16 Apr Sweet Dreams
Tale of the Day:
Lack of sleep negatively impacts all areas of life. Countless studies show lack of sleep correlated with huge losses in productivity, happiness, safety, and long-term health and longevity. “Sandy” came to me recently complaining of severe lack of sleep. It could take her three to four hours to get to sleep at night. When she finally did get to sleep, she wouldn’t get much rest before she had to be up again for the next day. She had been having trouble for such a long time that she described it as “I don’t know anything else,” and “I’m totally used to it.” When I asked her to rate her quality of sleep on a scale of one to ten, one being the worst possible sleep, she rated it at a two.
I found out more details about Sandy’s experience and gave her several tools that would be useful to her (see below in the “Tools” section). Then I guided Sandy through a simple yet highly impactful process (the Wholeness Process) recently developed by my mother Connirae Andreas. It results in a deep relaxation of the nervous system, and has helped many people with even life-long sleep issues. Sandy visibly relaxed in the chair in front of me as I guided her through the steps. Her breathing slowed; her muscle tone softened. After just enjoying it a while, she told me that this relaxed state was twice as restful as the best sleep she’d gotten in years.
A week later at our next session she rated her sleep over the last seven days at a six (up from a two). Her experience of sleep was already three times better after a single meeting. She said that each night she was going to sleep increasingly quickly, and that the last night it had only taken 20 minutes to fall asleep. This was despite her decision to stop taking Valerian and other herbal supplements for relaxation that she had been using previously. Now she was using the tools I gave her instead.
Tools of the Day:
Strategies for getting rest (not sleep).
Before we did the Wholeness Process, I offered Sandy several practical tips for better sleep. I suggest you start with these tools (shared below), which Sandy found very helpful in assisting her with getting improved rest over the next week. See how far they take you (or someone you are helping).
1. Out of your head and onto paper: write down the thoughts that would keep you awake.
When I asked Sandy a bit more about her experience of difficulty sleeping she told me: “It’s like I can’t get my brain to shut off. I just keep thinking of things to do, and other stuff.” This is very common among people who have trouble sleeping, and there is a very simple solution that usually works. Write it all down! The first task I gave Sandy was to make a “to do” list each night before getting into bed. This way she could let herself go to sleep feeling confident that everything that was important for her to remember to do the next day (or anything else she wanted to remember) was all written down on a list on her bedside table. I also told her that if she had anything else “pop up” while she was resting, to just get up and write that down on the list before going back to bed. When you do this, you don’t need to remember what to do. Your list will “remember” for you.
2. Change the goal: it’s not about sleep, it’s about rest.
When Sandy told me she wanted better sleep, I told her, “Often people feel they need to get sleep. They feel this pressure to sleep, because they know how difficult the next day can be if they don’t get it.” Sandy nodded, so I knew she was with me. I continued, “We often end up trying to make ourselves go to sleep, which is of course the best way to not get sleep. How do you consciously make yourself lose consciousness? It’s impossible. Do you have this experience too?” She nodded and said, “Yeah, all the time.” Great, so we know there’s no use in consciously trying to make sleep happen, so we can forget about that. Over the next week I want you to focus on getting rest, not sleep. Whether you sleep or not is unimportant. Have you ever had an experience of a really restless sleep? (Nodding). So you know that even sleep doesn’t guarantee rest! Would you be OK not getting sleep as long as you got rest?” “Yeah, that’s the whole point of sleep.” “Exactly. And can you remember a time when you didn’t sleep, but you just closed your eyes and relaxed and got great relaxation and rest? She looked thoughtful, but wasn’t nodding yet, so I shared an example of my own: “I was in a noisy packed car coming back from a camping trip and I was exhausted and felt like I might be coming down with a cold. I really wanted to sleep, but I knew there was no way it was going to happen sitting upright in the cramped back seat of this Subaru with music playing and four other people talking. So I just decided to close my eyes and let my body relax as much as possible, with my head perched on the vibrating shoulder strap of my seatbelt. I just sunk into the experience of restfulness as much as I could throughout my body. I was amazed at how rejuvenated I was after only ten or fifteen minutes of this. “OK,” Sandy said, “You’re right. I could get a whole night of restless sleep, or I could never go to sleep and as long as it was restful I would be WAY better off.”
3. Three simple ways to relax into a restful state.
Now that Sandy was on board with changing the goal from sleep, to rest, it was important to give her a few simple ways to get rest, which in contrast to sleep, can be achieved through conscious intention. Here are the three that I gave her to try on her own over the next week when she went to bed.
1) “As you’re lying in bed, allow your awareness to start at the roots of your hair and slowly move down through every part of your body (bones, ligaments, muscles, skin, organs). As you do this you can notice what you notice; where is there more tension and where more relaxation? You don’t need to change anything. The process of simply being aware will allow natural relaxation. It won’t always relax right away, and that’s fine, you can notice what it’s like to be relaxed about whatever tension is still in the process of letting go in its own way in its own time as you allow your awareness to spread slowly throughout your body.”
2) “Imagine that your body is a stick of butter put out in the sun. Feel the warmth of the sun slowly sinking in through the layers of your body, softening more and more until you start to melt in places, running out into warm pools.”
3) This third tip is a very small aspect of the Wholeness Process: “Notice where there is tension/stimulation in your body. (For me it is usually my heart beating too fast when I’m sick, a feeling of it working a little harder than ideal. It might also be something like muscle tension or a sense of your mind being active). Notice the size and shape of this area in your body. Notice if it has a texture or weight or movement or warmth to it. Now imagine that your entire physical body melts into and becomes this area in its size/shape/texture/weight/movement/warmth etc. Don’t try to change anything, just join with it and become it at the sensation level.”
The complete Wholeness Process involves much more than I can explain in a short blog post. It is a very exciting new development in NLP and personal growth, and has been used effectively with a wide range of life issues. It is particularly useful in dealing with stress and sleep issues. It is after I guided Sandy through the complete method that she experienced “this is twice as restful as the best “sleep” I’ve gotten in years.” If you don’t get consistent relaxation and more restful sleep from the above tips, you may need the in-depth Wholeness Process.
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