How To Stop Your Inner Troll Disturbing Your Sleep
6th Dec 22
How To Stop Your Inner Troll Disturbing Your Sleep . . .
You wake up, and darkness is still in charge. The road outside is quiet from traffic, and the birds have yet to begin their dawn chorus. You check the time, and it’s 3:00 a.m. Too early to be awake. Without more sleep, you won’t function the next day. Instead of dozing off, the door of your mind opens.
Cue Spooky Creaking Door Sound
In those pre-dawn hours, thoughts can take on an ominous spiral. Worries heighten, and problems seem unsolvable, but it’s not surprising when your mind wants to play out every conceivable catastrophe that might befall you. Rumination holds your sleep for ransom. Memories of mistakes and embarrassing moments spontaneously burst into your mind. What is this?
Meet Your Inner Troll
Like the version lurking on social media, your inner troll thrives on criticism, fear and negativity. The more attention you give, the more you feed it.
Whatever plagued you at night may lose significance during the day. You have people to talk to and plenty to keep you occupied. You have more perspective. In the silent isolation of the early hours, it’s a different situation. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for your troll.
What Your Troll Likes to Feast Upon:
- Worrying about the day ahead
- Catastrophising about the future
- Ruminating past events (the more excruciating, shameful or guilt-ridden, the better)
- Revisiting familiar negative thought patterns
- An overwhelming need to fix a problem
- Stressing about being awake
What Wakes Us?
Our body goes through several stages of sleep during the night. We transition from deep sleep to the lighter REM phase during the early hours. We’re more likely to be disturbed, and as our cortisol levels (the stress hormone) also increase during this period, the conditions are prime for wakefulness worrying.
Tackling Your Troll
At 3:00 a.m., your troll might seem like a formidable opponent, but once you understand how it operates, you’re less likely to be drawn in. Your troll will not stop to consider whether thoughts are factual or supportive. It only needs you to believe it. Question the validity, and you weaken the troll’s power.
The next step is to disengage from the dialogue and return to a more relaxed state for sleeping. Here are some techniques to try:
Follow Your Breath
Divert your attention to follow the path of your breath. Notice the air moving in and out of your body. Observe the rise and fall in your stomach or chest as you inhale and exhale. Keep focusing on your breath for as long as you need to.
If you’re stressed, taking longer out-breaths has a calming effect. Breathing exercises such as the 4-7-8 technique (inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds) can centre you.
Bye Troll, Hello Body Scan
Start from the top of your head and slowly work your way down. Pay attention to the sensations in your body. Notice any areas holding tension. Is there any pain or tingling? Do you feel hot or cold? Are there parts of your body which feel relaxed? This observation exercise will bring you into the present moment.
Your troll is persistent, so don’t worry if you get distracted. As soon as you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to your body.
Another take on the body scan is a tension release practice, which involves tensing areas of your body for 5 seconds before releasing. Observe the effect after each release. Start at the top of your head and work down your neck, shoulders, arms, hands, torso, legs and feet.
Write Down Your Worries
Writing your problem down can help release the need to solve it immediately. Keep a pen and paper ready by your bedside.
Once you’ve jotted it down, you can even address your troll by thanking it for the contribution, confirming that you will deal with it at a more appropriate time. The acknowledgement can diminish the hold it has on you in the present. You may also find the problem is more manageable in the morning.
Sounds for Drifting Off
Guided meditations can divert attention away from rumination and promote a calmer mindset. Some guided meditations specifically aid sleep. Alternatively, soothe yourself with your favourite chillout music.
Clock-watching is not a good idea, but if you think you’ve been awake for more than 20 minutes, get out of bed.
Go into a different room and try to do something relaxing, maybe by reading or making a warm milky drink. Avoid the stimulation of bright lights or electronic devices, so scrolling through social media is a no-no. Return to bed when you feel tired again.
You’re Not Alone
You might feel like you’re the only person awake and consumed with worry in those dark hours, but you’re not. Sometimes the pressure of not sleeping can exacerbate the problem. Try not to go to bed with the expectation of being awake again in the early hours.
If you find yourself awake at 3:00 a.m., remember it’s only your misbehaving inner troll looking for a reaction, and you don’t have to bend to its demands.
If your sleep issues become prolonged or your worries are seeping into waking hours, speak to your doctor. They can advise on sleep hygiene habits and offer support for coping with insomnia and anxiety.
***A Big thank you to Freelance lifestyle and wellbeing writer Zoe Lambourn, for sharing this fabulous blog with us here at Wellbeing Umbrella. You can connect with Zoe over on LinkedIn or learn more about her below.
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