Updated: Oct 15, 2020
When you turn the lights off to go to bed, wouldn't it be great if all the worrisome thoughts, and stressful situations running through your mind turned off too? What if I told you it's completely possible? I have had people laugh right in my face, and dismiss the idea as pure fantasy. As someone who used to suffer from insomnia, I know all too well where that mindset comes from too.
The number one complaint I get from clients with #sleep issues is that they can't seem to quiet their mind enough to actually fall asleep.
That's because when the lights are off, and you're staring at the ceiling, there are no distractions preventing you from thinking about all the worries that have accumulated over the day.
Restlessness is another big one. Tossing and turning, then the covers get all twisted. One leg is tangled in the sheet, the other is freezing cold. Fix all the blankets only to start sweating shortly after. I've come to realize that in our society people have forgotten how to relax. In fact, the upcoming generation will most likely be incapable of relaxation. After all, it's impossible to properly teach your children what you yourself don't know. Without the ability to relax, and let go, sleep issues will continue to plague our bedrooms.
From here the next issue is, not enough deep sleep. Better known as the REM state; REM only occurs after some non-REM sleep. That means you need to be asleep for awhile to achieve the REM state. If you have issues sleeping already, not getting enough REM sleep will make your waking hours even tougher, creating more stress and worries.
Nightmares/Falling/Twitching can occur when the body and/or mind is stressed. Sleepless mind, restlessness, and not enough REM, builds more worries and stress. Now you get bodily sensations that wake you up either while falling asleep, or once you are asleep. We have all heard of the sleep cycle, well this is very similar only going in the wrong direction.
If left unchecked, the cycle continues, compounds the issues, making it even harder to sleep. So what can you do? Lots!
1. Wind Down and Unplug
About an hour before you want to go to bed, turn everything off. That means all electronics. We have built anchors within our minds that these things equal being awake. Time to build new anchors, like reading, drawing, or playing cards. Avoid anything that may tie back into your life, stresses, or worries. This will provide your mind with the distractions it needs once you decide to fall asleep.
Devices such as phones, computers/laptops, TVs and tablets emit light similar to the sun. When this light hits your eyes it sends a signal to the brain that it is still daytime. So unless you are used to sleeping during the day your mind will have difficulty switching off when it believes it needs to be awake and alert.
Go to bed at the same time every night as often as possible. Routine eases stress on the body and mind. This will also start training your mind and body to get tired at a certain time. This will make falling asleep much easier and quicker over time.
Routine is a simple way to condition yourself for sleep.
As an example my personal sleep routine starts with locking the doors and turning off the lights. This activity primes my mind and body that we are ramping things down for the night. Then I set the alarm, brush my teeth and get into bed. The point is to create a routine that is about 20-30 minutes long that you repeat in almost the exact same way every night. The pattern of these activities act as a trigger to your mind and body that sleep time is approaching.
3. What's a Bed For?
Sleep. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex and keep non-sleep related things out of it! If you are to retrain your mind and body successfully, you'll need to associate your bed with the appropriate ideas. When winding down, do it elsewhere, when you are ready to fall asleep, go to bed.
If you don't fall asleep, get up and start again.
It is beyond time to stop allowing yourself to behave in a way that isn't working for you. When you lay down to sleep and you don't just start falling asleep. GET UP! By laying there in your mind, or doing whatever else and not sleeping, you are only teaching yourself that you are okay with this behavior. So if you are ok with it, why would it ever change? GET UP! Do something else and let sleep come to you. When you are ready to do it again, go to bed.
During the course of the night there are what we call "sleep windows" these are opportunities for you to fall asleep.
If you miss these windows it becomes more difficult to sleep.
You know the ones I'm talking about. This is when your eyes are getting heavy, you feel yourself going and maybe your just not ready cause you are reading, or watching a movie so you try to keep your eyes open but just can't. Then you think, maybe you should go to bed, so you do and then once in bed, you're wide awake. Yep, you just missed your sleep window.
5. Sleep Aids
Sleep masks can help people who are sensitive to light. White noise makers, or calming music may help distract your mind from thoughts. Earplugs for those who are distracted easily by noise. A word of caution in using these aids. They are called aids for a reason, they are to aid you in either falling asleep or staying asleep.
As with anything we can develop a mindset where we need these items to fall or stay asleep. Meaning, if you find yourself in a situation where you don't have them... guess what.
My personal recommendation is for a cool room and a warm bed. Little to no light and a nice fluffy pillow.
6. Log Your Progress
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to determine what kind of progress you are making. It is also a great way to gauge if a particular method works better than another.
I recommend tracking a few things;
Routine - track your start and end times. Is there a difference in how quickly you fall asleep if your routines start and end at different times or if they fluctuate in length?
Thoughts - If you are unable to sleep, get up and write out your thoughts. This is an excellent way to 1) get them out of your head and 2) give you something to do while you wait for the next window.
Writing in a journal before bed is not only an excellent end to your routine, it also allows you the opportunity to offload any stressful or worrisome thoughts instead of letting them to take over your mind while you try and sleep.
Sleep - Track what time you fell asleep (approximate is fine) and what time you woke up. Even better if you have a smart watch or Fitbit. Those devices can track and monitor your sleep patterns giving you even more information about how much deep sleep you are getting.
Aids - What aids are you using? what are your results with and without them?
Medication can sometimes be a great way to allow your mind and body to experience a sensation or state. One more way to train your mind and body on how it should feel and react. In some cases, medication may be required to reset the compounding spiral of symptoms for a fresh start at retraining your mind and body.
As with all aids, they should be used only to help facilitate the change, not as a solution.
I recommend starting with natural sleep aids such as melatonin taken 30-45 minutes before you wish to sleep. This can help in creating a larger sleep window for you to catch and may aid in undisturbed sleep.
GABA is another supplement that can work well to aid in sleep. This lesser known natural amino acid helps to block certain brain signals, producing a calming effect that can reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and fear. While GABA is a natural supplement it isn't available from many food sources except fermented ones such as kimchi, miso, and tempeh.
As with all medications and supplements, use as directed and consult your physician prior to starting.
We all enter into a state of hypnosis right before falling asleep. In fact, the dreamy, drowsy, relaxed state of hypnosis is located right on the threshold of sleep. Being able to put yourself into this relaxed state of trance can be sometimes all you need.
If this is something you would like to experience for yourself, I invite you to download a free copy of my "Deep Relaxation" recording. This recording comes with a separate induction and I have been told on many occasions that it is a wonderful aid to help with sleep. Use the code "RELAX2020" at checkout and the recording will be free for purchase.
You can use this <LINK> to get direct access.
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