Sleep difficulties lead to challenges with: memory; concentration; productivity; and general health and vitality. And a large percentage of Empaths and Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) are being affected now at a higher degree than I can recall.
This is because tensions are higher of late due to increased emotional turmoil, political strife, mainstream and social media, economic hardship, family dynamics, EMFs and so much more, and as Empaths, we are tuned into it. Bigly.
Many Empaths & HSPs absorb the energy, thoughts and emotions of other people or groups of people, and some are so sensitive they feel the pain of Mother Earth. I had one client tell me she could feel the earthquake in Turkey from here in the States—before it happened! Talk about being “tuned in!”
All the incoming energy puts many of our systems on high alert. We go into fight or flight mode, which over a short period is fine, but too much fight or flight creates energetic overload, blockages and eventually pain, illness and of course, sleep challenges.
As if feeling the individual and collective frustration, anger, and grief isn’t difficult enough, our own sense of responsibility for others makes us take it one step further and keep what’s incoming as if it were our own energy. Our minds then try to figure out what’s happening to combat the discomfort. But if we’re unaware that what we’re dealing with isn’t our own, how can we possibly heal? And how can we even determine that our discomfort isn’t our own if we’re bombarded with so much incoming energy?!?! The search for the cause can be like looking for a needle in a haystack—blindfolded! The eventual and sometimes endless frustration in trying to decrease mental confusion without knowing and addressing the deepest and most insidious underlying causes creates even more internal chaos.
Collective anxiousness seems to be becoming the norm. If many people around you—and if you’re super empathic that can include people who are thousands of miles away—are anxious, we pick up on those energies and suffer the consequences. The end result of our own unease and the agitation of others is mental, emotional and energetic chaos, often diagnosed as “anxiety.”
And we expect to sleep well in that state?!?!?
“It appears that every man's insomnia is as different from his neighbor’s as are their daytime hopes and aspirations."-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Empaths unconsciously absorb so much energy during the day and typically do not fully process it, so we attempt to manage it when we’re most still—when going to bed. By that time we’re on such overload, it makes falling or staying asleep most challenging. And even if we do eventually fall asleep, we don’t get enough REM. Without enough REM sleep, we will awake feeling less refreshed than before going to bed! The cumulative effects of this can go way beyond modest discomfort. Lack of quality sleep negatively affects all aspects of our experience.
The inability to process daytime emotions is among the most popular and least addressed causes of sleep challenges for everyone, not just Empaths. We, as untrained Empaths tend to suffer with this to a higher degree because we’re not only subconsciously trying to process our own emotions, but also the emotions of so many others as well.
What to Do?
We all know this higher truth already, but we need reminders: We can only do what we came here to do. We can only be who we are capable of being. Overextending our energy to help others must by nature be tiring. The responsibility inherent within “I’ve got the whole world on my shoulders” can only bring you down.
This isn’t an excuse to do nothing, but rather an invitation to do and be what your soul is calling you to rather than listening to the mind’s ideas of what it thinks you should do.
Granted, many of us do have high degrees of responsibility inherent in our family or professional lives. If you’re a parent or your job (i.e. a nurse) requires it, the physical or even legal responsibilities of course should be attended to. But metaphysically speaking, each person cannot be responsible for the soul path of anyone else. Surely, we can “be there” for others, but we must let them live their own lives. This doesn’t mean we care less or love less, more an invitation to care and love better.
Got it. Now, how can I help myself?
"Your life is a reflection of how you sleep, and how you sleep is a reflection of your life."-Dr. Rafael Pelayo
Medical health providers and even alternative practitioners are a part of a multimillion-dollar businesses that are more than happy to recommend drugs, herbal supplements, and energy work to address the symptoms. And while an occasional medication, herbal supplement or Reiki session is better than staring at the ceiling for 8 hours, those external relaxants and sessions still don’t address the root level, leaving millions of people drug-dependent and potentially disempowered.
Some sleep challenges are physical in nature, for example, sleep apnea. For Empaths and HSPs without physical limitations, we should:
I have two books devoted to the first two recommendations above, managing incoming energy and healing what’s already been absorbed in ways specifically designed for Empaths & HSPs by an Empath/HSP, so in this blog let’s address mindset and relationships.
"The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more."-Wilson Mizener
Even WebMD says, “Most adults need 7 to 9 hours a night for the best amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 6 hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day.”
That’s not very informative, is it? We as humans want to know we’re in the range of “normalcy” but with the experts having such a wide gap between minimum and maximum, how are we to know what’s best?
Quality, Not Quantity
Over the years, I have slowly traded in my false belief that I needed a certain number of hours of sleep to be fully functional for the understanding that less sleep isn’t always a bad thing, especially if in that shorter period of time I can get better quality sleep. I do this by processing my own daytime emotions in addition to working with those that have been empathically absorbed.
If I am distracted by the past (mine or that of others), I’m inviting grief. If I’m distracted by the future (mine or that of others), I am inviting anxiousness. If I process well, I can focus on the present. Just the knowing that quality is the goal and can be reached by becoming more present, I can thrive on as little as 5 hours of sleep a night if needed. Similarly, I’ve found that when I’m well rested and in the flow, I can eat 1 or 4 meals a day, and still thrive in every way. Knowing this alleviates any "I need to get X number of hours of sleep" or any self-criticism if sleep isn't happening. As a result, I can fall asleep easily and quickly, partly because there is less pressure on myself to sleep in a certain way or a certain number of hours.
If you are sleeping next to someone who snores or tosses and turns a lot, obviously your own sleep will be affected. Let’s take that one step further and discuss the metaphysical equivalent of sleeping next to the snoremaster.
If you spend much of your day a “Walking sponge” odds are high you’ll do so at night as well. So if you are sleeping next to someone who is anxious, worried, angry, grieving or frustrated and you are an HSP or Empath, do I need to finish this sentence? Similarly, for those that are sensitive enough, the turmoil of the neighbors or even much larger communities can become a burden as well.
Being kicked by a restless sleep partner can be awful enough that you’d be happy to sleep elsewhere (hopefully still in the same domicile!), and empathically absorbing a loved one's energy isn't that different. Sometimes, it's best to sleep in another room. I know, I know, not very romantic, right? And perhaps that offer can seem insulting to your partner. But HSPs and Empaths need to honor our own needs to thrive. We’ve been so used to putting others first, it’s time to switch focus a bit. Until you can master the steps in my book, sometimes avoidance isn’t such a bad thing.
Similarly, our relationships with platonic friends, coworkers, and for some, the world, should be adjusted. As we minimize contact with those whose energy we find difficult, many of us can begin to thrive once again. Ideally this temporary separation is done consciously and without anger and blame. But if contact can’t be avoided, we can do our work to adjust our perception of the people and our relationships to them.
It ever ceases to amaze me how relationships change when I do. While the ultimate spiritual goal might be to be able to stand in the metaphorical fire and not get burned, sometimes distance is a good step toward healing what’s arising. That said, one should monitor when isolation becomes the norm. While the benefits of isolation may be enticing, in the end, that’s not why we’re here.
We’re here to grow, and that is often done best by stepping into the fire. But we don’t have to do this carelessly. As we do our internal work, we can slowly readjust to being engaged with others.
There are other factors as well that may be addressed in upcoming blogs, but for now, try the above—ideally in addition to the steps in my bestselling books, Self-Care for the Self-Aware and Empathipedia: Healing for Empaths & Highly Sensitive Persons.
They'll teach you how to manage incoming energy and also heal what’s already been absorbed in a way that has been designed by an Empath/HSP for Empaths & HSPs. Use the above ideas in combination with the tools and exercises in the book and you’ll be much more likely to fall asleep quickly, stay asleep, and awake refreshed!
And if the above doesn’t prove as effective as you'd hoped, schedule a free, no-obligation 15-minute consultation or a full healing session; there may be other factors affecting your sleep quality. In a private or group session, I can help you better navigate your unique challenges through intuitive guidance and Empath-specific tools and exercises that have helped thousands of Empaths and HSPs.
The field of relationships is complicated.
The rest is possible to change more easily.
yes, but it takes time...