My Secret Cure for Insomnia
I often have a hard time falling asleep, but a few years ago I came up with a simple language game that often does the trick. When other techniques such as trying to relax each part of the body or deep breathing aren’t working, or when my brain is buzzing a mile a minute anyway, this game is my go-to.
It’s simple. Pick a category and come up with (at least) one word in that category starting with each letter of the alphabet. Turn it into a language game by playing in a language you are learning! There are endless categories to choose from – fruits, mammals, plants, outdoor activities, friends’ names, cities you’ve visited, etc, etc. Some of my recent favourite categories are vegetables in Spanish and countries in English (for the latter, I try to think of 5 countries with each letter although that’s not possible for every letter). With the right category, I am usually asleep before N.
The key(s) to success
It’s important to come up with a “Goldilocks” category – one that is not too easy, not too difficult, but just right. It should take some thinking to come up with the words – if you go through them rapid fire, you’ll get to Z too quickly. But it shouldn’t be so difficult that you are spending a long time thinking for each word, as this will lead to mind wandering. If a letter is taking a very long time and you don’t think you’ll come up with a word, just skip it. And if your mind does start to wander, either pick up on the last letter you remember working on or start again from A.
Before writing this, I did a quick search online to see if anyone else had written about similar games, and I discovered cognitive scientist Luc Beaudoin’s technique called cognitive shuffling. It’s a method to help you purposefully scramble your thoughts and give your brain the go-ahead to stop trying to manage everything. Basically, you shuffle through of a series of random non-threatening images, and you do this by starting with a word and coming up with items that start with each letter of that word. So, hey!, I’m onto something! I wonder if my technique works for similar reasons. I have probably been visualizing the words I come up with, but now I will do so on purpose!