Poor sleep can lead to health issues. The subconscious mind operates 24/7. It controls our breathing, metabolic and repair functions, dreams, and more.
Disrupt the normal processes during sleep and the body will suffer a bit during the next day. Over time, poor quality sleep becomes cumulative and can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and a few more.
If you find yourself having fits of memories about something that is happening to you, recently in many cases – relationships, job, family, health, finances – stress may be the culprit. Consider stress management programs during the day and especially prior to sleep.
If you eat within three hours of going to bed, your sleep will not be as good as not eating. If you drink within a couple of hours of sleeping, you may nod off quickly and then wake up briefly a couple or so hours later. Alcohol is considered a poison to the body and it must be processed immediately before any other body functions occur.
Alcohol shuts down the digestive processes and the liver metabolizes alcohol at about one ounce per hour. Once the alcohol is metabolized you may awaken briefly and feel almost fully awake. Some people have difficulty returning to sleep. It depends on how much you have had to drink and other factors – age, weight, frequency of drinking, etc.
Once asleep, your body temperature decreases, eye movements stop, heart rate slows down, muscles relax, and brain waves slow down. Darkness causes the brain to make melatonin which makes you sleepy. Sunlight activates your brain to awaken. Keep your room dark to better sleep.
Many people find it difficult to transition from being awake to being asleep, soundly asleep. A few find this nerve-wracking and adds to the anxiety to keep you awake while trying to fall asleep. If the mind cannot transition to sleep, the body has difficulty going into a deep restful sleep.
Sleep tips and tricks work for most of us. However, most of us are unaware of them. When I have difficulty sleeping (many times from changing time zones due to travel) I prefer Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). It is cheap, easy, and fast. I recommend going to YouTube, type in EFT and sleep, and follow along with the videos. I like Brad Yates as an EFT instructor.
Like many things in life, we fail the first time we try something. Sleep transition is one of many things. If someone tells you to do this or that and you will be asleep in one minute, it may work for him or her, but not for you the first time you attempt it. It may take ten, twenty, or more times for you to develop and master the technique.
The book Relax and Win: Championship Performance, by Sharon Ackerman, has been used by the military, especially pilots, to fall asleep within two minutes. It took six weeks of practice for some of the pilots to master this skill.
Begin by relaxing all the muscles of your face and head, including your tongue and inside your mouth. Relax the shoulders and let hands and arms fully become inert. Relax your chest after each breath. Continue to relax your legs, thighs, and calves. Clear the mind for ten seconds imaging the most relaxing scenario you can. Use the mantra, “Don’t Think!” over and over again to clear the mind of those residual distractions.
I prefer to start with my left toe and relax each muscle group, joint, and ligaments moving up to my waist. I then switch to the other side. From there, I let each breath flow down from my belly through my toes as if water or air were being released out of my toes.
I do this with other major parts of my body leaving the head for last. This is my transition process. It works going from the head or to the head. It works exceptionally well for a seven or eight-minute nap. By the time I have relaxed my entire body I am ready to sleep. If I have programmed my brain to take only a short nap, I awaken fully refreshed after less than ten minutes.
All methods of transitioning to sleep work better the more you practice them. Do not expect to become fully expert in less than a week. Like military pilots, it took some of them six weeks to transition to sleep in two minutes or less.
Another method is called the 4-7-8 breathing method, akin to several pranayamas that I use for stress relief. Dr. Andrew Weil is credited with the 4-7-8 guided breathing technique, but many practitioners of this method say it goes back hundreds of years.
The 4-7-8 method forces relaxation and balance into the body through focused breathing. Disruptive thoughts can prevent transitioning to sleep. This can be done sitting in a chair before going to bed or in bed. It can involve alternate nostril breathing, mindful mediation, visualization, and guided imagery. There are many ways to perform this 4-7-8 technique.
Dr. Weil’s method begins by allowing your lips to part slightly and making a whooshing sound as you exhale through your mouth. Close your lips and inhale through your nose and count slowly to four in your mind. Hold that breath for seven seconds (slow seconds) and then exhale, again with a whoosh, for eight slow seconds. There are some apps available to do the counting for you.
Focus on the breathing and let the mind wander where it may. Eventually, the focus will be strong enough that your mind is no longer involved with the stress of your day or the current distractions in your life. A minimum of four cycles calms a person and prepares them for sleep.
Deep muscle relaxation is another technique used by some to unwind and relax prior to sleep – or to relax and destress during the day. The key to this technique is to tense, but not strain the muscles. Tensing and relaxing is key.
Raise your eyebrows as high as you can for five seconds. Then, relax the eyebrows immediately and continue to relax for ten seconds. Smile to create tension in your cheeks and hold that for five seconds – then relax your cheek muscles for ten seconds.
Next squint your eyes shut for five seconds and relax them for ten seconds. Tilt your head back until you are looking at the ceiling for five seconds and then relax for ten seconds. This process continues down your chest muscles, abdominal muscles, buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet.
I have used acupressure for pain relief but never for sleeping. People will massage their temples or the bridge of their nose to relieve stress. It is a form of acupressure applied to points of stress in the body. There are other acupressure points targeted by experts to help the sleep process.
Technique #1 is with the palm of your hand facing you, feel the small, hollow space under the palm of your little finger. Apply gentle force in a circular or up-and-down movement for two or three minutes. Repeat on the other hand.
Technique #2 uses a similar point in the wrist. With your palm facing you again, count three finger-widths down from your wrist crease and apply steady downward pressure (circular or up-and-down motion) between the two tendons with your thumb for about two minutes until you feel tension subside.
Technique #3 is one I use for general relaxation. Interlock your fingers together with your fingers out and palms touching. Place your palms behind your head with your thumbs touching your neck where your head connects to your neck. Massage this area with both thumbs using up-and-down or circular movements. Combine slow deep breaths to relax on the exhale. Again, do this for about two minutes. This technique works great in a hot shower!
Sleep transition techniques require time to master and to have your body recognize them and adapt to your intention. Other tricks found to be effective in helping the transition to sleep are to take a warm shower before bed, hide your clock, wear socks, set the air-conditioner a couple of degrees cooler, leave your phone in the other room and do not read or watch television in bed.
Some use aromatherapy or sleep-inducing sounds (rain forest, ocean waves, etc.). There are many sources available on Google and YouTube to help you attain better quality sleep. Do not expect overnight results. It is not to say it cannot happen, but expectations and failures can affect your subconscious mind in ways that will lead to future failure. Stay away from sleeping pills!
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughin – RedOLaughlin.com