Insomnia and the Transition Trek

The method of getting to sleep presented in In Pursuit of Sleep is predicated on the Transition Trek. So what is the Transition Trek, and how does it help an insomniac get to sleep?

The Transition Trek is a narrative that defines the imaginary actions and images that you use just after closing your eyes to control the mind’s activity while it goes to sleep. It gives the mind something to do that is conducive to sleep by involving what you might call your psychic body in an activity. Here are some of the Transition Trek’s more salient characteristics:

  • It is a first-person narrative, with you as that person within the narrative.
  • It also involves sleep breathing, which means that you take control of your breathing and make it slower and move deep, as when you are sleeping.
  • The narrative is full of images that you visualize as you progress along the route described in the Transition Trek.
  • The narrative also evokes the other four senses: sound, touch, taste and smell. This fully involves you and your psychic body in the imaginary world of the Transition Trek.
  • The narrative consists of nine scenes, starting with being awake and ending with being asleep.
  • Here are a few sentences from the second scene of the Coastal Transition Trek narrative: I’m in a small boat rowing ashore with the sun heading toward the horizon. Its rays set a golden glow to the waves as they gently lap the shoreline. Off in the distance, I see the sailing ship I just left behind moving out to sea. My arms are tired from rowing as the bow of my little boat slides over the sand and onto shore.

In Pursuit of Sleep contains four different Transition Treks, each with the characteristics mentioned above. They are as follows:

  • Coastal Transition Trek: This Trek is set in a coastal area and initially you are in a rowboat rowing toward shore. Once on shore, you follow a path from the beach inland to where you are to spend the night.
  • City of God Transition Trek: I have added this Transition Trek because many people like to say a prayer before sleep. It seems logical to integrate the prayer with the Transition Trek. The trek I present here solves the problem by imagining a secluded holy place that we enter and continue on to our place of rest.
  • Castle Transition Trek: In this Transition Trek, you enter a castle in a foreign land. The ground floor is filled with people, although you will only interact with them initially while you eat dinner. Then you ascend the stairs and pass through five more floors, the last being the roof where you go to sleep staring up at the heavens.
  • Mountain Descent Transition Trek: The previous treks have been purposefully boring. But this Trek is for the adventurous. It simulates what we describe as “falling asleep” by coming down a mountain. When you cannot sustain the boring Coastal Transition Trek because of overriding real-life issues, you might need a trek that can peak your interest to keep you away from distractions. To do that, we have to take a chance by making it a little more exciting. You come down the mountain by sliding through snow and walking down an ice field. At the very end, you are a skydiver or flyer and don a wing suit before jumping off a cliff,

All the Treks but the last are purposefully boring. Boredom is your friend when you are trying to go to sleep. Each has nine different scenes because researchers have shown that that sleep onset has nine different stages. In In Pursuit of Sleep, I lead you through the basics of going to sleep, especially concentrating on what is called the “sleep propensity curve” ( related to circadian rhythms) and how to correct yours if it has been compromised by not being able to get to sleep night after night.

Transition Treks are the heart of the book, but I have also provided help for those who have suffered emotional trauma and fear they will die in their sleep. At the end, I discuss the problems encountered when you have overcome your insomnia but miss lying awake engaging in fantasies or trying to solve problems. Decades of research have gone into this little book, and I believe practically everyone with insomnia can solve their problem with the Transition Trek.

You can’t find this stuff anywhere but in In Pursuit of Sleep. Sleep hygiene and CBT do not really address what happens when you close your eyes. I stay with you until you are fully asleep.

Solving the Insomnia Problem

For years, maybe even decades, you thought you knew how to fall asleep. You used to just close your eyes, and the next thing you knew, you were waking up with a good night’s sleep. Was it all luck? If so, Lady Luck has abandoned you, and now that you have to get to sleep on your own, you have found out that you don’t know anything about it. You consulted some experts, and they recommended sleep hygiene and cognitive behavior therapy, which you tried. They actually helped some, but still the basic problem lingers. You could take medication, but medication shouldn’t be taken for more than a few weeks, and after taking medication, sleep generally is even harder to find. Then what?

You can get past the initial stage of getting physically comfortable, so that you should be able to let Snoozeville take over, but seems someone burned it down. Everyone you know has the same problem. You can’t shut off your thoughts. And even if you could, through some esoteric meditation technique, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will go to sleep. Seems the medical profession doesn’t know squat about going to sleep.

What to do?

Well, in the first place, we do know quite a lot about the time period from when we close our eyes until we are sleep. Researchers call it “sleep onset,” and psychologists call it “hypnagogia.” It has been studied extensively. They have written books on the subject. It is just that sleep professionals have not used those research results to help understand the causes of insomnia. I realize that sounds incredible, but it is true.

So what do we do until the medical profession gets its act together and solves the problem? We solve it ourselves.  And it has already been done for you. Here is the answer:

In Pursuit of Sleep: The Origins of Insomnia and What to Do About It.

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1926 Cure For Insomnia

Here is a cure for insomnia from 1926. I believe it will work:

Cure for Insomnia from 1926

Cure for Insomnia from 1926

Several things make this approach effective. First of all, it is heavy on visualization. I make the importance of images abundantly clear in Chapters 2 and 3 of In Pursuit of Sleep. Second, you as your psychic self perform an action, painting. Third, it is not an interesting activity. Boredom is your friend when you are trying to go to sleep.

Would I recommend this technique over the Transition Trek provided in In Pursuit of Sleep? Not really. So what is wrong with it?

I don’t believe anything is really wrong with it. It just doesn’t go far enough. First of all, the action isn’t leading anywhere, and actions are also important. Second, it doesn’t involve sound or any of the other senses, touch, taste and smell. It is important to get the entire psychic body involved when trying to get to sleep. Third, this scenario doesn’t lead you toward sleep. All of this is important. However, painting 3s is certainly a much better mental exercise than counting sheep.

Prevalence of Insomnia 1892

We tend to think of insomnia as a late 20th and early 21st century phenomenon. That certainly is not the case. Here is an article taken from the New York Times archives dated July 18, 1892, which indicates that it was in epidemic mode back then:

Prevalence of Insomnia 1892 from the archives of the New York Times but taken from the London Telegraph

Prevalence of Insomnia 1892 from the archives of the New York Times but originally taken from the London Telegraph

What this illustrates is that we have not been able to cope with insomnia in the past, and we haven’t been able to do anything about even here in the 21st century. We are still using the same things they used back then, but now we package them as “sleep hygiene” and “cognitive behavior therapy.” Same failed methods with new labels.

The truth is we haven’t leveraged what we know about the awake-asleep transition state (sleep onset, hypnagogia) against insomnia. In Pursuit of Sleep: The Origins of Insomnia and What to Do About it does just that.