Are you Sleeping...?!
Oh land of nod
Home of restorative rest
The wonderfood of healthy choices
And waking up with zest.
The super fuel of slumber
How happy it makes me feel
This replenished state of energy
Keeps me on an even keel
A battery of willpower
Golden nectar of clarity
This balancer of moods
Must become a priority
Hope you enjoyed that little meander down a poetic path! Let’s talk about sleep! It’s pretty important after all and given all the change and disruption going on in these strange times, we might benefit massively from better sleep. As with anything, energy flows where attention goes!
You will know the benefits of sleep so I won’t bang on about all that but it would make sense that if we want a better life whilst we are awake….it would stand to reason that some investment is required in the night. It’s ye olde yin and yang baby!
There are many things we can do to influence better quality sleep, I’m not a sleep expert (although I am a big fan of the stuff!) so I will be focusing on the areas I do know about which is habit, routine and anxiety management.
Let’s start from the very end! Yes, we are working backwards!
In order to get a replenishing nights rest, we have to look at how we set it up. It seems to be a standard rule of life in many regards, the old ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ concept. When you implement new systems into your business, organise an event, cook a meal, work on your goals etc, we have to look at the preparation stage to ensure the best outcome. We can’t control the whole thing of course, but that’s also a big life lesson (one which we are experiencing currently in fact and lack of control can throw up all kinds of emotions for us, particularly anxiety)!
First stage, decide how many hours sleep you want to have. Mine is between 7 and 8 hours per night, 8 is a bit of a luxury so let’s go with 7 for this example.
What time do you want to get up? I am a 5.30am early birdster
What time do you need to be asleep in order to obtain this level of sleep elixir? For me, it would be 10.30pm.
If I want to be asleep by 10.30pm, that would mean, knowing the average person takes 15 minutes (to 30 mins max) to fall asleep in the right conditions (quiet dark room, right temperature, comfortable, ready for sleep) I would need to be in bed, lights out and ripe for slipping into slumberdome at 10pm.
I can do that but my preference would be to have some reading time before bed and I also need to get ready for bed, for some people that might be having a soak in the tub or having a wash, bit of self-care time etc. Factor that in. Work out how long you spend on your pre-bedtime rituals and work it into the plan.
It might sound incredibly dull to plan your bedtime but if we want to change things, we have to be prepared to plan it out, otherwise it’s likely not to happen because we will drift back into autopilot and that is a powerful machine, that’s how humans work. We need to be applying conscious attention until the habit takes on a life-force of its own.
Think about how utterly rewarding this is going to be! Sleep is EVERYTHING! We can feel, look and be better and that means we are showing up differently for the people around us too.
Now this might sound quite straightforward, because it is! Anyone can manage this. The challenge could be that you do all of this but there is one major issue…..your mind is in overdrive! Can you sleep when this is happening …..errr No! Not a chance! Why? Because you’re not meant to. Your mind is giving your body completely opposite instructions and is carrying an energy of charge.
When we are feeling stressed, anxious or worried, our clever body responds to those instructions from the mind and is in a fear state; a vibration of survival. So how could we possibly drift off into a restorative slumber when our body thinks it needs to respond to some sort of threat or danger; it’s actually preparing for fight or flight.
What is worse, is when you feel this way, you can then start worrying about how pap you will feel if you don’t get any sleep! You might get annoyed and it all adds to these inappropriate messages (survival is essential but not helpful when we are trying to sleep because there are no lions in bed……..there might be a tiger though grrrr😊 sorry, couldn’t help myself there)!
OK, moving on! What can we do to switch from this vibration of survival to a calm state ready for rejuvenating rest? Several things! We do have the power my friends so please know, if you have been struggling with this, you can make change. It takes practice.
Firstly, we need patience. Any level of frustration or irritation will only add fuel to the fight or flight fire (enough F words already)! Be kind to yourself, give yourself soothing messages not ones that are loaded with anger and naffedoffness and predicting a negative outcome. We are literally giving ourselves direct instructions that we are going to have a rubbish nights sleep and will feel like cack tomorrow. Notice what inner dialogue is going on (curious not furious #catchphrase)!
The key component here is to activate our parasympathetic nervous system i.e. ‘rest and digest’ which calms our entire state and sends messages to the body that we are SAFE….that’s the message for anxiety, you are safe, you are not in danger. It is that place where we breathe deeply and the mind is not racing.
How do you get into this dreamy state? Well there are many ways and it takes some practice. If this has not been your current state for a while, take into consideration that you have (no blame here, we all do this stuff, we are human) trained yourself into the habit of feeling anxious etc and that it is going to take some work to shift out of those habits. The chimp brain does not like change! So even though this is for your own benefit, you may struggle, you will need to practice, your brain will want to go back to the old ways and it will question your sanity and it could even call you names! Be prepared.
You CAN do this, you are a powerful energetic being and we can change the mind energy and the body chemistry.
OK, the mind and body are intrinsically interlinked so we must work with both. The best thing you can practice for the body is your breathing. Yes I know you can all breathe BUT I can bet that most people don’t pay regular attention to your breath during the course of the day. It’s a shame because it is your life-force so let’s respect the force and make sure it is working for us not against us.
Make your breathing deep, in bed you can put your hands on your tummy (nothing perverted here just in case you thought this blog was actually getting exciting!) and make sure you are breathing from the diaphragm. Feel the warmth of your hands (lovely and soothing your digestive system) and rising and falling with the breath (much better than shallow breath that is all up in the chest and causing discomfort). Extend your out breath so it is twice as long as your inbreath, counting in your head is good. See how long you can make it (safely and sensibly of course).
The outbreath represents ‘rest and digest’ and the inbreath represents ‘fight or flight’ so by extending the outbreath you are promoting the shift into the parasympathetic state. Yes YOU almighty powerful being can CHANGE THE GAME just by focusing on your breath! Don’t let the power go to your head (we are trying to relax remember!) but do feel a nourishing sense of empowerment because you can handle anything my talented friend! You’ve got this!
It’s a bit like going into a state of meditation, same can happen with yoga and mindfulness, that’s the point of them, creating a sense of inner calm by activating the PNS. More like being in the alpha state than the beta state.
This will calm the whirring mind by you focussing on the breath. When you find your thoughts running off with you (the example I often give with this is that you can be dragged into the past, through made up scenarios, ruminating and future worries/catastrophising within a matter of seconds but you do have a choice not to do that).
Distance yourself from the thoughts, become the neutral observer and observe them rather than engaging with them. Watch them pass in and out as if you are sitting on the dock of the bay (respect to Otis) watching boats float by. When you find yourself getting washed up with them, simply return to the breath, no beating yourself up, just return to home, your place of rest (and digest)!
Connect with your true self not the endless barrage of thoughts which is just the egoic mind on overdrive. There is much more work that can be done on thought patterns etc but I will end up going off on an epic tangent if I start down that road, so let’s stay focused and keep it simple.
In order to enter a calm state of mind before bed, we need to stop the worrying and the mind energy that is strongly interfering with slumberville. A good option is a download before bed (I am not talking about a youtube video, not even one of mine lol and if you do share a bed, I am not suggesting you verbally vomit over your partner because that won’t help their sleep either)!
By a download what I mean is emptying your head of the thoughts that are plaguing you. If you are having the same persistent thoughts, get them down on paper, they do look quite different there and park them for tomorrow or write down an upgraded version of that thought (I use balancing statements and can help you with this in a session). A thought is where you last left it! Try not to get too involved in this as you don’t want to wind yourself up, it needs to make you feel better and keep you calm and it engages the emotionally intelligent and logical part of your brain when you write stuff down.
Another option is to complete a gratitude journal, this is a BRILLIANT way to raise your vibration and into a calm perspective. Whatever is going on, we have so much to be grateful and thankful for and we do get what we focus on. So, feel good and calm by truly acknowledging what is good in your world, there will be so many remarkable and wonderful things, are you paying attention to them? This is a great energy to be in.
Gratitude is the natural anti-depressant and it releases feel good hormones into the body (when we really feel the love) including oxytocin which is a cardiovascular hormone and has an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effect – improving your health at the same time #doublebonus. What is not to love about that!
Do what you can to reduce your stress levels, notice how you are responding to stress during the day and what the triggers are for you, this could be a sign of what you need to address within your emotional health in order to live differently and more in alignment (contact me for further help with that).
Other things to watch out for that can de-rail our chances of having the most luxurious bedtime would be stimulants and distractions - oooh the chimp brain LURVES these bad boys! P Diddy is in the house.
It can really show us just how addicted/dependent we can become on things especially if there is the ultimate combination of emotional dependency and repetitive action (die hard habit) – the old brain thrives on this combo! This might require further work but let’s stay on track for now.
What are these stimulants you speak of I hear you say……..?
Now, keep in mind we are all very different, from the way we think as individuals to the microbiome in our gut, we have a different make up so some of these things may not be an issue at all for you and that’s great, they may not impact your sleep at all and that’s brilliant.
BUT some of them might do and on the odd occasion we like to kid ourselves that they aren’t an issue because we are not ready to give them up or make that change. All of that is kool and the gang. Go with what is true for you at this time…it may change.
Stimulants to consider changing, removing, not engaging in just before bedtime:
· Alcohol (and drugs obvs) – potential rollercoaster for emotions, bad habits and waking in night and could be having more impact than poor quality sleep
· Caffeine – in some people it promotes anxiety and keeps them awake
· Scrolling on smartphone, social media and generally getting wrapped up in other peoples’ stuff, the news etc – mind begins whirring again as amygdala is stimulated by content & screen
· Films, TV, (love all this stuff but if you are watching psychological thrillers then thinking about the characters all night, it might be time to question how often and when you do this)!
· Sugar, carbohydrates – messes with blood sugar levels
· Overeating or eating late at night (the digestive system needs to be in rest mode for bed not trying to process food through the system). The gut takes the most energy in the body to work.
I have probably forgotten a few things so do share if there are more that you could add to this list or any extra tips you think people would benefit knowing about. Thanks for reading and good night to all you sleeping beauties. Amanda G
P.S If you have reached insomnia level and your brain is struggling with a sleep pattern, I have some tips I can share on this.