I used to be an insomniac. For about 10 years, I spent many an unhappy hour lying in bed waiting for sleep. Looking at the clock and groaning with the thought of having to work on 3-5 hours of interrupted sleep. If I did get to sleep, I’d awaken at some ungodly hour and not be able to sleep again that night.
I tried mediation, warm baths, lavender oil on my pillow, herbal remedies, home remedies from friends and most other ‘cures’.
When I learned some NLP (neurolinguitsic programming), I didn’t apply any of the techniques to my sleeping; yet my sleep patterns altered all by themselves. What was I doing to have this inadvertently change?
We know that a quality sleep is vitally important and yet we often forget that it is not only restorative, but helps us to problem-solve better, think more rationally, memorise more easily, maintain emotional and hormonal balance and prevent excessive weight gain.
I love a good cup of tea. There’s nothing that beats it. I did drink about 8 cups a day. I wasn’t thinking about sleep when I decided to cut out my beloved tea, I was thinking that loading myself up with caffeine wasn’t a great idea. Cutting out tea was hard! I used a little technique called Like to Dislike on myself to stop the cravings. I had a headache for about 2 days and then, I began to feel much better, less sluggish.
Now I drink decaffeinated tea (I spoil myself with the occasional full-bodied tea too.)
Experts agree that caffeine disrupts deep sleep, as we all know, but they suggest no caffeine after 2pm. This is because caffeine’s effects continue for many hours after your cuppa. Caffeine takes about 5-6 hours to clear from your system by 50%. Even drinking at 2pm means that by bedtime, your caffeine levels are still significant. And that’s only one cup – imagine now, that like me, by 2pm, you may have had 2-4 cups beforehand!
Besides tea, I love sweet treats. This could have also been why, even if I had drifted off to sleep, I woke up suddenly and had to battle to get back to sleep, if I could. During my NLP training, I’d done a Like to Dislike on chocolate, so I’d stopped eating it around the time my sleep improved.
After eating sugar, out body produces insulin, which drives the sugar out of the blood and into the cells. Insulin can be rather too good at its job and we have a sudden loss of sugar in the blood (this may be when you think need a sugar-fix if you’re awake). When you’re asleep, this signals an alarm system in the body, a stress point if you like, and cortisol, the stress hormone is released.
Cortisol keeps on high alert. During sleep, it wakes us up as sugar levels drop rapidly.
It’s not so much that we should avoid all carbohydrates in the evening, more that we know to avoid those containing sugar that cause the spikes. Lower glycaemic index foods such as those containing starch can help us to feel sleepy. Just like the effects of a satisfying evening meal.
A mindset shift
If you’ve seen my series ‘Your Words have Power’, https://www.traceycolenlp.com/youve-been-told-words-have-power-let-me-prove-it-to-you/
you’ll know that changing your descriptions of yourself and your situation can have extensive and far-reaching effects. Why not use this short mini-course to STOP calling yourself an insomniac? To FORGET sleeplessness and start thinking yourself into being a deep-sleeper.
Your mind re-creates whatever communications you send to it. It’s very diligent, but if you send messages saying, “I never sleep well,” or, “I’m envious of people who just drop off to sleep,” then your mind interprets this as your template for how you WANT to be. Exactly the opposite of what you do want!
Start by telling yourself that you’re a great sleeper, you can sleep as deeply as you need for a recuperative night’s rest and stop complaining about a lack of sleep or telling everyone how little sleep you’ve had.
With a new blueprint to follow, your mind WILL start to change your sleep patterns.
You’ll know that being a blue light junkie will soon put a stop to sound sleep. Phones, tablets, computer screens and televisions emit blue light. Even bright household lights emit some blue light. Whilst these wavelengths are beneficial during the day, they reduce your melatonin, a hormone that signals the time to sleep.
Try some blue light-blocking specs. I love mine! There are also blue-blocking apps. Or, like me, try going phone-free after a certain time in the evening. It’s very liberating if nothing else!! It helps my busy mind relax, be in the moment and enjoy something on television.
More bright light during the day
Getting at least 2 hours of bright light per day improves sleep no end. It also lessens the time taken to fall asleep. Although being out in the sunshine would be preferable, using bright lamps and lights indoors goes a long way to helping.
As I began to transition to fully self-employed, I was able to spend more time outdoors and I think daylight has a massive impact on me. m
Light and dark ™ ®
Getting the light/dark cycles normalised enables our natural circadian rhythm to synchronise. Having a dark bedroom with thick curtains helps too. When I did my first NLP course, this coincided with moving to a new home; with really thick bedroom curtains!
Although not strictly NLP, practising gratitude is a way of celebrating and giving the mind a pat on the back – which is part of working with your unconscious mind and part of NLP. This was my entry-level foray into gratitude.
If you’re interested in how gratitude can undoubtedly alter your life, see https://www.traceycolenlp.com/is-practising-gratitude-worth-the-effort/
Gratitude leads to a set of hormonal changes that aids relaxation and sleep. Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA is a hormonal produced by the adrenal glands and it acts antagonistically to cortisol, the stress hormone. Studies have shown that gratitude practitioners have significantly raised levels of DHEA.
I was always sceptical of gratitude attitudes, but the biochemical changes convinced me to try it for myself. I find that rather than simply paying lip service to it and listing things you are thankful for, with as much emotional input as reading a shopping list, doesn’t really work well. As you list the things, getting in touch with how you feel is the impactful step. Writing your ideas down is more powerful in your mind than saying them and writing with a paper and pen is more powerful to the mind than typing.
Other methods and hypnosis
There are many other ways of optimising your chances of falling asleep (physical activity, hydration, having routines etc., and those mentioned in this blog are the ones that, in hindsight, worked for me.
I also design bespoke hypnosis recordings and that may be something you’d like to explore. When I did my Hypnosis Instructors’ training, I stood up to deliver my hypnosis to an audience of a dozen other people in my group. One person smiled and said, “OK guys, a thousand dollars to anyone who can stay awake!” I took it as a compliment!!
If you’d be interested in a personalised sleep hypnosis recording, get in touch or fill out the questionnaire online here