In the last several lessons, we have covered many physical things that could help you improve your sleep; and I stand by all of them. However, if you have found that you are trying all or most of these, and nothing seems to be working, it may be something other than a physical reason you cannot sleep; it may be psychological.
I’ve worked for over 15 years as a therapist, so I see the baggage people carry around. We all have it, some of us more than others, and some baggage is heavier than others. The emotional junk that people carry can often affect their sleep. When working with my clients to alleviate these emotional obstacles in their lives, they've also reported sleeping better as a side effect. I could write a whole series on mental health and how it affects sleep, and maybe one day I will, but today I want to touch briefly on a few of the most common emotional barriers people struggle with that also affect their sleep. I also offer some solutions and insight.
Did you know it takes a lot of energy to hold a grudge? So much so, that it disallows you to rest peacefully? The things people have done to hurt you, especially in childhood, can stay with you for a very long time. Working on letting go of this anger will allow you to let go of the huge burdens that you are carrying around. I'm not saying that what someone may have done to you is right. I'm not even saying that they deserve your forgiveness. But you deserve to be able to no longer have to carry this around. You forgiving them is not for them; it's for you.
Think of it this way: if you walk around carrying a grudge and you think about this person, and it makes you mad or hurt, then they are controlling you; they win. Just the sound of their very name causes an emotional reaction in you. If you choose to forgive them, you are choosing to take that control back. They don't even need to know that you have forgiven them. Though sometimes, that is very powerful for the forgiver as well. Again, they may not deserve your forgiveness; but you deserve to not be controlled by this, either. Forgive them. Let it go. You will sleep better.
This certainly goes hand-in-hand with forgiving others. Strained or broken relationships can wound us. Maybe someone has wronged us; maybe we have wronged them; maybe a little bit of both. If you've wronged them, humble yourself and go apologies. If they've wronged you, forgive them. If you hurt each other, then in the words of Emerson Eggerich, “may the most mature one between you apologize first.”
If it is a friendship, you should fix it. If it is a parent-child relationship, certainly try to fix it. If it is a former romantic relationship, I'm not saying you have to get back together, but you should at least try to mend the fences.
There is one caveat, however. If there is a situation where it is dangerous to repair a relationship, such as cases of domestic violence or extreme emotional abuse, do not engage with this person. This will only serve to hurt you anew. Instead, work on forgiving them, but do not risk additional injury.
Dealing with Past Resentment
Dwelling on mistakes we have made in the past can often have long-term effects on us. Overcoming these resentments can make you feel more at peace, and again help you to sleep better. We talked a few minutes ago about forgiving others. Sometimes forgiving _ourselves _is the hardest person to forgive. Maybe you don't feel like you deserve forgiveness. You do. Oftentimes I've spoken with clients who have harmed someone, and that person has forgiven them, but the clients still cannot forgive themselves. They remain plagued by their actions or words and really struggle with it. Not only is this mental anguish, but it most certainly hurts their ability to sleep soundly. If you are plagued by resentment, then your sleep will suffer. Forgive yourself. Let it go.
As is clear by now, the emotional adjustments needed to improve sleep are a lot harder and take a lot longer than the physical ones. Sometimes people can just power through and work through these. Others need some help, and that is okay. If you really want to fall asleep faster, then you should start by getting some of the wreckage of your past life cleared away.
Forgive others, forgive yourself, and fix broken relationships. Some people will do this through therapy. Some will talk to their pastor, church, or synagogue. Some will just work things out verbally with friends and other people that they can trust. You may have to work through a variety of potential issues, but it is worth it. Honestly, seeking help in working through these issues will not only help you sleep better, but will give you overall better quality of life. While I'm committed to helping you sleep, a good friend, spiritual leader, or therapist can help guide you to overall better life. Seek them out.
The next lesson is the final lesson. It is entitled, “Just a few more suggestions.” In it, I will touch on a few things that can help your sleep, but don't really fit anywhere else in the course. Until then, happy Zzz’s.