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Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Battling Insomnia with Self-Curiosity

Sleep has always been a struggle for me. Even with earplugs, it seems like I can hear everything, making it nearly impossible to sleep when there's a snorer or a ticking clock in the room. And if there's nothing external disturbing me, my body and mind will find something to disrupt my slumber. Racing thoughts, headaches, heart palpitations, restless leg syndrome, frequent bathroom visits, and overall mental and physical discomfort are frequent culprits. Interestingly, the physical symptoms of anxiety mostly manifest when I'm trying to sleep.

Over the years, I've tried everything to improve my sleep or at least alleviate the discomfort associated with it. It wouldn't be so challenging if I were simply awake and not tired. However, I am tired—exhausted, in fact. My body craves sleep, my eyelids feel heavy, but just as I begin to drift off, anxiety jolts me awake. As a result, I've become quite knowledgeable about living with insomnia. I have a variety of tools at my disposal, depending on the specific challenges I face on a given night. In this blog piece, I'll be focusing on my most effective tool: curiosity.

Anxiety holds significant power over us because our aversion to it only fuels more anxiety. We fear the feeling so intensely that we develop a fear of anxiety itself. The problem is, more often than not, there's nothing to fear—no real threat to escape from. No matter how hard we fight it, anxiety persists and grows stronger, thriving on the attention we give it. Even when we try not to engage with it, we're still aware of its presence, desperately hoping it will leave us in peace.

Distraction can be helpful when dealing with anxiety, but when it's 3 a.m. and you're lying in bed, summoning the energy for anything other than staying put is a challenge. That's when I began practicing self-curiosity.

I lie on my back, placing one hand on my heart and the other on my abdomen. I take deep, calm breaths and allow my restless mind, as best as I can, to become aware of my body. I apply gentle curiosity to the sensations I'm experiencing.

I ponder, "What is this sensation in my chest? Where did it come from, and what does it mean?" I strive to cultivate intrigue, as if I'm uncovering something new and fascinating about my body. I break down each sensation into its contrasting counterparts. And during this process, I find myself falling asleep. Curiosity neutralizes the anxiety because I no longer avoid or fear it. Consequently, it loses its power, allowing sleep to take over.

This approach can be applied to various uncomfortable feelings, such as pain, sickness, boredom, or irritability. By curiously dissecting these sensations instead of succumbing to them, you'll discover that you are capable of managing much more than you may have previously believed

In part 3 of Curiosity Transformed the Cat I will be exploring mindfulness and curiosity, how to cultivate it and apply it more instinctively to all aspects of life, not just the most uncomfortable.

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