Section 1: Sleeping Well For Busy Minds
This article is devoted to you because I know you have tried to restore your sleep pattern and may be wondering, “will it ever get better?” I believe there is a way back for everyone, including you.
I will share the top 8 things that contribute to a sleep problem and ways to turn things around. You will get effective structures and routines to help with sleep apnea, how to slow down a busy mind and increase your energy levels.
Article updated 24/03/2022
What is considered a sleep problem anyway? A Sleep problem is described as having great difficulty getting to sleep or waking in the night for long periods, unable to return to rest. When insomnia hinders your life and lasts for several weeks or longer, that is a sleep problem.
How much sleep do I need? Ideally, you are getting 7 ½ – 9 hours. The minimum recommended sleep for an adult is 6 hours. This ensures you get a minimum of 4 sleep cycles, which means your important mental processing and body’s repair work gets done. A sleep cycle is usually 1 ½ hours long.
We generally need less sleep as we get older. To reduce the worry around whether you are getting enough rest, consider that you may actually be sleeping longer than you think. You can also catch up sleep, by having a 20 minute nap or meditation through the day.
Here are the Top 8 foundations to sleep well
1. Feeling safe to go to sleep (lock doors & windows at night).
2. Reducing mental overwhelm and a busy mind.
3. Eating breakfast within the first hour of waking.
4. Avoiding light from screens, phones, TV’s and laptops before sleep (keeping devices out of bed).
5. Regular exercise 3-5 times per week.
6. Drinking 2-3 litres of water per day.
7. Eating real food, and avoiding; sugar, alcohol and caffeine after 2pm.
8. Having a good pre-sleep routine and strategy for when you wake in the night.
I have never met someone with a sleep problem who had 8 out of 8 ticks. Do you think you could do all 8?
Section 2: Reducing mental overwhelm
It is possible to slow down a busy mind at night. The best way I know to stop persistent thoughts, is to listen to them. All thoughts have a purpose. A thought is only persistent because it is unacknowledged. Once I truly hear what my mind is saying, thoughts slow down. Questions to ask. What is this thought trying to teach me? What have I been ignoring for too long now?
That issue that is replaying in your mind, it is in your awareness for a reason. Persistent thoughts are guiding you to take action on something that is out of balance. It could be to do with your; family, lifestyle, finances, career, relationships, health, or spirituality.
Returning to self love may mean that we stop taking on so much stress. Can we prioritise looking after the body? Can we do more of what we love? Consider if you are you saying “yes”, when you really want to say “no”. Does your current job actually serve you? Is there someone you need to have an important conversation with?
Returning to a balanced perspective means not seeing anything as too negative or positive however seeing something just as it is, without judgement. And it’s true, the things that keep you awake at night are really polarised, either perceived as too positive or negative.
If I lost $10 million or gained $10 million, that would keep me awake tonight. A balanced perspective would mean seeing an equal number of positives and negatives to any situation, which is a realistic perspective.
The reason your mind isn’t quiet in meditation
Sometimes when we meditate the mind is still active. Because you have finally ‘paused’, the subconscious brings unacknowledged thoughts to your attention. This doesn’t mean the meditation went wrong, it means you have an opportunity listen to your thoughts. This is being mindful. Any thought that is fully acknowledged and acted upon by you, will not persist.
Adding rest periods in your day helps you to check in mentally and process your experience. Top tip → Schedule rest periods in your diary as if they were an appointment. Tell clients and family you have an appointment and take the time-out.
Grounding: At different times throughout the day, you will occupy each of these 3 zones.
MENTAL – thinking, problem solving.
EMOTIONAL – experiencing emotions.
PHYSICAL – grounded, in the body.
In psychosomatic work there is a term known as ‘grounding’. It is wise to spend time out of the thinking and emotional zones, by dedicating time to your physical zone. This is good for people who look at computer screens all day. When we are ‘in the body’ and truly present, we are grounded.
+ Any form of exercise.
+ Walking with bare feet in the grass.
+ Spending time in nature, gardening.
+ Eating root vegetables (zucchini, sweet potato, carrots, onions, pumpkin).
+ Spending time with a pet can be grounding.
+ Have your fingertips on each hand touching with both feet flat on the floor, close your eyes, breathe in 15 slow breaths from your abdomen.
+ Carry a grounding crystal, such as Black Tourmaline.
+ Pick 3 of these to use regularly and add your own.
Section 3: Lifestyle and environment
Good sleep does not occur just from what you do in the hour before sleep. It begins with breakfast. Around 80% of insomniacs don’t eat breakfast. In fact, this percentage holds steady for the number of people affected by; depression, anxiety and weight problems. 80% of these people are breakfast skippers an have inconsistent food habits.
There is a belief that the more tired you are at bedtime, the better you sleep. The belief is that, if you run yourself really hard, to exhaustion, you will sleep longer and better. This is false. Being exhausted does not create good sleep patterns, being balanced and grounded does.
It’s 8-9pm and it is time to really slow things down, no more work or rushing around. Dim the lights if possible… Start to act like a cat; comfortable, lazy and selfish.
You can even use your own sounds to prepare for sleep. Make some deliberate yawning noises to trick the body to get tired… As you think about yawning and do ‘fake’ ones, you may even start to yawn for real. This comes highly recommended. Yes you can yawn now.
Things to do when you wake in the night
+ Relax your muscle groups one by one, while you are comfortable.
+ Start to focus on and relax your breathing.
+ Go to the toilet if needed.
+ Make yawning noises to yourself and other soothing sounds.
+ 5 minutes of journal writing, if you have something on your mind.
– Avoid doing any work at this time.
– Eating is generally not advised (water is okay).
– No phone, tablets, or TV use in bed.
– Avoid alcohol for sleep assistance. When alcohol metabolises later in the body, it can cause even more problems than you were trying to solve.
Don’t ‘necessarily’ make the goal, getting back to sleep, just enjoy the relaxing feeling of breathing, as if it’s a meditation, and in time you may drift back to sleep.
+ Use white noise if you live in a loud neighbourhood.
+ Make the sleep space as dark as possible.
+ An ideal sleep temperature is found between 18’C – 22’C.
+ Keep a reasonably clean house, particularly the sleep environment.
+ “Organised, Clean and Tranquil”- does this sound like your sleep space?
Section 4: Sleep apnea top recommendations
1. Two medical tests that are useful to get done include; testing your thyroid levels and checking you don’t have enlarged tonsils, which may cause blockages in your airways.
2. Alcohol relaxes the throat muscles and hampers the brain’s reaction in disordered breathing. Drinking alcohol and sleep apnea don’t mix, avoid this at all costs. It is like someone smoking cigarettes when they have asthma.
3. Exercising 3-5 times per week helps the body to increase energy, reduce stress and improves your breathing. The best exercise is where your heart rate gets up and you sweat.
4. Having a regular sleep schedule is good for sleep apnea and the more sleep you get over time, the better it can get. It starts with consistency.
5. The sleep apnea may improve with weight loss and in conjunction with other strategies at the same time. By no coincidence number 5 is to eat breakfast daily. To help with sleep problems and weight loss included, eat breakfast within the first hour of waking and have regular meals throughout the day.
“The smallest changes really can make a big difference”.
Jeremy Walker works as a Hypnotherapist and Demartini Method Facilitator in Brisbane QLD. He enjoys nothing better than seeing someone gain self-mastery in their life. Jeremy focuses on helping people with; quitting smoking, weight loss, sleep problems and psychosomatic health.