Are you one of the many people who, due to the uncertainty of our current reality, are experiencing incredibly vivid dreams, or even nightmares? Or perhaps for the first time ever, you are suffering from insomnia, or find yourself waking up in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep again.
You are definitely not alone in this predicament! And if you are wondering why this is happening to so many of us, let me explain.
We humans are hardwired to stay awake in the face of danger, and while we may not be faced with a tangible danger, the uncertainty (see my previous blog on the subject) created by this global pandemic is most definitely considered a danger, or at the very least, a perceived threat, causing our primitive survival instincts to kick in in full force. This can have a detrimental effect on our sleep patterns.
This also affects our dreams. Dreaming occurs during the lightest phase of sleep known as Rapid Eye Movement, or REM. In most cases, in order to remember our dreams, we have to wake up during the dream. Because many of us are sleeping less soundly, we are waking up much easier and much more often, meaning we are more able to remember our dreams in much more vivid detail.
We also tend to dream about things that we have absorbed during our day so if you are filling up on all things COVID-19 and all the scary and “bad news stories”, these things are working their way into our dreams. With that in mind, we can, to a certain extent, guide our dreams based on what information we are putting into our minds, particularly as we drift off to sleep.
Good News Bad News
The bad news – the longer this continues, the higher the risk of this becoming a habit that may not simply disappear once life returns to some semblance of normalcy.
The good news – there are some simple strategies that, when implemented correctly, can help ease some of the stress and anxiety, allowing for better, more restful sleep.
Strategies For Calmer and More Restful Sleep.
1. Limit your news intake.
While it is important to know what is going on in the world, it is also important to limit the amount of time spent either watching or reading the news. Having CP24 on all day is only feeding into your anxiety. Allow yourself an hour or two at the most, then turn it off!
2. Avoid using your cell phone or tablet for at least an hour before bed. Same goes for the TV.
It is a scientific fact that screen time stimulates the brain and, let’s face it, this is not helpful when you are trying to fall asleep. Do something relaxing instead, read a book, listen to a podcast, learn to do self-hypnosis, or meditate. The idea is to relax the mind as well as the body.
3. Have structure to your day.
Our brains and bodies love structure. Stick to a schedule, even if you aren’t getting up and going anywhere. Get up, exercise, eat and sleep at similar times every day.
4. Be aware of what you are drinking.
While it may be tempting to keep filling that coffee cup (or having another pop) out of boredom, be cognizant of the fact that it takes an average of 4 to 6 hours for the body to metabolize caffeine and its effects. Another beverage to be aware of is alcohol. While alcohol can help you feel relaxed and drowsy, the metabolism of alcohol can be very sleep disruptive.
5. Focus on your breath.
Think about resting rather than sleeping. Follow your breath by silently saying a mantra such as the word ‘in’ as you inhale, and ‘out’ as you exhale. This will help focus the mind and induce sleep.
6. Learn to relax.
Relaxation can switch off the stress response, physically and mentally. Find something that works for you – mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing or a long hot bath.
7. If you can’t sleep – get out of bed.
Your bed should not be a battleground. Instead, try to enjoy the sensation of merely resting.
Hypnosis Can Help
If you find that you are still struggling with sleep issues, even after implementing the above strategies, and traditional treatments are not working, hypnosis may be a viable option for you.
Hypnosis uses different approaches to induce relaxation, such as focused attention, symptom control and guided imagery. And, unlike sleep medications, it has no side effects, so it can be an aid for those who can’t or don’t want to take sleeping pills.
It can help overcome bedtime restlessness – ease the worry, tension and anxiety that prevent sleep – and can show the way to the deep, restorative sleep that we all need.
To get started, I have recorded a video of a hypnosis session that you can find either on Facebook or YouTube. See the links below to take the first steps on the road to better sleep!