I used to fall asleep to The Silence of the Lambs playing in my laptop next to me when I was in my early twenties. I find horror movies especially comforting to fall asleep to. But even earlier, in high school, I would fall asleep to Yanni’s piano album, In My Time. It helped sequence my brain, and calm me, take me from chaos to order, then to sleep.
I asked a former girlfriend if she noticed any signs of mental illness when we dated around 22. She said no, but I was a bit eccentric and liked to fall asleep with the movie adaptation of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time playing on the television. I asked her if she minded. She said no.
More recently, for a few years until a few weeks ago, I’ve been sleeping with my iPad, playing mental health videos off YouTube or movies from Netflix. I like to pick one movie or playlist and stick with it, watching the same thing every night like a lullaby.
But before that, in a sober period preceding this one, I remember I had a sequence of visualizations in which I would start by being a clownfish dropped into the ocean, and I would swim along through a garden of coral until I came to my sea anemone, and I would go through a ritual of looking around the anemone until I felt safe, and then I would fall asleep.
Actually before I got to the clownfish visualization I would say a series of prayers to the everything, saying what I was thankful for, making positive wishes for others, and asking for long life and good health, which I visualized as the Earth revolving around the sun many times (long life) and the variety and bounty of animals and plants on our planet (good health) as if the Earth was my body and its heath was my health and its trips around the sun were my life.
I have gone back to falling asleep without media. My thought ritual is simpler now: I think about what I was grateful for in the day that just happened. I say thank you for the gift of having been able to live that day and I ask for the gift to live another. I also feel my body, non-sexually. I have TD and so arm position is very important in becoming still overall. If I can, I cup a hip bone in each hand, as a way to connect to my body, to assert the right and the joy of touching myself.
Whether I fall asleep with media or without has a lot to do with how comfortable I am with my own thoughts, with my thought self, my spirit self. Sometimes I just cannot bear to be alone with my own thoughts, and The Silence of the Lambs is more comforting than my own mind. Sometimes my thoughts are so busy that they need music like Yanni piano to slow them down and regulate them so that sleep is possible. Otherwise, I’ll stay up for hours, thinking, and sleep will never come. Periods like now I am comfortable with my thoughts—with my self. I am not afraid to face what is within me, because what is in me is at peace. If I drink coffee too late and it takes me an hour to go to sleep, it is a wonderful hour, not a torturous one, spent with myself. Usually I fall asleep in a few minutes.
I am not making this judgment for anyone else, but for myself, I
sleep better without media. When it is possible for me to be at peace in the darkness and silence with myself, I sleep sounder and longer than when I sleep with my iPad. I suspect the day will come again when my life is chaotic enough that I need to sleep with media, but for now I am enjoying this wonderful period where the idea of being alone with myself doesn’t scare me, where the action of letting go into sleep is not a chore, but a joy—and where my own company is not something I want to drown out, but company I welcome and feel comfort with.