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I've always thought of myself as a light sleeper, often lying awake, unable to drift off because of over-active thoughts, then thinking about not being able to sleep creeps in and the cycle insomnia begins. Since the talk in January, I've been putting Dr Barbara's methods to the test, and I have to say, they have changed my relationship with catching Zs.
The primary take out from the talk was that we shouldn't need to worry about how to go to sleep, it’s a natural function. What we should be doing is constructing our lives to support our wellbeing. Committing to good habits, as I've been trying to this year, does have a positive effect on our sleep cycle.
While in bed, three main things prevent people from having a good night’s sleep, the three Ps: pee, pain & people. You can go for a wee. You should treat pain and people - that depends on your situation. The three Ps are somewhat out of our control, but we can avoid the common barriers below:
Alcohol - be careful about alcohol intake, its fermented sugar, so drinking too much can interfere with sleep patterns as blood sugar levels peak and trough through the night.
Caffeine - no brainer. We of all people know that caffeine keeps you awake, so if you are after a great nights sleep, having caffeine too close to bedtime is not a great idea. It’s also not advisable for anyone who has stress or anxiety to consume caffeine as it is a stimulant. By the way, for those out there who like caffeine - we make fantastic Energy Gum.
Working out too close to bedtime - working out increases alpha brainwaves and makes us more alert, so if you work out late in the evening, this can have an adverse effect on sleep.
Digital activity - Nobody will die if you don’t reply to your email at 11 pm at night. Social media especially can be damaging as your brain processes so much information as you scroll. Unplugging yourself from your digital universe will mean that your brain has a chance to calm down before you go to bed.
Big meals too late - falling into a slumber post-carb binge might be one of the best feelings in the world, but trying to get a good night’s sleep while digesting a big meal is never good.
These are things you can do before you go to bed and when you are in bed to promote having a good night’s sleep:
Rituals - Some people like a chamomile tea, others to relax with a hot bath, if this makes you feel relaxed then it’s not a bad idea.
Reading/meditation - If you usually lay in bed scrolling through Instagram then try reading instead, not on your iPad or Kindle though! Picking up a real book and reading requires a bit of effort, and it helps to clear your mind to help you nod off. Meditation also helps clear your mind. There are many ways to meditate, and you should look into what works best for you. If you are sitting reading this at a desk now, you can try watching/listening to this video of DR.B taking us through a short meditation - excuse the sound of the air conditioner in the background:
What went well - Because we live in the western world we focus on all the wrong things at the end of the day, all the mistakes we’ve made, all the things that aren’t going well, things that people said to us that pissed us off. Stop focusing on all the things that are going wrong in your life - buy a small book or journal and spend some time every night, before bed, to write down what went well.
As Yoda says, "What you focus on is your reality”, if you focus on all the stuff that’s going wrong then that is what you think the reality of your life is. The WWW journal is simply a way of re-directing your attention, intentionally to the things that worked.
Each day, write down three things that went well during the day. What you will be doing is shifting your emotional world into a place of greater contentment, and letting go of all the rubbish stuff that you usually take to bed with you, cultivating peace of mind and preparing yourself for a peaceful night.
Write s**t down - If there is something that is bothering you then write it down. You process stuff out by physically writing it down in pen and paper, not on a device. You evaluate the issue as you write it out, and it will get the negative energy out of your head.
Disconnect from digital - At around 9/9.30pm commit not to look at any screens and give your brain a break.
A filing system in your head - One of the most annoying things for me is waking up in the night and then not being able to get back to sleep because of all the thoughts running round in my head. Not being able to stop thinking about that one ridiculous thing that I know there is nothing I can do about, or preparing myself for something in the morning and I can’t stop thinking about it!
One method of dealing with this is by creating an imaginary filing system for your thoughts. Imagine creating folders, a virtual filing system in your mind, work, family, a to-do list, thoughts on things that have happened in the day, thinking about your next holiday.
Then when a thought is bothering you, with your mind’s eye, visualise putting that thought away - into its file. When it pops back to the front of mind again, imagine putting it back into its virtual file again. Eventually, one of two things will happen, either your mind will wander off to something else, or you will fall asleep.
What you are learning to do is cultivate peace of mind. Altering the relationship you have between yourself and your thoughts.
Next time you find yourself lying awake thinking about stuff, think about one thing that you are willing to stop our start to take better care of your wellbeing, which will mean you can sleep more and worry less. I’d be lying if I told you I’ve been practising all of the above, but the small changes I have made have meant so far this year I've been sleeping a lot better.
Click here to find out more about Dr. Barbara Mariposa.
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