How To Fall Asleep
A Proven, 7 Step Formula That Will Get You Better Sleep!May 24th, 2012
By Mitchell Stevko, posted by Jackie Wicks PEERtrainer Founder
The most common question I'm asked is "how do I fall asleep?" I typically answer, "Did you ask this question when you were 10 years old?"
When clients invariably say no, it begins their awareness that insomnia is a learned behavior for most people, and once you "re-learn" how to sleep, sleep becomes easy again, like when you were a child, and insomnia disappears.
Even if you did have insomnia as a child, you can still learn new behaviors with the right strategies. Learned insomnia has also been combined with a number of lifestyle choices that make falling asleep very difficult for so many people.
I was one of those few that did ask the question "how do I fall asleep?" when I was 10. I could stay awake from 1.5 hours to all night before sleeping, and had debilitating insomnia for over 30 years.
It affected my health, damaged relationships, and forced me to leave a fantastic career because I couldn't sleep while travelling. I spent six years of research and trying every pill, product, seminar or program that existed.
With the help of my wife Olga, a medical doctor, I finally cracked the code, and have now dedicated my life to helping people get better sleep.
Last night (and pretty much every night) I fall asleep in between 5-10 minutes, including on the road (I just got back from a trip). Here is a simple to follow, seven step program to help you fall asleep easily and effortlessly:
1) Put Sleep First & Budget The Time. For many people, sleep is the poor stepchild that gets focused on only after work, family, friends, hobbies, exercise, texting, Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube.
Like most things in life, energy will flow where focus goes. When you choose to focus on being a good sleeper on a consistent basis, you will get more sleep and better quality sleep.
The benefits of healthy sleep include: looking and feeling younger, having more positive mood/happiness, having more energy, having greater clarity, focus, improved memory and learning, stronger immune system and living longer (these are some pretty good reasons to make sleep a priority!).
Dr. Deepak Chopra recently asserted on the Dr. Oz show that quality sleep and stress management are MORE important than diet and exercise for your overall health and well being. The first step is to set your intention to get enough quality sleep to be refreshed throughout the day. Studies show that for most people this means 7-9 hours per night of actual sleep time.
If you have been on an extended vacation or period off of work, you probably already know the amount of sleep you need per night... it's the amount you were actually sleeping per night by the second week.
2) Get Up The Same Time Every Morning. Countless studies by Stanford, Harvard, and other sleep research institutes have shown that your body wants and needs consistency in your waking and sleeping times.
Most of my clients sleep less during the week for work or kids schedules and try to "make it up" on the weekends.
Sorry, but this does not work, and only makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep during the week. It's very important for you to choose the ideal wakeup time for yourself based on your schedule needs and if possible the time you wake naturally without an alarm, and to stick to that schedule. If falling asleep is a big issue for you, get up 30 minutes earlier than this wake up time every day for a few weeks, to jumpstart your sleep cycle so you are more tired in the evening.
Choose to have an intended time to go to sleep every night based on your goal of the sleep hours you determined above. For the first few weeks, you may need even more sleep to make up for your "sleep debt".
3) Let Go Of Daily Choices That Make It Difficult To Fall Asleep. Every choice you make during the day can make a positive impact to help you sleep, or make sleep more difficult.
Choices that make sleep more difficult that you may want to consider changing include: drinking caffeine after 2pm, or drinking more than two servings of caffeine/day; eating or drinking things that contain sugar in the evening; eating or drinking anything within three hours of sleep; focusing on anything stressful in the later evening; late night exercise; doing anything in bed besides sleeping or sex (no reading, TV, work, or long talks); drinking excessive alcohol in the evening.
Napping is also not a good choice if you are having trouble falling asleep. I know for mothers with small children and several wakings for feeding, napping can be essential, so that is probably the one exception.
4) Embrace Daily Choices That Will Promote Falling Asleep. Physical activity is a magic potion for falling asleep. 30 minutes a day (or at least every other day) of walking or any physical activity has been shown to improve sleep significantly. Having stress reduction techniques you utilize during the day so you don't bring a whole day's stress to bed with you is a great plan (the deep breathing technique below is wonderful).
Choose to focus on the things that are working best in your life or making you happiest. Get outside and connect with nature, even if it's just for a few minutes. Play with your child or your pet more. Talk to at least one friend a day who makes you feel really good about yourself whenever you talk to them. Hearing the voice of a good friend is so much more powerful, positive, and connecting than a text or post.
5) Have A Pre-Sleep "Relax-Hour". You don't expect your car to stop immediately if you are on the freeway, and you may not want to ask that of your mind or body either... most of us are on the go and on-call 24x7. Create your ideal pre-sleep "relax hour" (or at least relax half an hour) before sleep, which can include: personal hygiene, any type of meditation or relaxation CDs, the slow deep breathing technique 4:4:4 (breathe in through your nose 4 seconds, hold 4 seconds, and breathe out through your mouth 4 seconds), relaxing music, or writing down everything you are grateful for in your life.
Another beautiful and effective technique is "Daily Release" and letting go, where you can either write down everything that happened, and then shred or tear it up, or go backwards through the day, and imagine each major thing that happened as a picture or movie, then let that image dissolve.
6) Sleep Hygiene Strategies To Discourage Insomnia. Just changing sleep hygiene can resolve insomnia for many people. You can move your alarm so you can't see it. Make sure your room is cool and stays really dark, and that you have really comfortable sheets, pillows and bedclothes. If you are really cold at night, try warmer bedclothes and blankets (you can also try socks and a nightcap) and let the room stay cooler (60-70 degrees seems to be the best range).
If noise is an issue, listen to a sleep audio program or wear earplugs. Avoid TV, news, internet, texts, stressful conversations, paying bills, or anything stressful for the last hour of the night. Moving your alarm clock and any electronics, including cordless or cell phones, at least six feet away from your head, can help eliminate electromagnetic interference with sleep.
7) In-Bed Sleep Strategies. If you've followed steps 1-6, you are already conditioning your mind and your body to fall asleep, and you will sleep more easily and regularly. If you are in bed after successfully completing your "wind-down hour" and are having trouble falling asleep, you can use these neuroscience strategies that have been highly effective. You can think of a time when you were very sleepy, and very comfortable, and fell asleep very easily.
See what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel what you felt when you were in that comfortable sleepy place, and be there. Yawn a few times and imagine waves of relaxation washing over your mind and body. Imagine each thought as being a picture or icon. If it's a movie, freeze it to a picture, and then close that icon or drag to a folder where you can look at it tomorrow as needed.
You can also listen to those inner thoughts and get a sense of voice, and slow down the inner voice of those thoughts so they are speaking to you more slowly. Next, imagine changing the voice so that it's a low, slow, monotonous voice, and soon you will be very sleepy. You can also find an effective sleep conditioning audio program to listen to each night to help you fall asleep, and you can also take 7-10 slow deep breaths (4:4:4 technique).
It may take 21 days or more to make positive, lasting changes in your habits, so be consistent with your efforts and you'll be very excited about your results: falling asleep more easily.
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