Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ten Sheep Limit


While I may have trouble falling asleep at times, I recently I had a different sleep trouble that disrupted my slumber. I had fallen asleep well enough, but then in the middle of the night I was aware of being in that half-conscious state and somehow a stray thought about a project crept into my mind and nested there. All of a sudden I was groggily thinking about this project and then other thoughts decided to join in and my mind just didn’t want to turn off. I’m not sure how long my cluttered mind was distracted for, but when I started to hear birds chirping I knew I’d been half-awake too long and desperately wanted to get back to sleep.

So I did one of my simple tricks to clear my mind: I counted to ten. I count really slowly. One. [Pause.] [Pause.] [Pause.] [Pause.] Two. [Pause.] [Pause.] [Pause.] [Pause.] Three. (And so on.) The slowness of counting helps me to breath more slowly (which makes my heart rate decrease) and thus relaxes me.

Once I count to ten, I start counting from one again. It’s like counting sheep, but with a sheep limitation. I can’t count endlessly because then I’d start doing math. I’d get to a number (e.g. 242) and then divide it by sixty (seconds) and think of how many minutes I’d been trying to get to sleep by counting. And then my frustration would build because I still wasn’t asleep yet and irritation always makes me more alert. So by counting to ten repeatedly, I lose track of what total number I’m at and am therefore less apt to get distracted by unnecessary thoughts. And luckily this trick worked well enough for me to get a couple more hours of actual sleep before I had to wake up. 


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