Some Tips To Help You Get Back To Sleep

Wonder Woman!!
Wonder Woman!!

It happened again last night.  I was sleeping, dreaming about our Superhero Workout.  I had these fantastic ideas about how I was going to build our superhero costumes.  I fell asleep and made a Wonder Woman Headband and woke up.  Then I fell asleep and made capes out of the fabric I already have.  Then I fell asleep again and made gloves out of socks that I would buy at Macy’s.  Then I fell asleep again and added to the gloves some underwear that I would buy at Macy’s and wear over my leggings so I would have a superman-ish costume.  And I’d buy t-shirts that match the underwear and it would make the costume even better.  And then I woke up.  And fell asleep again and made some more Wonder Woman Headbands and this time some arm cuffs that I would spray paint gold with the gold spraypaint that I just happen to own.  Every time I woke up I realized that it was still night time and I hadn’t actually made the costume.  I’d fall back asleep and in the dream I put my plan into action.  And then again.  And then again.  I kept waking up, and having the same dream over and over and over.  Although it wasn’t a nightmare, it didn’t feel good because I would wake up and realize that I hadn’t put the plan into action in real life.  So I’d fall back asleep and my brain would remind me that I had this great idea.

In Real Life

We’ve all had it happen.  We fall asleep at night only to have a dream about work or our personal life.  Something we were supposed to do that we didn’t, or something that we should do tomorrow.  An idea you have about how you could do something better.  Then we wake up only to fall asleep and have the same dream over and over again.  It seems so realistic, our brains on overdrive trying to do something important.  What to do in these situations?

You have a couple of solutions.

1. Label it-  The first thing I usually do is to wake myself up completely and identify the situation.  My brain is just trying to remind me that I have a great idea and I should remember it tomorrow.  So, I don’t say it out loud, because my husband might wonder about my sanity, but to myself I say something like, “This is a dream about how I can improve my counseling sessions.  I don’t want to forget to have the client fill out paperwork.” Then I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths and focus on the sounds that I can hear.  As I concentrate on the sounds I allow myself to fall back asleep.  Sometimes this is enough and the endless cycle of dreams will stop and I will sleep until the morning.  Sometimes however, this isn’t enough.

2. Complete the Dream and Move On- The next thing I will do if the above hasn’t worked is to intentionally go into the dream and follow it through to completion.  One of the problems with this work dream is that it never seems to end.  So, I’ll relax again, take a few deep breaths, listen to the sounds around me and start to drift back into the dream.  If you’ve never done this before, it’s worth practicing, it helps a lot when you have bad dreams.  When you are half-asleep, you go back to your last dream and think to yourself, how do you want this to end?  If it’s the work dream, you can simply follow through.  I give the paperwork to the client, the client fills it out, the session goes fabulously, the client is so happy with our session, they leave and I go celebrate.  To get yourself out of the old dream, you have to continue it until you move past it.  So for me to get out of this counseling session cycle, I have to move past the session to the next thing.  For me this could be a celebration at a restaurant or dinner at home with my husband.  The trick being to get your mind moved from the old cycling thought to something new.  Hopefully your brain will catch on and take it from there.  With a scary dream you take control and defeat whatever it is that is scaring you.  If your feet feel stuck like you are in molasses and you can’t run, you take charge of the dream and either make yourself run- or put yourself in a car or a boat.  Or turn around and face the scary thing and fight it and win.  And then continue the dream past the battle to something new.

3. Get out of bed- If the above options still haven’t worked, then my last option is to get out of bed and find something quiet to take my mind off of it.  Again, you want to put something more pleasant into mind, but you don’t want to wake up so much you can’t fall back asleep.  This means no computer or cellphone or any other technology.  They all give off a blue light that tells your brain it’s time to wake up.  Turn on a dim light and find yourself a book, a magazine, or a blank piece of paper and a pencil.  Find a story or some pictures that are interesting.  Or draw or write about something.  It could be about the dream or something else.  But get your thoughts unstuck by intentionally putting new ideas in there.  B

This usually works, but it wakes me up a bit, so if you fall asleep, that’s great, but if not I sometimes have to start a body relaxation meditation to relax.  I take a few deep breaths.  Listen to the sounds around me.  I start with my toes and relax them.  Then my feet, then my heels, then my ankles, my shins, my calves, my knees, etc.  All the way up to the crown of my head.  Usually I’ve drifted off by the time I get to my arms.

Hopefully this is helpful to you, it took me a long time to be able to get back to sleep, but unless I have had coffee past 7pm I can usually get myself back to sleep in this kind of situation.

Sleeping Like a Baby
Sleeping Like a Baby


Author: Mary Preston, LMFT

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach. Through dealing with my own anxiety and attention difficulties over the years I have discovered many useful practices and tools to help regain focus, shift my attention to what’s important and to stay organized enough to get the life that I want. In my practice I work primarily with women and children with Anxiety, ADHD and Depression and I share what I’ve learned to get them back on track to living a full, purpose filled life.

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