If you’re having trouble sleeping after a bad trip, you’re not alone. I’ve been in your shoes, and in my work, I’ve found that this is one of the most common post-bad trip struggles. For me, bedtime uneasiness was one of the most relentless aspects of my anxiety. While it was a huge struggle for months and months, going through that difficult time taught me a lot about dealing with trouble sleeping after a bad trip.
Trouble sleeping after a bad trip: Why does this happen?
While there’s no single answer, I have a few theories about why people healing from a bad trip tend to struggle with getting to sleep.
First, many of us stay quite busy during the day. Even if you’re not at work or school all day, it’s likely that you’re doing something that keeps your mind occupied. For most people, bedtime is the first time in the day where you slow down and try to empty your mind. This gives feelings of anxiety and uneasiness (which have been there all day) an opportunity to rise to the surface. Along the same lines, bedtime can be the first time in the day that you’re alone, brining on fear and uneasiness. While some people love being alone, others dread it. Your preferences may have even changed after your difficult trip.
Second, being in bed at night may subtly remind you of your bad trip. While certainly not all trips occur at night, it’s common to trip at night, perhaps even in your bedroom. Third, something about bedtime may be triggering a specific fear or anxiety. For example, your unsettling trip may have left you with a fear of dying, and the idea of sleeping makes you worry that you won’t wake back up.
There are many other reasons why you might be having trouble sleeping after a bad trip, but these are some of the most common ones. I can’t stress enough that this is an extremely common effect of a bad trip. You will get through this.
Trouble sleeping after a bad trip: How to deal with it
- Reset yourself. While this is more of a “bandaid” than something that will address the root of your struggle, it can be helpful in the moment. Resetting yourself means getting up, doing something else for a few minutes, and trying to go back to sleep. When I had bedtime anxiety, resetting helped a lot. I would get up, do the dishes, watch some funny videos on my phone, get some fresh air outside, or anything else that would get my mind completely off the anxiety. When I felt tired again, I would try going back to bed.
- Make sure you go to bed tired. One of the reasons that I think resetting is effective is that it allows you to get more tired. Sometimes, we go to bed without even being that tired. Being wide awake while going to sleep is a recipe for anxiety to set in, so it’s important to make sure that you’re tired out. Exercise will help with this. It will also help to get up earlier. Make sure that you are physically and mentally tired when you’re laying down to sleep.
- Thankfulness. Something that helps me immensely when trying to fall asleep is mentally thinking of all the things I’m thankful for. As a spiritual person, I think of this as a thankfulness prayer. If you’re not spiritual, you can simply view this as a time to reflect on what you’re grateful for. Thinking of all these positive aspects of my life puts my mind at ease, and I often find that I fall asleep somewhere in the middle of it.
- Meditate during the day. If you think your anxiety is coming up at bedtime because that’s the first time you’re still, meditate. So much is made of meditation these days, but the idea is really just being mentally still. Try taking 10 minutes out of your day to be physically and mentally still. Focus on clearing your mind and simply taking a break from thinking. If anxious feelings start to come up, take that opportunity to push further into them. Try to understand what’s bugging you rather than just pushing it back down. If you give your anxiety time to come up during the day, it may not need to come up at bedtime.
- Practice being alone. If you think your anxiety is coming from being alone at bedtime, practice being alone during the day. If you notice that anxious feelings come up, be aware of what they are rather than avoiding them. As you start to feel more comfortable with being alone, it may improve your bedtime anxiety.
- Rearrange your room. This is particularly helpful if you had your bad trip in the room you sleep in. Often, the space we have a difficult trip in can feel tainted afterwards. This article talks about how to cleanse a space so that you aren’t constantly reminded of your scary psychedelic experience.
- Write down anxiety patterns. This was very helpful for me, especially because much of my anxiety was health-related. I was constantly worried that I was going to die at night. Writing down what I was feeling and what time it was helped me understand the patterns. It also gave me a reference to remind myself: you’re not dying, you’re just anxious. I think writing about this whole experience is immensely important. It allows you to get things out, see patterns, and be able to watch your healing progress.
- The inner-child technique. While it may sound whacky, this is truly the best and most powerful technique I’ve discovered. I dedicated the entire rest of this post is dedicated to explaining it.
- For more of my thoughts on bad trip insomnia and how to get past it, you can read this post: What to do if you can’t sleep after a bad trip
Trouble sleeping after a bad trip: Your Inner-Child
If you’re having trouble sleeping after a bad trip, I know it’s frustrating. You don’t logically or consciously decide to be anxious – who would! In fact, it’s likely that you try with all your logical power to avoid being anxious. It’s undeniable that your anxiety is coming from a place other than your logical brain. Working with your inner child is a great place to start trying to get past this anxiety.
Think of your inner child as you, when you were a child, existing inside of you as a collection of all the angst and pain that you could not resolve or comprehend during childhood. When you had your bad trip, it’s very likely that past issues and anxieties were dredged up, causing your inner child to be upset. Now that you are no longer a child, it is your job to parent that child. It is your job to comfort and take care of him or her.
Working with your inner child may sound hokey, but it is a very commonly used technique for healing trauma, anxiety, and other stress disorders. If calling it an “inner child” is too whacky for you, you might simply think of this as your subconscious mind or your primitive self. However, I’ve found that it’s very helpful to envision and talk to an actual child – you as you actually were.
Your role with this sweet, innocent being is to be exactly the parent they need. To be exactly the parent you needed when you were young. To take care of them, comfort them, in exactly the way they need it most. Providing this care to an extension of yourself is a wonderful way to learn to love and be tender with yourself. So much is made of “loving yourself,” and this is a realistic way to practice that.
The Inner Child speaks at bedtime
Of all the anxiety I have experienced following my bad trip, the bedtime anxiety has been the most relentless. There have been countless nights where I’ll be perfectly fine until five minutes after I’ve laid down and turned the lights off. At that point, I’m in the clutches of looming, formless anxiety. I believe that a huge part of this is that, for most of us, the time when we lay down to go to sleep is the first time all day we stop thinking and doing things. The anxiety is there all day. The quietness and stillness of bed time, however, is the only time it can rise to the surface. From an inner child perspective, this is the only time the inner child (who is full of confusion and anxiety) can get your attention long enough to speak.
Just like children you may encounter in your physical life, it’s often easier to deal with the matters of daily life such as work or errands. It’s much harder to sort through the can of worms that family life tends to present. But, if you’re struggling with anxiety after a bad trip, it’s time to stop ignoring the inner child. The only way to heal is to go through, not around. It’s time to open the can of worms.
How to find with your Inner Child
If you’re having trouble sleeping after a bad trip, the first thing to do is to check in with your inner child. I’ve found that if I feel calm and relaxed while going to sleep, turning inwards reveals that my inner child is sleeping soundly. When I have anxiety and trouble falling asleep, turning inwards reveals that my inner child is upset, anxious, and concerned about something.
By working to calm your inner child’s anxiety, you put distance between you and your uneasiness. It is much easier to calm and comfort a child than it is to calm and comfort yourself. This is especially true if you don’t consciously know what’s causing the anxiety.
(From here forward, I’m going to use I.C. to refer to the “inner child.” I’m also going to use the feminine pronoun for ease of writing, but I am in no way meaning to exclude anyone. Everyone has an inner child, regardless of gender.)
The first thing to do is to turn inwards and assess the state of your inner child. You may wonder how exactly this is done, and while there’s no exact process, the best advice I can give is not to overcomplicate it. Set your intention to interact with your IC, and she may instantly appear in your mind. If it’s not so quick and easy, try closing your eyes and trying to envision your IC. It may help to say your name or any childhood nicknames that you were fond of. Another way to find your IC is to mentally visit a place that you liked as a child. You may find your IC in your childhood playroom, backyard, or playground. While it may be strange the first time, once you “meet” your IC, you’ll have no trouble contacting her in the future.
An upset Inner Child
If you’re having trouble sleeping after a bad trip, you’ll likely find your IC in a anxious state. Don’t force it. You shouldn’t try to force your IC to do anything or imagine that they are doing something in particular. You’re simply there to notice what is naturally occurring for your IC – what is going on in your subconscious mind. If you find that your IC is fretting, crying, or worried, it’s time to begin comforting her. I have found through personal experience and the experiences of others that, by calming your IC, you will calm yourself.
There are two main things I attribute this to. First and foremost, you are directly addressing an issue that is brewing below the surface of your consciousness and causing you anxiety. If you’re having trouble sleeping after a bad trip, I can tell you with confidence that something is brewing below the surface. Something is causing the anxiety you feel, and the best thing you can do is address the cause. Second, you are taking your mind off of yourself and your anxiety and focusing on caring for someone else (who is really you).
How to calm your Inner Child
By “calm your inner child,” I don’t mean to pat her on the head and say it’ll be okay. This won’t help you. If you’re like many of us, your deepest concerns and feelings have been ignored long enough. It’s time to really listen to the child inside of you, hear what she has to say, and address it. By learning to parent your IC with warmth and care, you will be able to improve so many aspects of your life. This will go way beyond trouble sleeping after a bad trip.
You may intuitively know where to start in comforting your IC, and you should go with that. If you’re not so sure, start by physically comforting your IC. Take her in your arms, rock her, pet her, hug her – anything it takes to start calming her down. At that point, you might ask her what’s wrong. If she’s reluctant to tell you, start by telling her how much you love and care for her. Tell her that you’re going to be there for her from here on out. Talk to her in a genuine way until you gain her trust.
When I was first working with my inner child, I met her in the living room of my childhood home. I asked her if there was anything she wanted to tell me, but she wasn’t willing to tell me there. In my mind, I carried her out of the house and to an entirely different place. When she felt safe there, she opened up to me. Do whatever it takes for her to open up to you.
When your inner child finally opens up to you, you must respond with an open mind and heart. Be the person she can rely on and trust. While she may say something about the bad trip, be prepared to hear something entirely unrelated. This is actually a good thing. This shows that the bad trip brought out an anxiety about something else from your life which may have previously been buried. The more of these buried issues you can bring out, the less emotional baggage you’ll carry through your life. When she does tell you what’s wrong, do your best to comfort her. Be willing to truly care for her going forward.
Put your Inner Child to bed
Once she has relaxed, you yourself should feel much more relaxed too. A good way to transition to sleep is to focus on putting her to bed. Mentally go through her bedtime routine. Lay with her. Tell her a story. Do the things that relaxed you as a child. By focusing on staying by her site until she falls asleep, you’ll keep your mind off of the struggle of falling asleep yourself.
If you found that talking to your inner child helped, make this a regular practice. Instead of waiting for anxiety to set in, check in with your IC as soon as you lay down to sleep. By anticipating any problems or uneasiness she has, you’ll help yourself get on top of bedtime anxiety.
Keep track of what your IC tells you – these are messages from your subconscious! In the waking day, you can work to sort out the problems she brings up. This is the hard part, but addressing the real-life concerns of your IC will greatly improve your anxiety.
I want to emphasize that these are real methods. I’ve had so much trouble sleeping after a bad trip, but I’ve gotten through it. I only write about methods that I’ve personally found helpful. Try these methods and let me know about any others that have helped you!
I know that it’s extremely hard to deal with bedtime anxiety, but it will eventually dissipate. In the meantime, experiment with methods until you find one that works for you. Remember, this isn’t forever – I promise.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you need additional support or would simply like to talk.