A few years ago I struggled with insomnia in horrid ways. There were times when I would lie awake in bed staring at the ceiling until 03h00 with nothing and a million things rushing through my head at the same time. Eventually, I’d get out of bed, drive around all the scary neighbourhoods in the middle of the night, since I’d never attempt that during daylight hours or in the early part of the night, and eventually return home at about 05h30 to crash in bed around 06h00, only to wake again at 06h30 to get ready for work.
This cycle went on for weeks at a time, if not months. The only thing that occasionally helped me at first was warm milk loaded with honey and ginger as a night cap. More recently, chamomile tea helped as well. But I found with chamomile tea I would wake up feeling heavy-limbed and groggy. Quite possibly because I still went to bed too late.
But the most effective of all was the tongue exercise that I discovered somewhere along the troubled path. I realised that each time my mind was racing, or I was distracted, my jaw would normally be clenched and my tongue would be pressed against the back of my teeth. This happened even when I was laying in bed trying to sleep. Eventually I would focus on just relaxing my jaw and my tongue, and without realising it, I would quite quickly drift off to sleep. Peacefully as well.
The theory in my head goes something like this. Our bodies seem to be naturally inclined to want to express our emotional or intellectual state. Hence some people gesturing unconsciously whilst deep in thought, or others having conversations with themselves, etc. So I figured that instead of trying to clear my thoughts when my mind was cluttered, I should rather focus on relaxing that part of my body that was reacting to the racing thoughts – my tongue. By focusing on relaxing my tongue, in fact not even focusing on it, but rather just allowing it to relax, my thoughts cleared and my mind was able to switch off for long enough to fall asleep.
It’s served me well ever since.