Let’s be clear from the start. Read these sleep pearls of wisdom and ignore 90% of sleep related articles in the media from now on. Why? Because they have the tendency to freak you out and the following formula applies. Freaked out = No sleep. Yes, we all understand how important sleep is. But we are becoming sleep obsessed and the following formula applies. Sleep obsessed = No sleep. Research is regurgitated linking serious disease with sleep deprivation, that brings on a new category of sleep anxiety and the following formula applies. Sleep anxiety = No sleep.
All I want you to focus on is how you feel in the moment, which we can manipulate as I will explain. I want you to change your thinking around sleep and more importantly your relationship with sleep. Implement some simple strategies that alter your perspective and your experience will change.
Sleep is ultimately surrender and letting go. If you are hanging onto a belief or idea around sleep you will struggle to release. If you are worrying about today or tomorrow, you will struggle to surrender. If you get caught in the anxiety of not getting enough sleep you will struggle to let go. The very first steps to improving your sleep involve releasing the pressure.
Change sleep to rest.
A worry or preoccupation with sleep is common when you struggle to get the official allotted amount. A better way to approach sleep is to reframe your thinking around it. Instead of focusing on sleep, focus on getting rest. Even if you are awake remind yourself that you are resting which is equally important. Stay warm and inactive. Keep your feet up and be thankful for the space and safety to rest. This reduces the pressure to sleep and keeps you calm and relaxed. In a restful space you are more likely to let go and remain in the rest and digest state, essential to nodding off.
See not sleeping as an opportunity.
When I had periods of insomnia all I could focus on was not sleeping. This would put me in a ridiculous cycle of worrying about not sleeping, which kept me awake. I had a big breakthrough when I perceived a wakeful night as an opportunity. There are two things I really enjoy but never have time for. Learning and meditation. When I couldn’t sleep I started a book on metaphysics and practiced loving kindness meditation. I found that I never got far before dropping off. The pressure was taken off me. I wasn’t failing at sleeping I was expanding my mind, body and soul. This made me naturally relax. Try not to choose an opportunity that is too physical as it can have the opposite effect. Reading, drawing, writing the novel, gentle yoga or meditation are perfect.
Set the scene for tomorrow.
It’s really important not to project how you will feel tomorrow. If you are awake early hours, it’s easy to tell yourself how tired you will feel in the morning. If you keep thinking you will feel lousy guess how you will feel? In truth I have had 8 hours’ straight sleep and felt tired all day and slept for four hours and felt great. When you are lying in bed be conscious of what you are telling yourself. Switch to an intention that you will have the best day despite the lack of sleep. Focus on feeling fresh and alert. Define your day in the positive and see how it makes a difference.
Create a calming environment
When you wake in the night or slowly reach the small hours without dropping off the world can seem a hostile place. It’s dark, quiet, lonely and quite often cold as the heating has long switched off. Instead of instilling calm these dark hours alone can make us feel vulnerable and anxious. The key is to prepare an environment that comforts you. Even if you don’t drift off straight away a cosy place will keep you relaxed and calm. Think womb like. Warm, softly lit and nurturing rather than cold, dark and isolating.
- Put a soft light on the bedside table. Salt lamps are great for a warm, comforting glow. Choose something low lit and choose a warm colour such as orange or amber.
- If you want to get up, make yourself a chamomile tea and snuggle back under a cosy blanket.
- Place some lavender essential oil onto a tissue or inhale an oil blend from your skin.
- Listen to some gentle meditative music.
- Keep the space next to your bed for some items that promote a happy memory or positive mood.
When we staring at the ceiling at 3am it can inevitably bring on feelings of anxiety. Without realizing it we have a clenched jaw and tight stomach. Lying like a tensed up ball of frustration with shallow breathing from the chest that does not signal your body to sleep. The breath is an excellent way of relaxing body and mind. It acts as a bridge between the two, bringing you back to a state of calm conducive to sleep. The easiest breathing exercise for night time is deep breathing. Lay on your back with a hand on your belly and breath slowly extending your stomach in with your exhale and out with your inhale. Try not to force the breath too much but take your focus to the stomach and see this as the place in which your breath is starting and ending. Begin to notice the areas of tension in your body as you get into a regular belly breath pattern. With each exhale let that tense muscle group release until your whole body is sinking into the mattress.
Visualisation is a powerful tool in many ways. It can calm you down, rev you up and help you relax and surrender into sleep. If you think about it, using your imagination can have a physiological effect on your body. Try imagining the scent and flavor of your favourite food. See yourself savouring a mouthful and notice how your body responds through salivation. Your mental picture brings about a mouthwatering response as if the tasty morsels were right in front of you. When it comes to sleep we can use visualization alongside breathing technique to bring about the rest and digest state needed to drift off and distract the mind from worrying thoughts.
Try these two techniques:
The ball of fire – When lying awake if you feel anxious lie on your back and imagine a warm ball of amber fire at the top of your head. Feel the warmth emanating from this pulsating ball of healing heat. Take your attention to this ball and remain there. See the ball gradually moving into the top of your head and feel it’s warm, soothing energy as it passes downwards. Relax the muscles at the brow, eyes, nose, mouth and jaw. See the ball of fire turning those muscles into liquid lava that takes you to a deeply relaxing state. Continue with the visualization, seeing the ball travel into your throat, chest, each arm, stomach, back, legs and feet. Remember to imagine that healing heat at every part of your body and feel it relax and transform tense muscle into warm flow.
The blackboard - This is a great visualization technique for occupying the mind with something mundane and repetitive, driving excessive worry or rumination out of your mind. Imagine a large blackboard and you have picked up a piece of white chalk. Look at the large board in front of you and write the number 100 (big). Then take a board rubber in your hand and slowly rub away the number, leaving no trace of white chalk. Pick up your chalk and write the number 99 on the board. Again pick up the rubber and slowly wipe away the number. Continue visualizing the number writing exercise on the black board working your way back to zero. If you reach zero start again at 100. You will find that if you practice regularly you will drop off at a higher and higher number.