Beating Yourself Up Doesn’t Help You Rest—Experiments In Your Personal Sleep Lab

What hypes you up? It might be chocolate, alcohol or caffeine, watching the news, too many screens.

And how do you get to rest?

Chocolate lab dog on bed

I’m such a lightweight, even chocolate dessert interferes with my sleep.

When rest is more elusive, I’ve taken to running a little sleep lab in my bed; that’s also something I suggest it to my clients.

If this is you at night, experiment to discover what gives you:

  • Space from the sleep struggle.

  • Your best tools for rest.

  • Body memory to shift your nights.

Here’s my experiment to clarify the path away from shoulda/ woulda/ coulda wakefulness into rest-producing awareness. Words don’t do it full justice, but I hope what I discovered helps you experience that subtle but powerful shift yourself.

The chocolate lab (hah!)

The other night I indulged in chocolate. I thought it would be okay with a few (too many) Hail Merry chocolate macaroons. But waking at 2:08 AM, I knew it was not.

I was straight into the daytime mode: full of energy, filled with regret, and couldn’t say no to my phone.

The restful tools didn’t catch right away. I didn’t want to fish for rest, I wanted a guarantee. And that’s not the way it always works.

So my bed became my sleep lab, again. I returned to how I used the first pathway, shifting into rest instead of the quest to catch it.

Clearly, trying to make this unwelcome energy Go! Away! didn’t work. Instead, I gave myself a bit of distance to just notice it. I’ve done this before, and indeed… my thoughts began to drift and I felt a glimmer of rest.


But then… I thought, How can I explain that shift to rest to you, my clients, and future clients?

Boing! Brought me right back into the energy/ wakeful mode.

Oscillating between anxious wakefulness and restful awareness

I decided to go back and forth, between anxious wakefulness and restful awareness. I wanted to deepen my understanding of what each felt like, and come up with some language to guide others in this shift.

Needless to say, anxious wakefulness was sooo easy to create. The move into restful awareness sometimes took a few waves to take hold. But by shifting back and forth, I found both what activated each state, more about the experience, and the shift to rest became easier.

Anxious WakefulnessRestful Awareness
ActivatorBlame (why did I eat that chocolate?); opposition (it shouldn’t be like this!)Acceptance (okay, I had chocolate, how does rest work with that?)
BodyStomach ache, head/ neck constriction, overall tensionFeeling whole body, surrounding aura, and more expansiveness
FocusNarrow, trying to get rid of it.Widening the lens, moving wakefulness into the background, and bringing kind awareness into the foreground.
PathwaysMonitored (are they working? Now? Now? NOW?)#3 Body: Relax back of head and neck

#5 Emotions: Release body energy with microscopic rocking

#4 Mind: Focus on things you love (trees, beaches, soccer stars) in alphabetical order.


Experiment yourself with shifting from anxious wakefulness to restful awareness. Even a nanosecond of awareness resets your experience. And please let me know what happens.

For me (you may have heard the end to this fairy tale) I lived happily ever after that night — i.e., I moved into deeper rest and sleep.

Despite the chocolate!

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