This might sound like a strange question to ask, but maybe not so strange if you're one of the 30% of the population* who suffer from acute insomnia and 10%* who endure chronic insomnia.
When I was going through trouble sleeping, I remember very well how I would start to dread bedtime, and in the few hours leading up to bed time I would start to feel anxious and have thoughts about not sleeping completely consuming my mind, which of course caused more sleeplessness and then more exhaustion and so on and so on. You'd think that the more tired we become, the more likely we are to sleep, but no, this is not always the case, in fact it's seldom the case.
The Cycle of Vigilance
When our bodies have been put through the awful experience of continued lack of sleep, our nervous system starts to produce extra stress hormones just to keep us awake during the day. Many of us lead rather sedentary lives and are not using up this mixture of extra stress hormones so, over time, the body adjusts and this new level of stress hormones becomes our new normal. Along with all these extra stress hormones and our new level of "normal" comes a heightened state of vigilance. You see, our wonderful unconscious minds, that protect us from dangers and keeps us safe, starts to perceive these stress hormones as a message that we are in danger. It then starts to be on the lookout for what these dangers are and increases our sensitivity to events making even neutral situations a trigger for the fight or flight response. This increased sensitivity in turn makes us more wakeful which leads to more exhaustion which leads to more stress hormones and so the cycle continues. So what can we do?
Breaking the cycle
Luckily, it is possible to break through this cycle of vigilance and transform our sleep patterns with some simple changes. The fear and dread of going to bed can be a thing of the past. If I can do it, so can you! It all starts with remembering how to deeply relax again. Most insomniacs have forgotten how to relax and have fun, the light hearted side of us temporarily forgotten , but with a few simple techniques you can start to develop a sense of curiosity, playfulness and in doing so, reduce our sensitivity to events and switch off the fight and flight reaction and activate the rest and digest response, helping us not only sleep better but maybe even losing extra weight too!
Activate the brain's pleasure centers
When we start to discover more pleasure in the simple things of life, we start to re-activate the somewhat dormant pleasure centers in the brain, and by doing so open ourselves up to experiencing more restful states. Remember, these are baby steps, be patient and practice consistently! Try this simple exercise to bring more pleasure into your life:
Take a thin slice of kiwi fruit or lemon and hold it up to the light. Notice the unique patterns - what do they remind you of? Notice how many different shapes you can see. Bring it up to your nose and breathe in it's aroma deeply. Is the fragrance sharp or sweet? Taste it, how does this feel on your tongue? Now run your finger over the skin, and really, I mean really, allow yourself to enjoy this sensation of feeling the skin. Bring all your attention and your senses to this slice of fruit and just enjoy it.
This is just one of the many beautiful processes I teach on my 3 session sleep program, and the combination of techniques to let go of anxiety and stress, conscious breathing and hypnosis are a powerful combination to help you sleep deeply and restoratively.
*stats taken from www.sleepadvisor.org