Sleep can be elusive for anyone, whether you’re 3, 13, 33 or 83. We all have nights where we toss and turn, or get to sleep but we can’t stay asleep. When you’re a CASIGY™ (Creative, Acutely Aware, Super-Sensitive, Intense, and/or Gifted You), you may face challenges with sleep that have a slightly different twist than others face. And if you have ADHD, Anxiety, Depression or other ‘labels’, sleep can be an even greater challenge. Here’s seven tips to help creative sensitive gifted people sleep peacefully.
A creative person may have creative ideas show up as soon as their head hits the pillow. Sometimes carving out time earlier in the day for your creative pursuit, whether that’s writing, knitting, painting, wood carving, composing or playing music, building legos, playing Barbies, drawing, or something else, can help to fend off sneak attacks of the Muse. But not always. Sometimes that just fuels the Muse, and she brings her sisters, and together they haunt you all the more.
When you’re acutely aware, you can also be kept awake by wrinkled sheets or blankets, sounds no one else hears, smells no one else smells, and the like.
Super-sensitivity, ─ having a more perceptive and a more reactive central nervous system─ can crank up the Flight-or-Fight Response in your body over seemingly nothing. And when you’ve had a stressful day or a day in which your Central Nervous System has been highly stimulated, it can take a lot to calm it down and keep it calm. Many HSPs tell me that one way they detect just how over-stimulated they have been during their day, is how revved their Central Nervous system is at the end of the day, making it harder than ever to get to sleep and stay asleep, no matter what they do.
Higher perceptiveness may breed “more to do”. The more you are aware of, whether that means that you see dirt or perceive problems at home or work or school that no one else is aware of, or you understand where current events are leading, or God knows where else your perceptiveness may take you, the more likely it is that you you are aware of things that you can keep at bay during the day but show up at bedtime. In addition, the more perceptive you are or your child is, the more you might feel like you need to DO something about these things-NOW!
When you combine this with creativity, you may have endless ideas of what could or should be done to correct what needs to be corrected, and this can add even more items to your ToDo list. It often doesn’t matter whether these things are actually doable; they can still haunt you, especially at bedtime. Being aware of things that others aren’t can also push your ideals and standards to heights that one person in a human body can’t keep up with.
Whew! I’m exhausted already! How about you? All of this can lead to – – How do you shut your mind off and get any rest when all of this is swirling around in it?
High Intensity is when you respond mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually to a greater degree than others do, to whatever is going on. You feel like there’s a volcano going off inside your body when everyone around you is acting like there’s a peaceful pond inside of theirs. Lucy Jane Miller in her book, Sensational Kids, reports research in which she and her colleagues measured the Central Nervous System (CNS) response of children with Sensory Processing Disorders, and found that their CNS responded five to ten times as much AND five to ten times as fast as that of “normal” AKA Neurotypical children.
My clinical observation is that many highly sensitive or gifted people have a greater intensity and speed of CNS response. Many have not necessarily five or ten times the DNS Response, like those with Sensory Processing Disorders, but more like double or triple the usual response speed and intensity. When you have an automobile that runs at double or triple the RPM of an ordinary car, you have a high performance car, or maybe a race car. So CASIGYs™ who have a brain and Central Nervous System that operates at double or triple the speed and intensity than that of “normal” ones, might want to think of theirs as “High Performance” brains and Central Nervous Systems.
In the animal kingdom, about 20% of many species(in addition to homo sapiens) have a CNS that is also more perceptive and more reactive than the other 80% of that species, according to Elaine Aron, in her seminal book, The Highly Sensitive Person. In addition to that, in the animal kingdom there are different breeds with different temperaments. In the horse world, Draft horses are typically calm and even tempered, while Thoroughbreds, or Race Horses, are considered high strung. A Race Horse will see and jump at a mouse by the side of the road that a Draft Horse will never know is there. Why? They have a more perceptive and more reactive central nervous system. Sound familiar?
A Draft horse will happily keep pulling a wagon or a plow all day long. A race horse could destroy the wagon or injure itself if expected to plod along for very long at the pace of a Draft horse. It would get bored and want to run at full speed, again injuring itself or destroying the wagon. A race horse also needs lots of pasture time, AKA down time once the race is over.
NOW we’re getting somewhere that can lead us to how to help ourselves and our HSP or GT children transition into the world of sleep so that we get enough quality zzzzzzzzzz’s.
Seven Tips to Help CASIGYs™ Sleep Peacefully
Here’s what has helped my CASIGY clients the most, kids and grown-ups, to improve their sleep:
- Find you or your child’s optimal amount of sleep. Experiment and keep track to discover what that is and then plan that into your schedule, making it top priority. We live in a sleep deprived world, so doing this is a bit counter-culture. Some CASIGYs need more sleep than others. Other CASIGYs need much less sleep than most people do. How much sleep do you or your child need? Also, paying attention to when you or your children need sleep can be crucial. Some of us are early risers; others of us are night owls.
- Carve out Uptime: First, get 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical exercise as early in the day, as many days a week as possible. A combination of aerobic, strength and flexibility training is best. If you don’t have access to what is ‘best’, never mind that, and do what you CAN do. Thirty continuous minutes of moderate to vigorous physical exercise releases both Dopamine and Serotonin, making it a first level stress management tool and also a first level depression, anxiety and attention management tool, according to researcher Wendy Suzuki. Also, don’t assume that your kids are getting enough exercise at school; they’re probably not, so include them in your plans for exercise when you can. If you can join a gym, great. If you can’t or don’t want to, great. It’s possible activate your creativity, search the web, or enlist your kids to create indoor or outdoor games of You-Name-It to play together that are fun, physically active and interactive at the same time. Second, spend time in self-care for your mind, soul and spirit. Again, it doesn’t have to be a long time; 5, 10 or 15 minutes can make a big difference in the whole day. This might look like reading something inspirational. It might be doing Yoga, Tai-Chi, Chi-gong, or some other body-mind practice. It might be meditation. It might be writing 5 “Gratitudes”. As you read my lists, you likely know what it is for you or your child. A Third kind of Uptime is carving out 15 minutes (set a timer to keep it quick) to make that ToDo list early in the day. Mark your list with the ONE thing you want or need to get one if that’s the ONLY thing you get done today. And set other priorities for your day. This is great to prevent train wrecks at the end of your day. When this is relevant for them, recruit your kids to participate in this, age-appropriately of course – again, to prevent train wrecks at the ends of their days, too.
- Carve out Time in Nature as often as possible. You might want to eat your lunch outdoors or get your exercise outdoors as often as you can and often as the weather and your location will allow.
- Carve out Creative Time often, especially if the Muses haunt your sleep. Even 20 minutes a day can make a huge positive difference in your or children’s stress level, and in your or their ability to sleep.
- Carve out Downtime, each day and each week. Why is it that the four major religions all have one day a week for worship? One possibility is that we humans NEED down time, time that is not focused on DOING, but just on BEING, and sometimes in being together. If you’re single, keep in mind that research has shown that it doesn’t matter whether your human contact is informal, as in family and friendships, or formal, as in clubs or other organizations – it all is helpful. And if you’re an introvert, like many CASIGYs are, you definitely need to carve out ALONE Time.
- If your mind won’t quit or your emotions churn, and it’s like there’s a hamster on a wheel in your head who’s constantly running and spinning the wheel, give that hamster a path to run on. Tune in, using something like the Daily Tune- iN-Tool. If the thoughts/emotions are REALLY haunting you, and if you like to dive deep into things, you might like using Stream-of Consciousness Journaling. That’s where you ‘catch’ and then either hand-write or keyboard the thoughts that run through your head. If you hand-write these pages, this is not the kind of journaling to put into a pretty Journal book. This is more like taking out the mental/emotional garbage, so write it on something appropriate to the metaphor. Taking the time to capture and record your thoughts and feelings is a kinesthetic type of meditation – it helps these thoughts to come to the surface and then moves them down into your body, through your hand(s) and out of you onto the page. Another twist on using creative expression to facilitate sleep is to draw, paint, color, sew, carve or use your hands in some way to make something that demonstrates what is going on in your life and/or what your inner response to these events is. The page you wrote on or the object you made then becomes a metaphorical container to help hold your thoughts and emotions, so you no longer have to carry them inside of you; you can “catch and release” them as you write.
- Wind down at the end of the day. Turn off electronics, read (pay attention to what you read, so it does not excite or rev you or your kids up) or do other low key, soothing activities. A warm bath is a great mind and body relaxer. If you need more help in relaxing, I’ve got a free handout of instructions for three kinds of Relaxation Breathing Exercises in the CASIGY Tool Box that may help. Many HSPs also find it helpful to limit alcohol and sleeping pills, favoring calm music, chamomile tea, calming amino acids such as GABA, L Theanine, 5HTP or herbs such as Valerian Root or essential oils such as Lavender for relaxation. To maximize its impact, many CASIGYs like to make your wind down routine into a mini-ritual at the end of your day.
- Bonus Tip: My husband Gary read my blog before I posted it, as he often so generously does before I put up my posts. He said I had missed a very important one: sex. Well, of course he would be the one to think of that! And he’s right, of course. When it’s an option, loving time together, culminating in sexual intimacy can have an uncannily positive effect on sleep.
It’s true that none of these things is easy to do. Getting lousy sleep or not enough sleep is also not easy to live with. As you experiment, you will likely find some of these are more important, that is, effective, for you or your kids than are others. All of these things all boil down to making yourself and your kids’ body/mind/soul/spirit needs top priority, and adjusting your lives according to what you or they as CASIGYs truly need, rather than what you may only want.
This is much easier said than done.It’s hard to take time that others around us don’t take for self-care. It’s hard to carve out time for self care when we have half a dozen creative projects calling for our attention and the floor needs cleaning and the laundry needs to be done and we’re exhausted. It’s hard to carve out time for self-care when there’s mountains homework due in the morning. It’s hard to carve out time for self-care, period. And essential. In fact, the harder it is to carve out that time, the more essential it is likely to be.
The Benefits of a good night sleep include waking feeling refreshed, having a sense of inner calm and a feeling of readiness for the day. You’ll be able to think better, you’ll be able to get and keep your perspective on your day. Your physical pain will likely be lower than it is when you don’t sleep enough or well. You’ll be able to access your best coping tools and skills. You’ll feel good and be able to thrive and not just survive.
It doesn’t matter if the culture supports it or not, if you need to do things differently to thrive rather than just survive, then I would encourage you to give yourself the permission to identify what it is and to go ahead and implement what you discover, AKA Just Do It. Now I’m sounding like an athletic coach. It’s not easy, but …. when you find what is essential for you or your family, (Please) Do It! You’ll be glad you did.
On the other hand, it’s often not that simple, is it? Modern life is complex. CASIGYs are especially complex. Again, when you can’t do what’s ideal, let go of the ideal, and Do What is Accessible. Do what you CAN do.
In addition, when we can’t do what we know to do, when we can’t use the tools we have in our toolbox, those are times we may want to dig deeper. One way of digging deeper is to engage in a counseling or psychotherapy process. If exploring that possibility interests you, here’s my article, “When Can Counseling Help?”
If you would like a PDF of these Seven Tips, click here.
Let’s help each other:
What have you found to be the most effective ways to get past the barriers and improve your sleep or your child’s sleep? Feel free to share in the Comments box below: