We’re so tired and wired. I see lots of people who can’t relax day or night.
Going to sleep at night is a natural part of being in an animal body but we’re becoming so disconnected from our inner rhythms that many of us are turning sleep into a task, the next thing to do, something to get right or even something to dread.
How to sleep naturally again.
Everyone knows this but it’s worth repeating because the addiction is strong.
Don’t use electronic devices in bed or immediately before bed. It’s not just the blue light, it’s the flicking of the eyes and engaging of the brain and emotions instead of disengaging from the world and unwinding. If you use them you’ll often be awake for quite a while. Some people can get away with it but many can’t.
Unless there’s a really good reason for being up late we “should” have our eyes closed before 11pm otherwise we can get a “second wind” and be stuck awake. Chinese Medicine understands these natural inner cycles that switch at 11pm.
Pre-bed check – As you’re preparing for bed begin to look forward to resting mind and body and mentally check if there’s anything bugging you that is going to crank up as soon as you lie down. If so, spend some time processing what happened or planning the next day before you close your eyes.
Make a decision – When I close my eyes I’m done, I’m not going there, my sleep is first. So that when you do close your eyes it’s a signal that you’re ready to sleep. Putting an eye mask on makes this more palpable. It’s like saying, OK, I’m done with the day. Draw a line. You can’t make it your job to go to sleep but it is your job to deliberately decide to stop engaging your thoughts with the past and future.
Just be a body – Having decided it’s time to power down switch your platform of attention from being a bunch of thoughts and emotions in a head to being a whole body lying in a bed.
Make sure your feet are warm (unless it’s a hot night or you have hot feet) and the upper half of your body is not too warm.
Tighten your whole body including clenching your teeth and squeezing eyes shut then let go all at once.
Stretch arms up and feet right down and yawn on purpose. Open your mouth as wide as you can and make yawning noises.
Stretch the back of your chest by moving your shoulders forward then stretch the front of your chest by pulling the shoulders right back.
Yawn some more until you feel that satisfied “got it” feeling when your eyes water. Keep faking it till you make it.
Stretch all fingers and toes and yawn again.
Snuggle into the bed feeling your whole body lying there, the weight of it on the mattress, the sheets, the covers touching you. Put all of your attention into just feeling. Let that be pleasant, not a task.
Let your mouth go loose like a sleeping baby’s.
Your mind should be fairly quiet at this stage.
Put all of your attention in your feet. Just feel them. Wriggle your toes a little if it helps you focus. Feel feel feel…
If the mind chatter starts up again – just say “I’m not going there” (out loud if alone) and drop back to your feeling your feet.
Keep doing that every time the mind winds up. That’s your “job”. Your job isn’t to go to sleep. It’s to keep switching your focus to feeling your feet.
If your mind is really jumpy, cranking endless thoughts, hum into your brain for a minute. This will quieten it significantly. Go back to just feeling your feet.
If your mind is going berserk say BLAH BLAH BLAH… silently, as fast as you can and see BLAH in white letters flashing on and off in the middle of your head (in synch) until you can’t keep going. At that point you’ll spontaneously take a deep breath and it will be quiet for a while. Go back to feeling your feet.
If you keep shifting your attention from thinking to feeling it’s easy for the natural wave of sleep to take over.
If there’s a particular event, thought, fear, fight that sticks in your mind and recyles day after day, night after night then you need to do some work to resolve it. There’s a process called TAT (www.tatlife.com) that can resolve it quickly and gently.
A good hypnotherapist is worth their weight in gold for the insomniac. If you are someone who often gets stuck in mental agitation then being taken into trance will be enormously helpful. It takes you down under the superfical layer of the thinking mind into the natural deep peace and stillness underneath. It feels as though the agitation finally has a place to land and it can relax.
Often after a hypnosis session people will say they have had their best sleep in years.
Wishing you deep nourishing sleep.