When I can’t get back to sleep, I run through the alphabet with names: Abraham, Bruce, Callan... Alice, Bethany, Carmen. Or fruit and vegetables: dragonfruit, endive, fennel. Or flowers: gladioli, hyacinth, iris… which of course then confuses me, because so many flower names can also be girls’ names. So I sidetrack myself for a bit and then circle right back around to letter-A for another attempt. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever made it all the way through to Z. I’m so good at leading myself astray that I keep having to go back to the beginning and start afresh because I’ve forgotten what I was up to.
I know the most common trick to induce sleep is to count backwards from a very large number. Every time someone has legally knocked me unconscious, and believe me there have been many times (I tortured myself with IVF for ten years – yep, I’m living proof that it’s possible to be intelligent and completely stupid at the same time – but more of that some other day) every time I’ve been knocked out by an anaesthetist, she has told me to count backwards from ten. Yes, I realise that ten is not a very large number, but I’m trying to make a point here. The usual way to bore someone to sleep seems to be with numbers. But numbers just don’t do it for me. They don’t relax me. We don’t have a very close relationship, numbers and I.
Sometimes I try to hypnotise the parts of my body back to sleep. You know, “My feet are feeling heavy and sleepy… my knees are turning to lead… my thighs are the weight of rock… But then I just start to think about how my heels are like cheese graters, I need to wax my legs, my varicose veins are getting uglier by the day, and how the fact that estrogen creates fat but testosterone breaks it down is just more proof that God is male. Sleepy thoughts? Not quite. Besides, the hypnotise-body-parts technique is almost always hampered by the thermostat controlling foot I have sticking out the side of the bed from under the covers.
I’ve tried deep breathing. Slow breathing. Focused breathing. Abdominal breathing. But they all seem to lead to NO breathing. I get so tied up with counting and holding and counting again that I end up dizzy and gasping. It's those bloody numbers that do it.
So how about you? What’s your technique for going back to sleep? I’m open to suggestions.
Except if you’re going to suggest that I give up alcohol, especially 2-3 hours before bedtime. Not gonna happen. No way.