one can't sleep, that becomes a challenge. This is where meditation comes in.
Often there is too much stress chemistry in the body for sleep to handle. Either you can't fall asleep initially because there is too much stress or you wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back because the unstressing that happens during sleep is too intense.
By sticking to a regular –or semi-regular ;) –practice of meditation, we can sweep away a lot of that excess stress chemistry leaving much less for sleep to deal with. And if insomnia still occurs, which can be the case with regular meditators (myself included) due to hormones or other factors, you at least have a very restful activity you can do in those wee hours of the morning. Often, as was the case for me last night, once you meditate, the body is calm enough to go back to sleep.
There's more to the relationship between sleep in meditation, so if this is a particular problem for you, feel free to come to the group meditation and we can discuss it, or reach out to me personally.