January’s a tricky month, emotionally speaking. It contains Blue Monday, statistically the saddest day of the year, a calculation based on weather conditions, levels of debt, and the length of time since Christmas. Crucially, enough time has now passed for us to have already failed to keep our new year’s resolutions: we know we need to take ourselves in hand, but we currently lack the motivation to do so. And for many people that means insomnia, as we while away the wee small hours fretting about our failings.
Insomnia affects one in five adults, and January doesn’t help. We know that we need sleep for our bodies to heal and recover; but perhaps what’s less well known is that sleep is the only way that memory gets processed properly. This means that the ‘baby brain’ new parents get is actually acute sleep deprivation: there’s no data in their heads to mine, because of insufficient sleep in the night during which events could have been filed away. For many jobs, insomnia comes with the pay packet, because of stress at work. And it’s not just parents and workers that struggle with sleep – anyone who has too much on their mind will find it hard to switch off, and will find it even harder to get back to sleep once their worries have woken them.
Luckily there are armies of sleep experts on hand to advise, and apps a-plenty to guide you to the land of nod. But amidst the tips about tart cherry juice and mindfulness techniques there lurks an old truth. It’s the only remedy to come out top in all the research, and it’s what your granny probably taught you: count your blessings. It seems that the simple act of tracking back through your day and calling to mind all the good things that have happened is the most likely way for you to get a good night’s sleep.
In the Christian tradition, we’d call that prayer. Chatting to God may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s interesting that the data supports the perennial truth of it a wholesome activity. So perhaps today keep an extra eye out for life’s blessings, in case they come in handy to help you sleep well tonight.
I have been delivering “Thought For The Day” pieces on BBC Radio Scotland since November 2016. By kind permission these pieces are reproduced in blog posts here on my website. To find my other pieces click here go to my Thought For The Day index page.