Generally speaking, men have the ability to compartmentalize their thoughts. If they have worries they seem to be able to tuck them away in a separate place inside their brains and leave them there until they call them out again, which will likely be after they’ve had a good night’s rest.
In his book, "Male & Female Realities," Joe Tanenbaum makes the point that women have a harder time doing this because their brains are wired differently. They have 40 percent more interconnections between right and left brain, which means they are continually flashing thoughts back and forth. This is an advantage for mothers, but can also have a flip side—it can keep them awake when they are literally craving sleep.
Here are a few things you can try to turn off those constant concerns.
1. Before going to bed write down your main concerns. Putting them on paper is like giving them a compartment where they can be addressed later. If you don’t do this, your mind will feel obligated to keep remembering, lest you forget something important. If you have an appointment with a teacher, doctor, or anyone, jot it down. Even if you have a worry such as needing to help Timmy with his math, jotting it down will take it off your mind for the night. It says that the problem is there but doesn’t have to be thought about again until tomorrow.
2. If you’re worried about a particular child, as you lie in bed, think of the most pleasant thing you can about that child. A time when he was especially good or fun to be with. A pleasant time you had together when things were going well. Even remembering back to when he was a baby, and you loved rocking him to sleep. Recalling good times is a pleasant way to lull yourself into sleep.
3. As you close your eyes and anticipate sleeping, let the melody and words of a favorite song run through your mind. Some people choose hymns for this, or other tunes that bring peaceful feelings. Some even have them softly playing nearby to lull them into sleep. Just listening for a few minutes can be helpful. Some have used a noise generator that plays sounds of the sea, a bubbling brook, or a soft rain which helps them sleep.
4. Be at peace with your spouse. An argument before going to bed is a surefire sleep killer. If you’ve had a disagreement, make peace. If you know that’s going to take a long time, say to each other, “We need to talk about this in the morning when we’re not so tired. So let’s just put this on hold and agree that we can solve this in the morning.” Then kiss each other goodnight. Kisses always help, even if some are more meaningful than others.
5. If nothing else is working you can hypnotize yourself into sleep. It’s a fairly simple process that has worked for many clients. Here are the steps:
a. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths, letting each out slowing.
b. Begin to visualize a relaxing response flowing over your whole body. Start at the top of your head, across your forehead, into your eyes, down across your cheeks, to your jaw as you allow your jaw to part slightly. Let the flow continue down your neck, across your shoulders, down your arms past your elbows, past your wrists to the very tips of your fingers which may cause you to notice a slight tingling at the end of your fingers. The relaxing response continues to flow across your back from left to right and then right to left. Then flows down your back, down your legs, past your knees, past your ankles to the very tips of our toes, which may cause you to notice a slight tingling in the tips of your toes. As you lie relaxed on your bed, you may have two different sensations: sinking down into your mattress and yet buoyant and floating above it.
c. Visualize yourself standing at the top of a beautiful well-lighted staircase that has a strong bannister going down. The idea is to now be curious to what your body feels as you take each step down. As you progress down one step at a time be interested in the sensations of your body. There is no hurry to go down the stairs. You may walk down four or five steps, then pause, and maybe walk back up one or two steps to again see what you experienced.
d. Go down about 20 steps, and there you will find a landing with a door to the side. Open the door and step through the door into the most beautiful and relaxing scene you’ve even been in. This may be a meadow, a beach, a mountain view. As you step into the scene you find the temperature is very pleasing. The sky is clear with a few puffs of clouds, and the sunshine lightly touches your skin with a pleasing warmth. The light breeze pleasantly brushes your cheeks.
e. Gently explore your new surroundings and see a tree that invites you to sit down under it. As you sit down your hands touch the cool grass. You lean back against the tree, feeling the strength, security, peace, and calmness of your surroundings. Just sit there and enjoy that peace and the sleep that will come.
As you try some of these suggestions you are bound to find relief. Keep at it. A good night’s rest is attainable.
Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer and lyricist. Together they present seminars and author books on relationships. Their website is garyjoylundberg.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org