Just a few minutes a day will improve your sleep forever.
Getting to Sleep
Let’s start with a couple of experts that I quote in my book ‘Relax in a minute’ (available through Virgin Books, etc etc). Firstly, the excellent “Counting Sheep”, by science writer Paul Martin. He details the frankly terrifying list of consequences of not sleeping enough:
You become anxious. Your body temperature goes up. Your levels of stress hormones go up. You’re more likely to develop stomach disorders, get flu, and become depressed. Your sex drive goes down. You’re more at risk of a heart attack and a stroke. And, you’re more likely to have a road accident.
(Apparently you can tell the sleep-related road accidents because there are no tyre skid marks. Truly terrifying.) If that has inspired you to start using the techniques in this book, then I’m not surprised. But how much is a good amount of sleep? Are you getting enough? Are you someone who needs to worry? Or not? Well it’s certainly not my place to tell you exactly how much sleep you need, not least because I don’t actually know. How much sleep is sufficient? Is it eight hours (the conventional wisdom)? Seven? Six? Or even more than eight? Jim Home from Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Centre has a pretty good definition:
“The amount of sleep we require is what we need not to be sleepy in the daytime.”
Fair enough, it sounds very sensible to me? So if you’re not sleepy in the daytime, then you’re good to go. If you are, read on...
Betty Erickson technique
It’s my belief that many sleep poorly because of the level of distraction in modern day life. We’re all so busily occupied by modern technology, from cars to computers, from personal organisers to apps and iPods, that when we eventually turn out the light to sleep at night, it’s the first time our brain has had a chance to simply think. And so it does... think and think and think, and as
a consequence, you end up feeling more alive and awake than you have all day, as it’s the first chance your brain has had to think deeply.
The following is adapted from a kind of hypnosis technique. You may find it very helpful for getting to sleep at night. Why? Because it does a great job of occupying the brain, so all those pesky thoughts about tomorrow’s washing-up can’t possibly pop in.
- Be still. Start to become aware of three things that you can see. Go slowly, concentrating on every one.
- Now notice three things that you can hear – right now. Focus your attention on different sounds and tones, and even the tones within the sounds. Again, go slowly.
- Now notice three things that you can feel or touch. For example, it might be the feeling of the bed supporting you, the light air of a fan brushing against your skin, perhaps the sheet on your back keeping you warm.
- Now shut your eyes and continue the process, now seeing in your mind two things in the room you could previously see. Notice two things you can hear, and two things you can feel. Then do it again with one of each, repeating the process.
- If your mind wanders and you start thinking about the washing you have to do in the morning, or the new dishwasher liquid you need to buy, then start again. I know, it’s so easy to let our minds get preoccupied like this, and if you have something specific on your mind, this exercise is even more important in taking you to a different place.
Are you one of the many people who are not happy with the amount of sleep you get? Do you sleep fitfully, or wake in the middle of the night, or perhaps you simply cannot get to sleep at night? Maybe you simply do not sleep deeply enough to wake up refreshed.
I understand your problem. I did a job for years when I had to get up really early, and I simply couldn't get enough good quality sleep. It was easy enough going to bed at 9pm (although a bit boring), but once I was in bed, could I drop off? No sir. Sometimes I would get to sleep, but then wake up in the middle of the night and find myself unable to get any more deep sleep. Grrr. Many people of course have children, and then it's really important to make the most of the limited time they get to sleep.
Of all the subjects that people have been interested in with my book Relax in a minute, the one that grabs the most attention is sleep.
It just comes as such a relief to be able to sleep longer and deeper.
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