My CPTSD means I have trouble getting to sleep. I’m often in Stage One phases for too long, which is kind of like being technically asleep but not getting any of the benefits.
A therapist on TikTok (I wish I’d saved the link) shared a trick they use themselves and with their clients. They pick a letter from the alphabet and try to think of as many foods as they can that start with that letter. When they think of one, they try to clearly visualise that food before moving on.
The idea behind this is that our brains naturally do a jumble of random ideas and images during the transition from Stage One to Stage Two sleep. So doing it on purpose, while staying away from anything emotional or puzzling, helps remind our body of what’s supposed to be happening.
I’ve been doing it for the last few nights and I think it’s working? Food wasn’t quite working by itself, I kept trying too hard. So I do objects instead – food but also clothes, plants, tools, decorations, whatever. When I can’t easily think of any more things, I move on to the next letter of the alphabet. If I can’t visualise the thing easily, I call that a “miss” and move on to a new object. I’m not great at visualising stuff, and sometimes my object is more of a concept. I think it’s working for me because it’s just enough structure that I don’t have to think too hard, but not so much structure that I actually have to be alert to do it right.
Each morning for the last week, the last thing I remember from the night before is my letter game. Usually I’d have a whole pile of random worries or plans for the future in a repeating cycle for an hour or so before I hit Stage Two sleep. Now it’s more like 5 or 10 minutes of hibiscus and hot dogs then I’m properly asleep.
We’ll see if it keeps working after I get habituated to it, or if the cycle of my meds disrupts it. But honestly I’m just really happy to have found something that works more than once!