Now that you know that you can steer off the path to insomnia, make these 12 promises to yourself to keep you on track to a peaceful, resting nights sleep.
Promise 1: SPEND LESS IN BED
When you get into bed at night, it is vital that you are actually sleepy. No matter how late it is, do not go to bed unless you are tired. Next, you need to discover that specific number of hours of sleep that ensures you will be really tired when you go to bed. You also need to feel good all day, function well, and not be overwhelmed by the desire for a nap in the afternoon.
The ideal time seems to be between six and seven and a half hours for most people. What we are trying to do here is find the amount the sleep which will enable you feel good all day, yet still means that when it comes to bedtime you are really tired and ready for sleep.
You will need to experiment to find your ideal time to spend in bed. A good rule is to start with the amount which seems right to you, minus half an hour. If you don’t see an improvement in your sleep within a week, cut the time spent in bed by another half an hour.
If you see an improvement in the time taken to fall asleep, but find yourself unbearably sleepy during the day, increase the time by half an hour. The point is to be tired and sleepy when you go to bed. 90% of all insomniacs can be cured by simply spending less time in bed.
Promise 2: NO NAPS
From now on, avoid napping in the day at all costs. If napping in the day is the only decent sleep you get, it will undoubtedly be at the expense of a proper full night’s sleep. Sacrifice the nap, not the night.
Promise 3: GET UP AND DO SOMETHING WHEN YOU CAN’T SLEEP
So, what do you do when sleep just doesn’t come? Well, the one thing you shouldn’t do is to continue to lie there, not sleeping. If you can’t sleep, you should get out of bed. If you are not asleep within 15 to 20 minutes, you should get out of bed and do something boring until you feel ready to fall asleep.
Do something like reading the phone book. Any change in focus is usually enough, whether it’s having a not bath or shower, doing some housework like ironing, cleaning out the fridge, or doing a crossword or Sudoku. But what is very important is that you have worked out what you will do before you lie down to sleep.
Have a jigsaw puzzle ready on the table, have in mind to clean the skirting boards, or a particular bit of studying to do. Perhaps have a bit of creative writing in mind. As long as the activity is not extremely stimulating, it is not very important what it is. Do fill those night-time waking hours with meaningful activity and feel the satisfaction of having got so much more done.
Whatever you decide to do, it should be a job which can be finished in between 30 minutes or an hour. But don’t get too focused on the clock. The idea is that your focus is taken away from clock-watching, away from the fact that you are not asleep. Your focus is on the activity, not on whether it has been 30 minutes since you got up. It needs to be just long enough so that when you get back into bed, it feels relaxing and fresh, and you can start the ‘falling asleep’ process all over again. If you are in bed you should be asleep. If not, get up.
Promise 4: GET UP AT THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY
This simple and seemingly unimportant little promise can have the most incredible effect on sleeping patterns. When this promise is combined with promise 1, ‘spend less time in bed’, the two create a powerful foundation for all other sleep promises. Good sleep loves routine. Keep to yours and good sleep will become a habit.
Promise 5: DO NOTHING IN BED BUT SLEEP OR MAKE LOVE
The main reason for all sleep hygiene rules is to create such a strong connection between bed and sleep that just the act of getting into bed and lying down triggers the falling asleep process. If you keep your promises, your bed will go from being a place of tension and misery to a sanctuary of peace, your own special little place in which you can curl up at the end of the day.
So why is sex ok? Unlike other activities, sex is unique in that it is a relaxing, de-stressing activity which often happens in bed, just before falling asleep. Thus, it already has an inbuilt association with sleep. Bed = sleep or sex.
Promise 6: REDUCE OR ELIMINATE THE PILLS
You must get proper medical advice before starting any drug withdrawal programme. Speak to your doctor about reducing your dosage. As your recovery progresses, you will quickly reap the benefits of this promise. To start with, there is a good chance that your insomnia will worsen for a time. But do your best to see it through. Sooner or later, you will begin to sleep again.
If you are regularly self-medicating with alcohol, you will need to take steps to reduce your consumption with a view to giving up altogether. The rule is that you not use alcohol in order to help you sleep.
The Effortless Sleep Method aims to strengthen your belief in yourself, rediscovering your inborn ability to sleep naturally and unaided. Every night you sleep with reduced medication is a step on the road to recovery.
The Second Six Promises: Changing Negative Beliefs You May Have About Sleep
Promise 7: STOP CLOCK-WATCHING
From now on, pay no attention to the number of hours of sleep you get. Work out how many hours you need, set your getting up time and from then on, forget about time. Do not have clock in your room which can easily be seen. From now on, you should have no idea how many hours you slept last night, or how long it took you to fall asleep. All that matters is how well you feel during the day. It’s quality of sleep, not quantity that counts.
Promise 8: REPLACE NEGATIVE SLEEP TALK WITH POSITIVE STATEMENTS
No Negative Sleep-Talk
From now on, avoid saying ‘I’m a terrible sleeper’, ‘I’m an insomniac’, ‘I’m so tired today’, ‘I wish I had slept last night’, and instead begin to look for positive things to say about your sleep. It will sound like a lie to begin with so start small, congratulating yourself for small wins – ‘I slept pretty well last night’. Celebrate your progress. Make a point of telling someone ‘I had such a good sleep last night’, ‘I slept like a log last night’.
The truth is, we are all constantly using affirmations that reinforce our beliefs. The unfortunate truth is that these are usually negative. Positive affirmations are very powerful and if used properly will really change your beliefs about sleep.
Write It Down
Buy a nice A4 lined pad and use a pen. Now, every day you will write out, in neat handwriting, one of the following affirmations:
I am a brilliant sleeper.
My brain knows how to fall asleep naturally.
I am amazed at how well I sleep.
I can sleep anywhere, any time.
I really enjoy going to sleep at night.
I love sleeping.
I can sleep better than anyone I know.
Fill the whole page with one repeated affirmation, and as you write, think about the meaning of the words. Don’t rush. Write with care and feeling. You can say these words as you write. Think about what the words mean and allow thoughts and pictures to come into your head which fit them. When the page is full it should look neat and attractive, like a work of art, or a poem. It will give you a pleasing psychological boost to see the finished page. Start writing your own story, and it will come true.
Promise 9: LET GO OF THE SEARCH FOR AN INSTANT MIRACLE CURE
If you are a long-term insomniac, this might just be the hardest, and the most important promise of all. Just keep on believing that at some point in the future, be it a week, a month or a year, you can be sleeping naturally, effortlessly, like a baby.
The fact is: you are now on the road to recovery. If this is true, what does it matter how long that road is? As long as you stick to the Method, you will get better. One morning you will wake up surprised that you have slept so well. And the realisation that you are genuinely, indisputably regaining your natural ability to sleep is worth all the money you could ever spend on nonsense cures. All you need to cure yourself is within you.
Promise 10: DISCOVER A RELAXATION TECHNIQUE THAT WORKS FOR YOU
If your busy, active mind is stopping you from sleeping, it is important to have some way of switching off the obsessive thinking and worrying which can keep you awake. Remember, a new technique will only work once it has become established as a part of your bedtime routine.
So, pick a relaxation technique or a relaxation CD that appeals to you and commit to using it every night until it ceases to feel new. Do not reject something until you have used it nightly for at least a fortnight. Relaxation techniques and recordings will usually only work once they have become familiar.
Promise 11: DECIDE ON YOUR OWN SAFETY THOUGHT
The Best Ever ‘Crutch’
The problem with crutches is that eventually they are liable to let you down. Because they are external things, they really have nothing intrinsic to do with helping you sleep. What they give you is a safety net, something to believe in, something you can trust when you feel anxious.
Try to find a comforting and encouraging fact about your sleep – not wishful thinking, a fact. Pick whatever positive fact you feel would be most likely to give you hope during the stress of the day and in the dark lonely nights in bed. Some examples are:
I slept through anxiety like this before and I can do it again.
I slept before on a high-pressure night so I can do it again.
It really doesn’t matter whether I sleep or not.
I can sleep no what matter what.
Tonight might be the beginning of a good stretch.
I have stuck to the programme, I am getting better.
Your safety thought will support you as you fall.
Promise 12: PUT YOUR LIFE BEFORE YOUR INSOMNIA
Let’s get one thing clear: You won’t get over your insomnia until you stop making compromises for it. Don’t waste another day waiting for your life to start. At some point, you have to take the plunge, you have to start saying ‘yes’ to invitations, you have to start making plans, you have to start doing all those things you have been avoiding because of insomnia. Life is now – start living.
From now on, keep religiously to the promises you have made. But in all other ways, you should act exactly as you would do if you had never had a problem with insomnia. You are now in control of your life, you get to decide exactly how to spend your time, not your insomnia! From now on, you will do exactly as you pleaseand to hell with your insomnia! From now on, your life comes first, not your insomnia.