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Sleep - How to Reclaim a Blissful Night

Inner peace and relaxation
Dark Sleeping Environment

Sleep. It's something that we all could just do as children without thinking about it. Even children who are in a troubled home can sleep well if they are allowed to just sleep. And yet, as we get older, and as the world has become more technologically, advanced, something as simple and natural as seven to eight hours of shut eye has suddenly become elusive. It’s time to reclaim it.

The biggest culprit today in sleep disturbance is the terrible habits we've acquired as a society thanks to life-improving technologies, like streetlights and cell phones. Thanks to electric lights - street lights, car headlights, etc., the world is experiencing what is now called “light pollution.” Check out and search for your area to see how much artificial light affects you. Even where I live, in a rural community south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, that is renowned for its dark skies, the map still shows blues and grays, as opposed to the deep blacks shown over the oceans. Cities, of course, are shown in brighter colors, like yellow and red. These places are never without light for a second. Even in a very dark area, we might find lights on within a house – the flashing light of your computer or humidifier, that light you leave on so that you don't stumble on your way to the bathroom at midnight. Constant light effects our circadian rhythms. Our bodies can't tell when it's time to sleep or wake up.

Add to that our use of screen technologies.  We now spend much of our waking hours literally staring into a light, whether that light be your laptop, your phone, your TV or something else. Staring into a light not only messes with circadian rhythm, it has an addicting quality. In fact, staring into a lighted screen creates a mild trance state. That's why we see the younger generations sitting together in restaurants staring individually into their phones. If there are two habits you could break right now to improve your sleep, one would be banishing any screen technology within an hour or two of bedtime, and the other is making sure your bedroom is as dark as it possibly can be.

Of course, other things affect our sleep. Stress, for example.  I think everyone knows that stress can affect sleep, and it has always been the case. Even my World War I veteran grandfather would wake with terrible nightmares, according to my grandmother. Back then, society encouraged men to drink and smoke. He would drown his sorrows, and never quite succeed. Thankfully, we have treatments today for PTSD that severe. However, many people develop a habit of drinking before bed, not knowing that alcohol can contribute to sleep deprivation. It may make you sleepy for a while, but alcohol is basically sugar and that's a stimulant. It will wake you up in the middle of the night. In fact, even minor stresses can keep us awake at night, especially if we lack what's called today "proper sleep hygiene.” 

What is good sleep hygiene? There are some simple rules:  1) Eat 3 to 4 hours before retiring to bed, 2) Ban those electronic devices one to two hours before bed, 3) Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible, 4) Do something to relax the body - possibly a warm bath, or some gentle yoga, 5) do something to clear the mind – read, pray, meditate, or listen to white noise or binaural beats designed for inducing delta waves, which is the brain state we are in when we are asleep. This is especially good to do after a stressful day because our subconscious works overtime at night. Clearing the mind before bed can help clear the subconscious, too. 6) It's also a good idea to sleep at a cooler temperature than a comfortable daytime temperature – somewhere between 60- and 67-degrees Fahrenheit (~16 - 20C). 7) lastly, it's good to go to bed at the same time every day just as it is important to wake up at the same time. Very few people over the age of 26 can handle constant disruptions in their wake and sleep time.

The concept of anxiety as a mental state and how it affects thoughts and emotions.
Align Your Sleep Patterns with Nature's Cycle

Another way to clear the mind before bed is to make a list of what needs doing the next day. That will ensure your mind knows everything that needs to be taken care of will be taken care of, and it even knows when. I still do this every night, but I found it most effective when I was a young mother simply because I was in charge of more lives than my own. Making a list made it easy to see how all the activities would flow during the course of the day, and during the day, I would be a calmer, more effective parent.

The research of neuroscientist Andrew Huberman has shown that we can easily restore our circadian rhythm, improve sleep, and even boost our health by paying attention to the cycle of the sun. (Link at bottom). If you look in the direction of the sun roughly at dawn, and within an hour of waking, you will soon wake with more energy and learn to sleep at the appropriate time. He also recommends looking at the sunset, if that's possible, because doing so tells the mind the day is over and it's time to rest. Timing or activities with the cycle of the sun is very simple, but it's something we've gotten away from. It makes a lot of sense because humans have been doing that for literally millions of years, and we've only had electric lights for less than 150. Go outside at dawn, and you will discover that other creatures are following the cycle of the sun. Birds begin tweeting just before sunrise while coyotes and owls come out mostly at night. Within a few days of waking with the sun, I felt enormous energy as promised. The only difficulty with the springtime dawn also come my allergies. So, I'm doing this in moderation until the summer when I'll be able to breathe freely all the way through fall and into the winter.

Huberman’s research also shows that more sleep is not as important as consistent sleep. In other words, sleeping 5 hours one day and then 8 the next, is not as effective as sleeping a consistent 6 night after night.  And, while 8 hours was what doctors recommended many years ago, the fact is the number of hours may vary from person to person.  I do well with 6.5 to 7 hours, and I know many who do well with 6.  The key is variability.

Lastly, one of the most important factors in sleeping through the night is getting enough exercise during the day. Many of us sit for long hours. I’ve had clients with sleeping issues who could have - but didn’t - walk even as much as a mile a day.  Sleep is rest and recovery.  If we don’t move, what are we really resting from?  Our body becomes confused.

What can hypnotherapy do to improve sleep? It can change your relationship to and perception of stress. It can clear the mind.  It can alter subconscious programming. It can heal grief.  It can help you create new habits - like sleeping and rising at regular times.  However, it’s easier when the client has as many good habits as possible. So, start by improving your relationship to light and technology, then add in some exercise, and see what emerges.

Support and Comfort represents the role of a hypnotherapist in providing guidance and support.
Relaxation and Exercise for Better Sleep

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