End Sleep Issues the Mind-Body Way!
Why do so many people have sleep issues?
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before- the usual culprits such as substances like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol disrupt your sleep. Duh! Or smart phone use at night wastes away precious zzz’s.
That’s NOT what this post is about!
Unfortunately, your sleep issues go waaaaay back…to your subconscious programming (between birth and 7 yrs old). Fortunately programming can always be changed!
Sleep was already an issue when you were born. Our parents mourned the loss of sleep as soon as we arrived in this world, and on a subconscious level we got a dose of their heightened stress levels during our infancy.
When we were children we fought sleep, and in many households it’s a trying time between parents and kids with fights over bed times and sleeping arrangements. More stress!
So there’s already a subconscious link that reiterates, sleep is the enemy (especially if you were scared of monsters or the dark!!)…and this was of course during that time in infancy and childhood when our subconscious thoughts and behaviors were forming at a rapid rate, and for the long haul.
Since the subconscious is the almighty record-keeper, you have a long history/mental-library of sleepless memories. Anything of that magnitude in the subconscious is surely to come up in adulthood. (1 in 3 adults have sleep problems. Adults need 7 hours of sleep for wellbeing.)
You have to be smarter than your subconscious!
Change the language in your subconscious. “Sleep” is a trigger word negatively associated with stress.
You can begin to change the language by replacing “sleep” with the word, “rest” for instance.
‘I’m just going to rest my eyes for a minute.’ I love that feeling when you are naturally nodding off- those times when your eyelids get so heavy, like staring at a computer screen too long and the eyes begin to water or listening to someone talk that just lulls you to sleep with their voice, and the perfect cozy temperature in the room.
‘I’ll just rest here a little while.’ This is the ultimate luxury…to just…rest. And our subconscious knows that rest is an indulgence so there’s no negative association whatsoever.
Changing the language tricks your subconscious. An example of this is when people hit the snooze button, tricking themselves; believing they’ll just lie there for a few minutes longer…and soon they’re fast asleep again. They don’t hit the snooze button and say, ‘I hope I go back to sleep for another half hour and wake up late for work.’ Most even say something to themselves quite the opposite: ‘I won’t fall back to sleep’, and they surely almost always do.
“Lie here”…all wonderful words that trick the subconscious and do not trigger the negative “sleep” default programming. Find a positive-associated word in place of “sleep”!
Side Note: If you wake in the middle of the night, you can use this time for a lie-down meditation. Don’t scold yourself to go back to sleep- just tell yourself you will “meditate”. You’ll likely drift off again.
Begin to use these words instead of the usual: ‘I should be sleeping by now,’ which sounds uncannily similar to our parent’s frustration when we were growing up. “You should be sleeping right now!!!”
Next time you lay yourself down at night, set an intention to “just rest” and use the word, “rest”, then let nature takes it’s course. You can also close your eyes and remember a time you drifted off to sleep without any intention at all- that easy feeling. You may not be able to control whether you fall asleep, but you can control whether you rest or not. Start there!
We’ve discussed the “mind” aspect, now let’s tackle the “body” (physical) reasons why you have a tough time sleeping aside from the subconscious link.
The body expects 3 forms of being (because it never planned on TV, devices, and myriad of 21st century 24/7 entertainment):
- Rest or Leisure
I realize we just talked about replacing the word “sleep” with “rest”, and on this list sleep and rest are two separate items. For subconscious sake, sleep and rest can mean the same thing, but while we’re discussing the body, we need to use the labels separately. Physically speaking, rest and sleep are different in the body. If it helps, you can describe physical “rest” as “leisure”, “off-time” or “down-time”.
The body wasn’t geared toward “idle entertainment” such as the state of being sedentary, but very alert on devices or TV, which most people mistakenly consider “rest”. It’s not even leisure because it doesn’t allow the mind to sync with the body in a naturally restful way.
The mind and body enjoy rest (or leisure). Pure and simple. It can include mesmerizing and hypnotic things such as watching the flames of a campfire or fireplace while soaking in good company or private reflection. Also sitting around telling stories, tinkering with a hobby, a leisurely stroll in nature, daydreaming, reading, praying, meditating. These all increase your mind-body connection.
Rest and leisure used to come natural to us. That’s a sad distant thing of the past unless you purposefully build it back into your life now! Decades ago it was culturally built into our lives- there was work and there was leisure. Leisure was well-earned after work or activity, but in our society today it’s hard to tell where work begins and ends.
People would be surprised how easily they can build the habit of rest/leisure again. The body remembers how to relax. The ability to relax is directly related to actual sleep too! Too often we abruptly jump from alert to sleep. To bridge the gap, you need “off-time”.
There’s another “trick” that includes visualization.
This past week or so I’ve been sick. During this time I’ve probably experienced more rest than I’d like, but at least it really enforced this habit. However, I started watching my two Chihuahuas. They were all too happy to rest/sleep any time! I was jealous at the ease of their ability. Of course they don’t have bills to pay or kids to tend to! But I noticed how easily it was for them to settle.
I knew I was in need of more sleep while being sick so I tried taking naps. This isn’t easy for me. It wasn’t until I imagined what my Chihuahuas must feel like getting all cozy in the perfect section of sunshine coming in through the window…a super soft blanket…warm and soothing. I felt my skin pleasantly heat up as I drifted off.
Cats also have that natural knack for napping. I’m always fussing, fighting, and fidgeting, but I imagined otherwise and it really worked! Perhaps imagining I am furry with no bills is the trick ;- )
~ Change the word “sleep” in your inner dialogue to “rest”. Sleep isn’t something we can control, but purposeful rest is…and can naturally lead to sleep.
~ Have distinct times of work, leisure/”off-time”, and activity. This sends signals to your body and builds a habit.
~ Use visualization to imagine your most relaxed self, easing into a natural slumber if you like. Allow yourself times to do this- where you can relax and if it leads to sleep, so be it!
Peace and Be Well,