Getting a Better Nights Sleep - The 3 Week Challenge: Principle Two

Welcome to Week Two of the Sleep Challenge. I say challenge, it's more of an experiment. Sleep issues are one of the most common direct or indirect symptoms my client refers to. For some, the problem is getting to sleep while for others it's staying asleep. There are some people who unfortunately suffer from both and feel exhausted most of the time. 

When I worked with clients on the three principles I outline in this challenge, they reported improvements in how easily they went to sleep and the quality of their sleep. 

I have laid out the principles here for people to work through and let me know how they get on. The only difference for my clients is they also had three hypnosis sessions as part of the programme. If you want the same experience, let me know!

So... on to the second principle.

The 3 Better Sleep Principles

In the first week, we discussed expectations and how they are formed not only by direct experience (what happens) but by our thoughts. We looked at the ways we suggest instructions to our unconscious mind and how important it was that these instructions were truly positive. 

Perhaps most useful, we also discussed the way good intentions can in fact have the reverse effect. Our example was the many sleep aids and common beliefs about sleep. The challenge was to catch and challenge those negative thoughts as well as leave the sleep aids (other than those for sleep apnoea) to one side. 

Once we have begun to consistently apply that principle most of the time, we can consider something else that needs to be addressed to get a good night's sleep: Underlying Stress and Anxiety.

Stress and Anxiety

Task: Apply relaxation techniques to manage stress and anxiety that may be an obstacle to good sleep.

The link between stress and poor sleep is hardly surprising. The body's way of dealing with stress is called The Fight or Flight Response.

When our brain perceives that there is a threat in our environment, our nervous system is organised to release hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare us to either deal with the stress head-on (fight) or facilitate us getting away from it (flight).

Physical changes occur as a result of the fight or flight response. The heart rate increases and the bronchial tubes dilate to allow more oxygen into the blood. The pupils dilate to let more light in through our eyes; all the better for seeing the threat. The liver releases glycogen so that we have more energy. All non-emergency biological functions are reduced and energy and focus are directed at dealing with the stress.

The longer the individual is experiencing stress, the longer these functions are happening, and chronic stress has negative implications for our long-term health. The stress hormones have an arousing effect on the body, preparing us for action not sleep. So…

The more stress we are experiencing the more the body continues to produce stress hormones and our body is kept alert rather than relaxed for sleep.

It may be useful to think of stress as external. The pressures in our lives add to our mental load. Work, relationships, financial concerns, and health worries, for example, are identifiable external stresses even if we might struggle to manage them.

“That stresses me out…but I can’t do anything about it”

Think of anxiety as internal stress. Stress that originates in your mind, unconscious stress. Anxiety means you feel on edge, fearful or depressed. It shows itself in symptoms like phobias and panic attacks. It can have a negative effect on physical conditions.

Even when life seems to be treating you kindly and those things that would usually stress you out have reduced, you still feel anxious. Anxiety means your body is constantly in a state of alert. The stress response is being activated continually and adrenaline and cortisol are also having an arousing effect on the body.

How many times have you felt like you ‘couldn’t switch off’ from what was going on? 

What action should I take?

Accumulate your ability to relax with ease. This will help to mediate the effects of stress and underlying anxiety. The idea is to manage the stress and anxiety that have become an obstacle when you sleep.

In Principle One I recommended avoiding methods that you use to sleep, but you may be aware that I didn’t mention the various apps and calm techniques or meditation. In terms of this challenge, if they help you relax (regardless of sleep) then that’s great.

Guided relaxation, whether it be through self-hypnosis, meditation to mindfulness will help you to accumulate your ability (and belief) to relax.

Key Point: In terms of this challenge I suggest you avoid using them specifically at bedtime. See them as a relaxation training exercise, not as an aid to sleep. Grab a little time to use them away from bedtime and trust in the fact you are developing the ability to relax and naturally enjoy a deep, sound sleep.

Why is this a key point? We continue to imitate the behaviour and beliefs of the person who sleeps well. They do not use such relaxation aids directly in relation to their sleep. They may use them for relaxation and self-development, but not because of a sleep problem, so we do the same.

The face-to-face programme includes a personally tailored Hypnosis session which also includes post-hypnotic suggestions to increase your ability to relax.

What if I don’t usually use guided relaxation? Could you give it a try? Alternatively, you could simply consider what kind of activity helps you relax and build that into your day as frequently as your schedule allows.

One client would plan to go for a walk during the day. The time away from her desk allowed her to stop and relax. She was careful to make sure that it didn’t become stressful trying to fit it into a busy day, but as saw the benefit, she soon was marking it in her diary with the same importance as a business meeting.

Remember the key is to acquire the ability to relax. Learn to relax in a way that works for you. It could be reading, catching up with the TV programme or even chatting with a friend. Relaxing isn’t about sleeping, it’s a way to manage the stress and anxieties that keep your body and mind occupied when you go to bed.

Anxiety and Hypnoanalysis

When anxieties are a particular problem and affect more than just your ability to sleep, you could consider Analytical Hypnotherapy (Hypnoanalysis). Working to resolve the underlying stubborn anxieties often results in improved sleep.  Contact me direct to find out more.

That's your next principle! Don't forget to keep doing what I set out last week and add this week's tasks to it. By the end of this week, you are aiming to experiment with some kind of relaxation to help manage stress and anxiety, as well as continue to remind yourself of the expectation that you are going to sleep well.

There is just one more principle to consider. Need extra help or advice or just want to let me know how you are getting on? Drop me a message!


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