How to get a good night’s sleep
by Jacquie Wise
The expectation that we remain connected 24/7 to phones and other technology makes it hard to switch off, not only technology, but also our preoccupied brains. For some of us, increased travel or shift-work has also disrupted our sleep patterns. The result: sleepless nights. The Question: how can we improve our chances of a good night’s sleep that recharges our bodies and brains? Which strategy is right for you? Try using your natural thinking and learning preferences to fall asleep more easily.
Research shows that even short-term lack of sleep makes us uncoordinated, unfocused and leads to weight gain, irritableness and unhappiness. Imagine the effects of long-term sleep deficiency. Not to mention exhaustion and the feeling of having a hangover without a party. It’s called ‘lifestyle insomnia’.
The fear of not sleeping is one of the things that sabotages our chances of getting any. If you can’t sleep, you become anxious, stressed, frustrated—all this angst raises your adrenalin and cortisol, making you hyper-aroused and creating a vicious circle.
Your own sleep habits contribute to the problem. Here are some ideas that might help you identify what needs to change:
- Are you physically active right up until the time you go to bed? Allow at least 30 minutes of winding-down time.
- Do you close the day with a ‘brain dump’? Even before you leave work, you might need to write ‘To Do’ lists, sort papers for the following day…basically get things out of your head onto paper so that your mind doesn’t hang on to it.
- Do you have electronic devices that emit blue light? This acts like a mini sun that inhibits sleep-inducing melatonin from being released. They say that even reading e-books instead of paper books can suppress your melatonin levels. If it’s not practical to remove these devices from your bedroom, then put something in front of them to block the light. Change your alarm clock to a basic one that only lights up when you press a button.
- Are you planning or solving problems sitting up in bed? Change to reading something light-hearted. Do your problem-solving and planning at another time.
- Do you get out of bed when you can’t sleep? The trouble with doing that is that sleep occurs in cycles: from a deep REM phase, to a brief moment of semi-conscious sleep, to periods of waking up and around again. If you get up, you’re likely to miss the next sleep wave and completely disrupt your cycle.
- It’s better to lie there, release tensions in your body and practise mindfulness: just watch your thoughts go by without engaging with them. Challenging or trying to get rid of your thoughts only creates more dialogue and tension. With mindfulness, you simply observe them passively.
Do you need an attitude change?
I’ve always envied those people who can fall asleep the moment their head hits the pillow. I’ve learnt to let go of the fear of not being able to sleep and I’ve found the strategies that work best for me.
Use your preferred thinking and learning style to help you sleep
We know that there are three main sensory receivers: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic (movement) which helps us determine our dominant learning style.
If you’re a visual type, visualise all your negative thoughts floating past—perhaps like autumn leaves floating away on a stream, or like the credits rolling on the screen at the end of a movie…there goes another one….and another…
If you prefer, visualise thoughts appearing on a whiteboard, so that you can rub them away.
If you’re an auditory type who responds best to audio cues, try repeating a mantra. This can be just one word, a sound, or a short phrase that you repeat over and over again. It’s important not to focus on the words you’re saying, just the sound or shape they make when they’re strung together. Say it over and over 15 times or so. It makes you relax and helps you slip into a different state of consciousness.
If you’re the kinaesthetic type, something you can feel will help you best. For example, focus on your breath and observe your lungs gently expanding and contracting. As you focus your thoughts on your breathing, there’ll be no room in your mind for chatter.
Imagine how you would feel if you could get a good night’s sleep every night. Interested? If so, contact me directly to arrange a convenient appointment time.
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