The Positive Habit Weekly Blog – 6th April, 2020 – 6 Steps to Soothe Sleep Anxiety
Part of our ability to survive and thrive during this crisis, or indeed at any time, is based on sleeping peacefully for at least eight hours per night. Many of my clients struggle with sleep issues at the best of times and for many this has now become intensified.
Matthew Walker, perhaps world’s leading sleep scientist, unequivocally states that eight hours of quality sleep each night is not a luxury but a necessity for ALL of us in order to operate at optimum physical and mental health. Most of this probably already know this intrinsically but if you suffer from sleep anxiety knowing this can actually intensify your fear around it. This is a bit like showing pictures of lung cancer to a smoker; it rarely incentivises change. So what does? Below and on Today FM at 10.30 am this morning, I will share six practical and psychological steps that will help you to sleep soundly.
6 Steps to Soothe Sleep Anxiety:
1. Take Regular Mindful Moments During the Day
The biggest threat to a good night’s sleep is an overactive mind with racing and fearful thoughts.
So please, don’t wait until you go to bed to process your emotional response to what is happening.
It is unfair on your poor brain to expect it to be able to just switch off because now it is time to go to sleep. Taking time during the day to pause, reflect and process what is going on for you emotionally, mentally and physically will help prepare you to fall asleep more easily and to stay asleep. A good practical tip here is to write down negative thoughts in a notebook. You will notice a pattern emerging and you can begin to question how true these thoughts actually are. You have cleansed your mind and will sleep better.. Getting to sleep and staying asleep is all about feeling safe.
2. Trust that You Can sleep
This natural biological function is something we are all capable of in the right circumstances; our circadian rhythm is connected to light so as it gets darker the pineal gland in the brain is “turned on” like a switch and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Ever notice yourself yawning when watching Netflix in the evening? This is a sign that what your whole system is preparing to sleep. Listen to these cues.
3. Change the Nocebo Effect
Nocebo is the opposite of placebo and yet it is just as effective. Telling yourself, “I just can’t sleep,” or “I am such a light sleeper,” or “I am a terrible sleeper,” actually compounds the problem. The subconscious hears these negative messages and takes them as commands. Change the dialogue; saying or thinking, “I trust my ability to sleep,” or “I am learning to be a good sleeper,” will help. Similarly, listening to a hypnotherapy audio or sleep meditation is very useful as you are literally re-wiring the neural pathways in your brain as you fall asleep.
4. Turn the Dread of Bed Time into Something you Look Forward to
Accept the anxiety and you change your relationship to it.
Many people have anxiety over going to bed. A negative habit loop is established and this is because, at the end of the day, there are no more distractions left. You are now forced to spend time in your own mind. This is why you need to practise being with the anxiety. Focus on the physicality of it rather than the thoughts themselves. Tolerate the distress and it will pass; after staying with most negative emotions for 90 seconds they begin to drift away. In order to soothe any fear (a racing heart etc) you must first accept it. Resistance to fear only adds more fear. Place your hand on where you feel the anxiety and breathe deeply into your belly for two minutes. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system also known as your rest and digest system.
5. Allow Nature’s Therapy
REM sleep is the sleep phase when we dream and this is incredibly important for our psychological well being. Dreams, both good and bad are helping you to cleanse the emotions that you cannot do on a conscious level. If you have a nightmare, don’ be frightened, be grateful. It is your subconscious protecting you.
6. Think of Sleep as Rest
Rather than telling yourself you have to go to sleep try thinking of it as rest. When you adopt this approach it releases the pressure. From a practical perspective, the conditions for a good night sleep include a simple unwind routine which tells your mind and body that that sleep is coming. In the same way that we put a young child to bed, we too need signals.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day regardless of the day of the week. Your body loves this rhythm.
- Make sure the temperature of the room is 16-18°C (60-65°F). Your body temperature decreases with sleep and if the room temperature is too high it will impede sleep.
- Block out light – this tells the brain that sleep is imminent. Blackout blinds are great or use an eye mask as the mornings get brighter earlier.
- Aromas – consider getting a lavender eye pillow and use it to create an oasis of calm.
- Don’t do any other activity in the bedroom at night but sleep, rest, read and make love.
- Drink a cup of herbal tea and read a book (fiction, memoir but not too taxing on your mind) for 20 minutes before switching off the light.
You can soothe your sleep anxiety. Trust me. Trust yourself.
We are thrilled with the avalanche of registrations and donations for my five-star Hypnotherapy Programme which has helped people all over the world to feel calm.
Please spread the word far and wide to friends and family.
To help everyone ride the Coronavirus storm, we are now offering it for FREE* with the option to donate. The price is normally €149.95 so this is an incredible opportunity.
The Programme is designed to help you develop unshakeable strength in both the good and the hard times. Learn to create a quiet mind that allows deep, peaceful sleep at night and emotional resilience during the day.
For more information and to register please click here.
*Access to the programme will remain free for the duration of the current public health crisis.
Sending love and much light,
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