If you are suffering from insomnia, it probably falls into one of the following categories:
1) “I find it difficult falling asleep when I go to bed.”
2) “I fall asleep easily but wake up in the middle of the night (often at the same time) and have difficulty getting back to sleep.”
3) “I sleep ok, but wake up too early, feeling un-refreshed, and can’t get back to sleep.”
Whichever one of these applies to you, the results are much the same and can include: lack of energy, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety, feeling stressed, weight-gain or loss, decreased libido, irritability, moodiness, impatience, increased susceptibility to illnesses such as common cold etc.
You are not alone
Most of us experience periods when we don’t sleep as much as we’d like. You might be going through a stressful time, like a divorce, job-loss, bereavement. Or you might have had some extra excitement, like falling in love, getting a promotion, going on holiday to a different time zone.
Short periods of sleep-difficulty are not a huge problem. It’s only if those transitory phases extend into something ongoing, forming a recurring pattern of behaviour, that we might wish to do some about it.
A recent survey suggests that approximately 70% of all women in the UK suffer from lack of sleep. For men that figure drops below 40% (which may indicate that men are less stressed, or that they are less willing to admit it).
Either way, the figures are significant.
Help is at Hand.
The good news is that you can do something about it.
To begin your journey towards enjoying restful sleep, treat your insomnia like any other habit. This means replacing your current routine with something new.
Here are a few simple do’s and don’ts that apply to the majority of my clients.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Getting a Good Night’s Rest.
Food and Drink:
✔ DO eat a light meal for supper.
As a rule of thumb, it’s beneficial to follow the old saying: “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper.” Digesting food takes energy and the body is more relaxed when it does not have to expend energy before bedtime.
Preferably eat nothing after 8p.m. The side-effect of this is that, should you be looking to lose weight, eating early rather than late is proven to help!
✔ DON’T drink caffeine-based drinks such as coffee, tea, or fizzy drinks during the last hour before bedtime.
Having a late-night cuppa is not relaxing. All caffeine-based drinks are stimulants. Drinking late at night may also cause you to wake up needing to go to the loo, which won’t help you to get a good night’s rest.
✔ DON’T drink alcohol before bedtime.
Again, sorry to say, a late night tipple does not help the body to relax. If drinking alcohol becomes a regular evening routine you may also develop a dependency, with the many potentially harmful side-effects that brings with it.
✔ DO have a warm drink just before you go to bed.
If you like to have a warm drink before bedtime, choose something soothing like milk with honey, chamomile tea etc. If, like me, you are lactose-intolerant, use one of the alternatives to milk that are now widely available.
Good habits to get into:
✔ DO get into a regular routine.
Where possible, set a definite time to start getting ready for bed. Your brain likes routines. If you can do this during the weekdays, you’ll be on the way to training yourself into a good new habit.
✔ DO write down everything that you are worrying about.
Anxiety about tomorrow’s to-do list is perhaps the most common “cause” of insomnia that I come across. To help you relax, buy a notebook and get into the habit of writing down each and every thing that you have to do tomorrow each night, no matter how small or insignificant they might seem.
Do this right before you brush your teeth. Once you are finished, read through the list and confirm to yourself that you have covered everything. Then go to bed.
Do this each night, transferring any tasks that you did not complete today and making a new list for tomorrow.
Keep this book out of the bedroom. If you do wake in the night and think of something you missed off the list, get out of bed, go to the notebook (which you leave in a specific place each night) and write down the missing task. Tell yourself that you have completed the list. Then go to bed!
✔ DO take a relaxing bath, perhaps with an essential oil like lavender or frankincense in a burner, or candle.
Lavender is known to relax the brain, but it is not for everyone. Many clients I have worked with have an aversion to the scent. Find one that you like, bearing in mind that some scents are more relaxing than others.
✔ DO ask your partner to give you a massage (and reciprocate if he or she would like it!).
Almost all of us enjoy the tactile experience of a good massage. It’s great for our muscles and builds intimacy too. My preference is to use natural oils (like coconut, grapeseed or almond) rather than those with chemicals in, but each of us has our own likes and dislikes so try some testers in your local health store and find one you both like.
✔ DO take regular exercise during the day
It sounds obvious, but there’s nothing like physical exertion to help your body feel the need for restoring sleep. This doesn’t mean taking out membership of your local gym, although in many cases this is a good idea! You can start slowly and build up over time.
Try walking for 20 minutes during your lunch-break, or consider enrolling with a beginners group in your local leisure-centre, for yoga, pilates or whatever suits you best.
Note: always discuss how much exercise is appropriate for you with your qualified medical practitioner beforehand.
✔ DO listen to soothing music, water your plants, or chat to your partner about your day in the hour before bedtime.
✔ DO stop doing anything that is not sleep-related from the bedroom.
This may sound like an extreme suggestion, but if you are serious about solving your insomnia, the best thing is to stop doing anything in bed that is not sleep-oriented.
This includes: watching TV, working on your laptop, taking part in social media conversations, eating, drinking, smoking and yes, even making love (sorry folks!).
Don’t worry, this is just a short-term measure, designed to help you break the patterns of behaviour that have become a part of your insomnia-habit. Once you are back to getting a good night’s rest, you can re-introduce some or all of them.
✔ DO consider giving yourself a full parasite-cleanse once every six month.
You won’t find this mentioned on many sites that talk about insomnia, but managing the number of parasites in your gut is an important part of your new “get a good night’s rest” regime.
We all have parasites and bacteria in our digestive tracts. Many of these are beneficial/essential to our health. Sometimes, however, we pick up harmful parasites. These are often more active (and therefore uncomfortable) during the full moon. Keep the balance right by administering regular parasite-cleanses for yourself and your family.
Again, ask your qualified medical practitioner for advice on taking any kind of pharmaceutical or medicine.
✔ DO read, paint, play an instrument or take up a hobby that diverts and relaxes your brain.
Taking up a relaxing hobby is a good thing for us all. This could be anything from a sport to music to gardening: anything in which you can fully immerse yourself and forget all your troubles for a while.
One client that I worked with bought a small aquarium in which he kept some tropical fish. Whenever he woke up in the middle of the night, he would get up, go to the tank and watch the fish swimming in the water until he found himself falling asleep!
Habits to get out of!
✔ DON’T watch television within an hour of going to bed.
One of the great myths of our age is that we relax in front of the TV. In fact, watching television (no matter what the programme is) is a stressor. As part of your new routine, try switching off the screen at least an hour before bedtime.
✔ DON’T play computer games or engage in social media within an hour of going to bed.
The same rules apply here as for TV-viewing.
✔ DON’T take your mobile phone or laptop to bed with you.
More and more people are taking their mobile devices to bed and often keep them “at the ready” on a bedside table. To increase your chances of a restful night, switch off your laptop/phone and leave them in another room!
✔ DON’T lie in bed fretting.
If you have developed a habit of waking in the middle of the night, try getting up and doing something else. The famous hypnotherapist Milton Erickson had his clients get up and clean the kitchen floor again and again until they were so tired they simply HAD to go to sleep!
You don’t have to adopt anything this extreme, but the principle of taking yourself away from the bed (which you are now reserving solely for sleep) and doing something else is a good one. Just don’t resort to switching on the TV, checking your emails or visiting your social media sites at the same time!
And finally -
✔ DO learn a proven relaxation technique.
We can all benefit from learning to switch-off the ANTS (the Army of Negative Thoughts!) that so often march into our lives.
The technique that I teach, called The Relaxation Key, is designed to help you to relax, drift off into pleasant dreams and wake refreshed.
Creating your Sanctuary.
The process is easy-to-learn and involves using your imagination to create a peaceful scene from nature in your mind. This can be a real place that you have visited, or a completely fictitious one. The important thing is that it is a natural scene filled with sights, smells, textures, tastes and sounds that all contribute to your sense of tranquillity.
I help you to create and explore this scene, using visualisation and, where appropriate, music. Once you are immersed in this comforting, secure Sanctuary you lie down (in your mind’s eye) and go to sleep, lulled by the sounds and scents around you.
You then practise doing this each night when you get into bed.
An important part of the technique is that each time you go to your Sanctuary you press your thumb and forefinger together. This creates what is called a Habian Response (the combination of a physical action with a mental one), which means that if you practice the technique enough, you will feel yourself relax whenever you press your thumb and finger together.
The rule of thumb (excuse the pun!) for the subconscious mind to “learn” a new habit is to repeat something 21 times (whereas the conscious mind requires a lot more work!). So, by doing this every night for three weeks, you are giving yourself a good chance to get the rest that you desire.
You can learn this technique in clinic, in group classes and in some cases via skype. I also produce MP3 audio-recordings for my clients to help guide you through the process in the early stages.
For more on the method, including a more detailed description of how it helps to lower your brainwave activity, see the Relaxation Classes page on this site.
Or call me for a free twenty minute chat.
I can be reached by telephone on 07922 137795 (International: + 44 7922 137795.
Or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wishing you deep, sweet dreams!