I am not a naturally good sleeper, but I do need a lot of it. Even when I was growing up I always had to get up in the night to go to the loo and, post-kids, post-endless disturbed nights, my nervous system is extremely sensitive and it can take very little to leave me wired, over-wrought and unable to sleep.
I know how important sleep is for everyone but for mothers it can be especially hard to come by, even once the little ones aren’t waking you up. The cumulative physical and emotional stress of the day can leave you so wired you simply can’t switch off – and with good reason. Your system feels like it still has stuff to take care of because there are feelings begging to get out and be recognised!
So I made this audio for you – to help you soothe yourself when you’re feelings threaten to keep you awake.
You can go straight to the audio here, or read on to find out more about how I learned how to do this.
There was a period about four or five years ago when I was regularly waking in the night for a couple of hours. My father had died suddenly the year before and my mum – newly diagnosed with Parkinsons – had moved out of our family home of forty years and was staying with me temporarily.
I found the situation challenging, as I was also looking after my two young boys while my partner worked away – but it was at night that the feelings really hit home. I’d go to bed fairly fine, and pretty knackered, but around 2am I’d be wide awake, feeling panicky with a deep sense of dread.
Years before I remembered hearing some excellent advice about insomnia: if you can’t sleep, get up and do something useful.
Well, I was too upset to do anything useful in a day-to-day sense like write lists or do actual work, so I set to work in a different way. I began learning how to comfort myself. This was no mean feat. Many of my strongest childhood memories involve being dreadfully upset while my grown ups either made fun of me or were harsh, shaming and shut down. I remember crying bitterly in the night and my parents simply ignoring me (even though I was in their room crying out to be comforted).
By this time I was already immersing myself in learning about the mother wound – and I knew that the healing was only going to come from learning how to comfort myself. Now I also enjoy allowing others to hold space for me – another way of internalising the Good Mother – through listening partnerships and this has taken me even further in this journey.
But at that point I felt too frightened of other people to open up these kind of raw feelings in this way. It was much safer to learn to sit with myself – I had enough resources to feel that I could trust myself, at least. So for about four years, on and off, I learned that when I wake in the night, by far the best thing was to get up, and comfort myself. Eventually I realised that taking time before I go to bed to listen to how I am and tend to these feelings would ensure that I was much less likely to wake up.
Now if I’ve had a super busy day, not enough time by myself (I’m an introvert) or anything upsetting has been left unresolved, I’m very careful to tend to myself before I lie down. (And, funnily enough, I find that it doesn’t work so well to do this lying down, for me at least.)
If you want to have a go at this, the 20 minute audio recording guides you through the process of soothing yourself to clear anxious, panicky feelings or the over-alert state that keeps you from sleep. You’ll find, if you do it regularly, that you’ll gradually clear out the tension, fear and anxiety which keeps you awake and the effects will carry over into the day – not just because you’re more rested, but because you’re actually emptying out your emotional “backpack” of stored-up, unprocessed stuff.
Click here to listen to the recording and start working with your body to comfort and soothe yourself – just like you’d soothe a frightened child.
How much of this practice is enough? For me I find that after a while there is a shift in my physiology. I’ll go from breathing very shallow to eventually sighing and then yawning a lot – that’s when I know I’m mostly done and I can curl up again. This can happen after five or ten minutes, but I’ll be completely honest, when I was learning how to do this and really going through it, I would often sit with myself for anything up to a couple of hours before I felt peaceful enough to sleep – but I always slept deeply again once I did.
I’d love you to hear this audio and honestly it’s worth doing even if you’re not struggling with sleep – I’ve already had feedback from friends saying that it’s really touched them, and they’ve slept like a log after listening to it. Good sleep is so valuable but it’s also incredibly important to be able to comfort yourself when there’s conflict or things are particularly triggering in your day to do life. Being able to access a sense of safety and calm – and being able to sleep – even when the shit’s going down is a very powerful skill indeed and it is within everyone’s reach.
Click here to listen to the audio. I’d love to hear you go with it!