Yes, you can go to sleep. Do you lie awake at night, tossing and turning, hearing the clock strike two, three, four, before you finally drop off into exhausted slumber? I used to do that. But now I’ve learned the secret of quick, restful sleep. This is it: Yes, you can sleep-if you want to. It’s just that simple.
You lie awake because you want to. Don’t tell me, ” I go to bed and try to sleep but I just can’t.” Be honest with yourself. Do you really try to go to sleep? When worries crowd into your mind do you dismiss them or dwell upon them? Do you think, “Gosh that really was a bumber I made today. . . I must remember to do such-and-such . . . Maybe I’d better make a note of it. . . ” Honestly now, are you wanting to go to sleep? Or are you wanting to stay awake and think?
Tonight try this experiment. Imagine you are taking down your thoughts in a notebook and that you must put them down carefully just as they come along. Start by trying to think of nothing ubt sleep and going to sleep. Then note how many other thoughts keep interfering, and how only by definite effort can you bring back the thought of sleep- that you want to sleep. You will be surprised to discover the tricks your mind will play to keep you thinking about your worries, how it will dodge and twist to throw off the notion of sleep.
Note one other thing-the most important thing. When ever you think about your troubles you are not thinking about sleeping. When ever you think about sleeping you are not thinking about your troubles. You can think of two different things at the same time. Thus, by concentrating on the mere thought of sleep, you can drive your worriers from your mind. But you must first want to sleep.
“But that isn’t easy.” you say. “Worries pop into my mind and then I can’t get rid of them. If you had my troubles. . . ”
If I had your troubles and were as proud of them as you are – If I took them to bed with me as a child takes her dolls and hugged them to me and wouldn’t let them go-they’d keep me awake too. In fact, I used to do that very thing. And them I discovered that when I thought only of going to sleep I felt sleepy.
I used also a second and equally important technique. This is very simple too, though it took me a long while to become proficient. It is the technique of relaxing progressively. My psychologist friend told me-and I can tell you-all you need to know in a couple of minutes. The rest is practice. Don’t try it a few times and then give it up. With diligent practice you will become able to put yourself to sleep with five minutes whenever you wish.
Tonight when you go to bed make yourself as comfortable as you can. Take any position you like-the one in which you feel most completly relaxed. Close your eyes.
Now you are ready to start concentrating on the one thought of relaxation, progressing from one part of your anatomy to another. Think first of the muscles of your scalp, the top of your head. Relax those muscles. Now concentrate on the muscles of your forehead. Feel the muscles sag. Now your eyelids. Relax them. they are so heavy you can’t lift them. Now the muscles of your face. Let the muscles go. Your jaws-let them sag. Note especially your neck. Move your head around until your neck is so relaxed your head feels like a dead weight. Drop it-let it roll until it comes to a stop of itself. Go right down your back. Feel the muscles let go.
Let the mind follow down each arm, relaxing the shoulders, the elbows, wrist, each finger. Now consider the muscles of your chest. Relax them. Then your stomach. Let everything sag. Heavy. Heavy.
Feel the heaviness of your hips-pushing against the bed. Now relax the muscles of each thigh, foot, toe. Slowly. Slowly…. You’re asleep!
Maybe not the first time you do it. But if you are awake you won’t be wide awake. And one more round trip from head to toe should put you under. Later, when you have practiced this technique faithfully night after night, you will never finish the whole route-you will be asleep long before that . confidentially, I haven’t got past my arms for years.
Don’t give any thought to whether you forgot some part of the body. The magic lies not in any special order but in the fact that while you are consciously thinking of relaxing each part of your body you are not thinking about your troubles.
It works. I was once as proud an insomniac as you would ever meet. Now I can always put myself to sleep in a couple of minutes.
You can do it too if you really want to.