Meditation for Insomniacs – A Visit To Ice Station Zebra!

ice station

Use this mindful hack to get your sleep on

Do you struggle with falling asleep? Are there times when you put your head on the pillow but can’t stop racing thoughts? Hoping to find a natural way to get your z’s on? If the answer is yes, you wouldn’t be alone.

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, one in three people have had some form of insomnia. That’s a lot of people when you think about it.

What is Insomnia?

You may have heard of this term – insomnia – but what does it really mean. In plain speak, insomnia can be described as a condition where a person has problems falling asleep or staying asleep.

Sometimes the issue can be traced to situational factors, such as chronic pain or a looming school exam. Worries about money, a relationship or health can also contribute to the dynamic.

Finally, a person’s emotional state, including various forms of anxiety and depression, can also influence a person’s quality of sleep.

Regardless of why insomnia may be happening, it’s important you speak to your medical doctor about the issue. Your physician may be able to pinpoint the root cause and prescribe remedies that help you get your z’s.

Now, as a matter of full disclosure, I need to share that the idea of Ice Station Zebra is not my own. In fact, it was featured in a book I possess called Favorite Counseling and Therapy Homework Assignments by Dr. Howard Rosenthal (See Amazon).

I’m sharing with you now because for many years, clients have told me this particular “trick” helps them to fall asleep. Given the focus of Guy Counseling, I felt inspired to post a variation of this exercise here.

Think of what follows as a mindful adjunct to what your health care professional is doing. Some people consider this a form of self-hypnosis (which is kind of true).

Are you ready? Check it out.

ice frozen landscape
Frozen landscape at Ice Station Zebra

Ice Station Zebra

The very first thing I encourage people to do before visiting Ice Station Zebra is to conduct a body scan. This will allow you to step outside of your current thoughts and draw your awareness to the here and now.

Once the body scan is complete, it’s time to begin.

Lay down in your bed and close your eyes. Imagine opening an official letter from the government that reveals you are being assigned as the solo operator of a polar research station for one year.

Your mission will be to record outside weather conditions each day in a journal. Choosing to go or not isn’t optional – it is a requirement of citizenship by law.

Attached to the letter is a photograph of Ice Station Zebra. It features a large red building, surrounded by snow. This is where you will live for the next 12-months – entirely alone.

There will be no contact with the outside world during your time away. This means no access to the Internet and no ability to use a smartphone. Radio communication is impossible.

The letter is very clear: you must pack items that will keep you alive. Examples include:

  • Food provisions in sufficient quantities
  • Beverages – the ice station doesn’t have running water.
  • Books, magazines, music, etc.
  • Clothing that is appropriate for extreme, sub-zero temperatures.
  • Medical supplies.
  • Toiletries and bathroom supplies
  • Blankets and sheets
  • Boxes that will hold your belongings

The last part of the letter informs you of two important things.

One: expect a semi-truck to pull up to your home a week from today. Its purpose is to transport your belongings to the airport, where everything will be shipped via air cargo to the ice station.

Two: Your plane fare has already been attended to. Simply show up at the Polar Air ticket counter with your ID.

Starting right now, you have 7-days to gather everything you’ll need. Do you have enough supplies? Will you need to visit the store? Are you stocked up on medicine? How about canned goods, bottled water, etc.? Do you have the right type of clothing or will a trip to a department store be necessary?

Remember – you are packing for an entire year. 

Here’s what you need to know. None of my clients have ever been able to fully prepare for their trip to Ice Station Zebra. And to keep it real – neither have I. That’s the whole point of this exercise.  The idea is to distract you from your worries while giving your mind something interesting to focus on.

Perhaps the best part about Ice Station Zebra is that you can pick up where you last left off.  Pretty cool, don’t you think? No medications required.


About John D. Moore 391 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a licensed counselor and Editor-in-Chief of Guy Counseling. A journalist and blogger, he writes about a variety of topics related to wellness. His interests include technology, outdoor activities, science, and men's health. Check out his show --> The Men's Self Help Podcast