The Spiritual Meaning of Insomnia

The Spiritual Meaning of Insomnia


Is it an overactive nervous system, or is it unprocessed emotions keeping you awake at night? Learn more about the spiritual meaning of insomnia to get a better night's sleep.

Insomnia is a common enough experience. You struggle to fall asleep, or maybe you fall asleep easily enough, but then wake up throughout the night. Maybe you have a certain time of night where you always wake up, unable to get back to sleep. There are routines you can do to help your nervous system wind down before bed, as well as medications and other interventions you can try to help you when you’re struggling to sleep. But what’s the spiritual meaning of insomnia?

An Overactive Nervous System

Probably the most common reason for struggling to sleep at night is that your nervous system is over-activated. Your nervous system needs to slow down enough to allow you to sleep, which can be a challenge if you are staying up ruminating about problems and unable to stop thinking about stressful things. Essentially, your system thinks you are under stress and doesn’t feel it’s safe to go unconscious. If this resonates with you, try these things:

  • Work on a bedtime routine that is consistent and calming. Take a shower, read a book, do a Moon Salutation, or take long deep breaths.

  • Give yourself a dedicated time every day to worry and process your thoughts, but pick a time that’s not bedtime. Journal or meditate around the same time every day and promise yourself you’ll do your worrying and obsessing then.

  • Listen to a guided meditation to try to help you fall asleep.

  • Take a look at the stress level in your life and see what you can reasonably do to reduce it.

  • Try a daily restorative yoga posture, like Legs Up the Wall, for 5–10 minutes before bed, focusing on breathing deeply into your belly.

The Organ Clock

If you’re always up at a certain time of night, it might be a clue to what your system is working through at that time. According to Chinese medicine, the organs have specific hours when they are working the hardest and there is a spiritual and physical meaning to each one. Consider these:

11pm–1am—Gallbladder: This is related to the energy of passion, self-confidence, and our ability to stand up for ourselves and make decisions.
1am–3am—Liver: The liver detoxes, filtering our blood. It also stores unprocessed anger.
3am–5am—Lungs: Lungs are related to breath, our connection with the outside world, and receiving what we need to live. The lungs can store unprocessed grief.
5am–7am—Large intestine: The large intestine digests and works to let go of the things we do not need. It stores our “crap” until we’re ready to let it go.

Avoiding Emotions

Sometimes when we lay awake thinking at night, we are operating on the false premise that thinking solves problems. Of course thinking is a necessary layer to solving problems. But our thoughts can actually impede other kinds of knowing. Sometimes the feeling in our body actually stimulates the thought, rather than the other way around. Feeling safe enough to simply feel our feelings can allow us to slow down enough to actually rest when our head hits the pillow.

If this resonates for you, try these techniques:

  • When you notice yourself overthinking, see if you can redirect your attention to your body. Breathe into the sensations you feel.

  • Do your best to use mindfulness, which means observing what’s happening, ideally without judgment or an attempt to fix or change it. Just let it flow.

  • If you do find an emotion, do your best to feel the sensations of it without needing to figure out what it means or what to do about it.

  • Remind yourself that there is wisdom in sleep, unconsciousness, and dreams. Your dreams are an excellent place to explore emotion. Welcome them.

Dive into the spiritual meaning of bad dreams.

The Spiritual Meaning of Insomnia

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