Insomnia: How I beat it for good!
Do you lie awake at night?
Have you ever lay awake at night unable to sleep? Or do you regularly wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and can't get back to sleep? Then here is something you could try that might make your suffering worthwhile. In this article I will share with you my experience learning how to fall asleep without medication or drugs by using hypnagogic imagery.
Hypnagogia: The state between waking and sleeping
Hypnagogia, that state of mind in between being awake and being asleep, is something we all experience every night. However, few of us are truly aware of its presence, unless we go looking!
Hypnagogia comes from the Greek language, "hypn" meaning sleep, and "agogos" meaning leading or inducing. Some common examples of hypnagogia include thinking you heard someone call your name as you drift off to sleep, thinking you heard some other speech, or hearing loud noises or explosions (that did not occur). Other examples include seeing faces or other imagery, or a sensation of falling as your drift off to sleep.
Phenomena related to hypnagogia include sleep paralysis, and hypnagogia has even been linked to psychic abilities. The topic of hypnagogia is extremely broad. However, in this article, I will talk mainly about my own experience and how I discovered hypnagogic imagery quite by accident while trying to cure my insomnia.
(Stay tuned for more articles on hypnagogia).
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Insomnia or having trouble sleeping can be a very debilitating condition. If you are suffering with sleep trouble yourself, I hope that this article will be of some help to you. If you know someone who has trouble either getting to sleep or staying asleep, please pass on this article to them. Every little bit of information will help.
Do you, or does someone you know, experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep?
Insomnia - My night time curse
When I was a child, I always had trouble getting to sleep. I would lie awake in bed for hours while the day's happenings swirled round and round in my head. How envious I was of other children who seemed to fall asleep as soon as their head hit the pillow! I just couldn't understand how it was possible to find sleep so easily.
As I got a little older, I started having trouble getting to sleep at all and would go for what seemed like days without any sleep. It was a horrible experience, and I wondered whether I would ever be able to sleep again. Would I be cursed by insomnia forever?
I absolutely dreaded night fall, knowing that soon I'd have to lie in bed awake just waiting for the sun to come up. The well meaning advice from others just served to make me feel more alone. "If you can't sleep, why don't you just get up and do something until you feel tired?" or "When I can't sleep I just read a book". The problem was, I was DREADFULLY tired but something just would not allow me to sleep like other people.
I didn't want to read - I wanted to SLEEP!!
My hypnagogic solution
Finally, I decided something must be done. I realised that it was these constant thoughts and the continual replaying of scenarios over and over in my mind that prevented my slumber. I decided I was going to stop this cycle and train myself to think of nothing.
Little did I know at the time, that what I was about to do was the exact same instructions given to those who want to try astral travel or wake initiated lucid dreaming! I had arrived at the same technique, as a child, totally independently of any instruction. But I was doing this for a different reason, with the hope of falling asleep, both in mind and body.
At the time, I had never even heard of lucid dreaming. I just assumed that it was impossible to be consciously aware in a dream. (The internet didn't exist back then and it was difficult to find information on this type of thing.). I can't help thinking that if I did have just a little bit more knowledge, I would be lucid dreaming like the pros by now! And hence I decided to write this lens in the hope of giving you insomniacs out there (and anyone else for that matter) that extra little bit of information.
So without further delay, these are the steps I took, and this was the result!
You can try this yourself. Just think, if a child can do it, anyone can!
Five steps to sleep
Step one: Close your eyes and relax the body
I firstly had to try to relax and get in a comfortable position so I didn't feel like tossing and turning too much. I tried to relax each muscle in my body, do some deep breathing and just calm down a little. I tried to convince myself that everything would be ok. After having not slept properly for some time, I had worked myself up quite a bit, and this in itself, was feeding a self fullfilling prophecy of sleeplessness.
Step three: Allow thoughts to come and go freely
When I realised just how difficult it was to clear the mind of absolutely everything, I decided that if a thought came into my mind, I would just notice it, and then let it go. It is very tempting to engage with the thought but I really resisted doing this. This was also a bit tricky, I quickly got better at just allowing thoughts to come and go without "thinking" about them too much.
Step four: focus on the back of your eyelids and see what happens!
By clearing my mind and not engaging with thoughts, I found that an interesting thing happened. Rather than focusing on thoughts, I started to focus on the back of my eyelids. And when I did this, I found that clearing my mind was easier. It was like a distraction.
Then, quite soon after this, undulating shapes and swirly colours started to form before my (closed) eyes! At first, when I saw the colours swirling around, I would become surprised and would "snap out of it" and the colours would disappear. The next few times I just tried to stay with it and when I did this, the colours became more vivid, and images started to flash before me. I saw faces, witches and more vivid swirling colours.
I didn't really know what these images were. I figured that I was hallucinating because I hadn't slept properly for so long. I didn't think this was normal. I knew the images weren't real, so the witches didn't really scare me.
Step five: Sleep! Glorious SLEEP!
In fact after some time I did start to drop off to sleep! Of course I would wake myself up as soon as I realised I was drifting off - but I HAD slept! It was very exciting and reassuring. I felt like I could get control of my sleep. After some practice, I tried to force myself not to wake up as the images became more and more 3 dimensional and dream like. I just tried to force myself to stay in this dreamy state with the hope that eventually I would totally lose consciousness.
It worked! And I slept.
After mastering this special technique, it no longer bothered me if I didn't fall asleep straight away, because I knew I could if I wanted to. I had finally gained control of my sleep patterns - forever!
What I didn't know!
It wasn't until some 30 years later, while doing some internet research into lucid dreaming, that I came across the term "hypnagogic imagery". Finally I could put a name to my childhood night time hallucinations!
I also came to the realisation of just how close I had become to having a "wake induced lucid dream" myself. You see the difficulty in having such a lucid dream for most people is that the lure of falling asleep is too great. However, for people with insomnia, this is not such a big issue and so the wake initiated lucid dream - I am hypothesising - is theoretically well within reach.
If you are having trouble with insomnia, perhaps you too could gain control of your sleep with this hypnagogic technique. Or maybe, you would like to try your hand at lucid dreaming? Below are some great resources to help you along the way.
- Can't sleep? 15 proven tips for insomnia by Marlene M. Maheu
This link gives a very thorough description of Things you could try if you can't sleep. One tip says to avoid caffinated drinks, like tea and coffee, before bed. Remember that chocolate also contains caffiene so avoid hot chocolate or milo before bed
- Wake initiated lucid dream technique by Rebecca Turner
This is the very article where I first heard of the term "hypnagogic Imagery"! The link gives a step by step guide on how to have a wake initiated lucid dream and is written by a lucid dreaming pro.
- Wake Initiated lucid dreaming (WILD) by Marciag
This squidoo lens is really great! While it does not mention hypnagogic imagery, it's a great explanation on what a wake initiated lucid dream (WILD) is. I will definitely give this a try!
- The Lucidity Institute
The Lucidity Institute is headed by Dr Stephen LaBerge. This website is dedicated to the academic study of lucid dreaming. Very very interesting!
- Sleep paralysis causes by Marciag
This is another great lens by Marciag on the related topic of sleep paralysis. Warning! some of the pictures in this lens are really creepy!
- Hypnagogia general information
I was going to write an article on hypnagogia in general, but this one, published in the Fortean Times is so good, I don't think I need to!
What did you think of this article? Have you been plagued by insomnia? Had a hypnagogic experience? Or maybe you are trying lucid dreaming for your self? I (and others too) would love to read your views.