How To Fall Asleep Without Porn

Nov 16, 2020

 
by Drew Boa

Many of us struggle with porn specifically when we’re falling asleep, in those late hours of the night. A couple of months ago in my private group, I asked this question: When are you most likely to feel sexually triggered? Over 60% of the guys who responded said late at night. My friend Scott Cone says, “This makes a lot of sense because guys learn to masturbate at night to go to sleep. Orgasm releases oxytocin in the brain, which is a bonding hormone. Oxytocin also causes us to get sleepy. So by using masturbation and orgasm as a sleep aid, hundreds and hundreds of times, we're creating neural pathways associated with getting an orgasm in the late evening. As we do this over and over, we train our brains to not sleep until they get the orgasm.”

Makes sense, doesn't it? That explains a lot, but I also wanted to go deeper and learn more because I know that triggers are not random, that every trigger tells a story. If so many of us are getting triggered while going to sleep, I wondered if there could be something more behind that? So I started asking why. Why did we begin using masturbation and porn as a sleep aid? Why did porn become our pacifier? Why did lust become our lullaby? What I found led to huge breakthroughs for me personally, and for my clients to get insight into this struggle and to get greater peace while they’re going to sleep. Here are the two questions that I began asking.

One was about stories and one was about rituals. First, what are the stories from your childhood about falling asleep? When I asked my clients, their responses wrecked me. I heard stories about being afraid of the dark without any comfort. I heard stories about being fondled by an adult or a cousin in bed, sometimes repeatedly for months or years. I heard a story about being left alone as an infant in a crib in the dark for hours crying and crying. No one came and he eventually learned not to cry at all. These stories broke my heart. Do you see how it makes sense? I believe that masturbating while falling asleep is not just a guy issue. It's not just what we do. It is tied to very unique stories from childhood. So what are yours? What are the stories from your childhood about falling asleep? When you fall asleep, how do you feel? And when have you felt that way before? These questions will help you get started on uncovering your stories.

The second question I asked is what were your bedtime rituals? What was the routine that you went through every night? I used to think my routine was normal. We all think our bedtime routines are normal. Well, sometimes they're not. When I began to examine my bedtime rituals from when I was a boy, it blew my mind. Here's what used to happen. I call it the switcheroo. One of my parents would come into my room and lie in bed with me. And the other would go into my sister's room and lie in bed with her. And then they would switch and do the same thing. I just thought this was totally normal. Apparently not all parents do this. And not only did they do this, but this pattern also continued all the way through high school, all the way up until I went to college.

For a six-year-old, yeah, that makes sense. But for a boy going through puberty at 13, for a 17-year-old or an 18-year-old, this is not normal. As I began to explore this ritual in these stories, I uncovered some unsettling details, which showed me that while this was an expression of love and care there were parts about it that were inappropriate. At the same time, it was meeting such a deep need for me, a need for intimacy and closeness that I didn't feel with friends at school, that I didn't feel with my parents during the day when they were working so much. It was, in many ways. the most special time of every day for me.

I also remember craving sleepovers and my favorite part of having a sleepover with a friend was the part right before we would fall asleep when the lights are out and you get a little loopy, your filter is gone, and things can be funny. It's raw, it's real. The conversation is so intimate. Sometimes, those sleepovers turned sexual. I remember having a competition with a friend to see who could masturbate the fastest in the dark, across the room from each other. You can see how there's a pattern here of inappropriate intimacy and vulnerability that went a little bit too far, both with my parents and with my peers.

So of course I would grow up struggling with masturbating and watching porn around bedtime. When we're able to explore these stories and understand what those rituals were that shaped us when we were young, we can begin to understand what it is that we really need. For some of those stories I told you about my clients, what did they need when they were afraid of the dark, when they were being fondled in bed, when they were being left alone for hours? They needed safety, soothing protection, and a sense that everything's going to be alright. And for me, what did I need? I needed intimacy. I needed closeness, connection, and that vulnerability that I felt with people that I couldn't necessarily have during the daytime.

This also makes a lot of sense when I consider why some of the new rituals I developed later were so powerful. When I was single, the most powerful ritual I ever used to help me get free from porn during a time when I felt very triggered was calling a friend, an ally, somebody who knew my story, who knew the specifics of my sexuality, for five minutes every night for 21 days in a row. It was incredible and it was exactly what I needed. It fit the shape of my story to have that connection, to have that vulnerability, even if it was small, right before bed in a healthy way. It was giving me what I needed and allowing me to give that to him.

These days, now that I'm married, it's more about connecting with my wife at the end of a long day. Decompressing by reading is also very helpful for me to just relax and soothe. I believe bedtime is sacred. It's not screen time. It's a sacred time for connecting with God, maybe for connecting with another person and certainly for connecting with ourselves.

So here are some questions that might help you find a ritual that fits the shape of your story. The next time you're going to bed and you feel triggered, ask yourself: How do I feel right now? When have I felt that way before? See what stories come up and then create a new ritual that fits the shape of your story. This gives that boy what he needs to soothe, to self-regulate, to comfort, to find connection in a safe way, in a healing way, in a holy way.

So if you want to fall asleep without porn, let me sum it all up for you.

  1. Explore some of your childhood stories around bedtime. What happened to you and what were some of those rituals that, night after night, trained your brain in a certain way?
  2. Then discover what the holy longings are that you need to meet for that boy when he shows up around bedtime.
  3. Finally, create new rituals to support those longings, rituals for soothing and self-regulation, rituals for safety and connection without screens. Bedtime doesn't have to be screen time. It can be a sacred time of connecting with God. One of my favorite verses to say to myself when I fall asleep is Psalm 4:8. “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, oh Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Always remember, you are God's beloved son. In you, he is well pleased.

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