Anxiety and insomnia are frequent bedfellows… pun intended. WebMD has a nifty little list of tips that may help you regulate your sleep cycle. After doing a considerable amount of personal research on sleep, I have to disagree with #3, “Limit naps.”

It’s my personal opinion that when I’m unable to fall asleep at night, my first priority is making sure that my body and mind are functioning optimally so that I don’t get into a car accident or run into walls. Doing this often requires naps. It’s true that napping will interfere with your sleep cycle, but if you’re a chronic insomniac, getting bits of sleep here and there can go a long way in keeping your body from crashing of exhaustion. Restoring a healthy sleep cycle is often a more long-term goal that is probably best accompanied with help from your physician.

Although I don’t consider myself an insomniac, my anxiety is usually accompanied by problems falling asleep and staying asleep. When my mind is overactive, it’s difficult to slow it down enough to allow my body’s rhythm to drop into sleep. Not to mention that my overactive mind causes my thoughts to go all haywire when I’m trying to sleep, and this in turn only exacerbates the anxiety.

I eventually learned a few techniques that helped tremendously. One of the best was when I decided to try meditating myself into sleep. It works beautifully, but it creates problems during my daily non-sleeping meditation because I’ve associated watching my breath with falling asleep, so I’m often trying to keep myself from nodding off while sitting on the cushion during the day. Another method I use is visualizations. I often imagine my thoughts as a piece of paper, then I visually crumple that paper into a little ball and throw it off into the distance. When my mind begins racing again, I again crumple the paper and chuck it away. I do this until I’ve managed to slow down enough to drift off.

My biggest problem with sleep is that I always want to sleep when I shouldn’t and rarely want to when I should. As they say, the best nap is the one you shouldn’t be taking.