Wide Awake

If art, nature and music can all boost health and wellbeing in the daytime, as they do, then why should they not also help insomnia? I think there are three ways they could help: as a way to spend time, as a way to try and still your mind to sleep, and as a tool to use to try exploring why you might struggle to sleep. Maybe these could all help you, or maybe you’ll respond more to one or another.

Photo by Kristin Vogt on Pexels.com

Art could be a great way to pass time when others would be sleeping, but it also helps as a tool, a way to explore and express why you might have insomnia. Drawing to express your feelings about an issue might be worth a try – and drawing with an art therapist can be particularly helpful. You could draw a scene to visualize your fears, or draw symbols of how you feel about a situation, maybe a closed door or a high wall. Or use colours that symbolize emotions, like red for anger. Journaling, or the quicker form, bullet journaling, can be helpful tools as well – writing down how you feel instead of bottling up emotions – and art really adds to journaling, making your journal colourful and attractive to use as it adds new ways of expressing yourself on the journal’s pages. You could try doing any or all of this at night – before or while trying to get to sleep – or if you find this focuses your mind more on these issues, not less, then try journaling or drawing earlier in the day or evening and then try to set this aside.

Maybe music is particularly powerful because, while it creates all different moods, it can be specifically calming. Art might be too stimulating, making you less likely to feel sleepy, while you could listen to music in bed in the darkness, maybe slowing you down. Classical music can be calming, but I know that some people actually find livelier music, like dance music, can be more helpful when feeling tense. You could try different playlists or enjoy the serendipity of listening to radio and seeing what you hear.

Nature is one of the most calming and mindful tools we have, a great way to change perspective and let your mind drift away from the everyday. But obviously darkness and night time aren’t the best time to experience nature outdoors! There are other ways though: on a clear night, watching the night sky and tree outlines through the window can be calming. Technology helps as well. Now we can experience nature at any time of day or night through video or audio. I enjoy listening to nature’s sounds recorded online, on sites like Free Sound Library, where you can search for sounds like birdsong or sea sounds. Hearing these on their own, they have more impact than if I heard them outdoors, overshadowed by their setting.

So there are many different possibilities. Art could be important because it’s active and productive, but music and nature too have a part to play, maybe opening up a different perspective on life if you find that darkness and night time magnify issues, thoughts and fears. Sleep disorders have surged through recent years, especially since the Covid pandemic. I’ve recently heard about a new play called “Five Characters In Search Of A Good Night’s Sleep”, and a BBC documentary “Daisy Maskell: Insomnia And Me”. So using art, music and nature could be helpful for many people.

Have you experienced insomnia? Do you have ideas of how art, nature or music could help? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002

Published by medleyisobel

My name is Isobel and I run Medley, an online initiative sharing art, nature and music for health and wellbeing.

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