Say Good Night to your insomnia

Say Good Night to your insomnia

From the outside looking in, Andrew’s career was dazzling.

Many of his friends envied the lifestyle they saw through the lens of social media.

Briefing teams for an internationally renowned organisation, he regularly flew around the world with work. His holiday locations were exotic and equally far-flung.

And yet, Andrew was nearing the end of his tether. 

Glamorous jobs come with unglamorous pressures and responsibilities. Never mind anything going on back at home.

Gruelling hours travelling, driving down dark, unfamiliar foreign roads. Throwing open a laptop in a hotel room, working long into the night. The kind of pressures that were keeping Andrew awake at night just kept mounting up. His insomnia was, as he put it, ‘relentless’.

‘If I don’t get some sleep, I don’t know…’ his voice tailed off.

Wendy was waiting for an operation.

She was due to have a hip replacement, the operation date was set, but the chronic discomfort was draining her physically and emotionally as, night after night, she struggled to get comfortable in bed. 

‘I just feel all the work I’ve done to prepare for this operation is being drained.’

I could hear the emotion cracking her voice.

Both Andrew and Wendy have different roots to their insomnia, but just one hypnotherapy session has helped them both.

Within a couple of weeks, Andrew reported getting better quality sleep, although he was still waking up in the night. 

‘I’m happy,’ he reported.

I want more for him, but this is a great start. When he does awaken, he’s getting back to sleep faster with the mind relaxation techniques I’ve taught him.

Wendy was astonished how much longer she was sleeping after our session. Her arthritic hip had been robbing her of much needed rest. She said:

‘To have immediate “memory” of how it feels to be deeply relaxed and pain-free was incredibly powerful.’

Sleep is not optional. Daytime irritability, depression, anxiety and trouble concentrating are all symptoms of insomnia. And if you’re interested in performing at your best, it’s essential. Waking up in the night is normal, but being unable to get back to sleep is not.

Reportedly, Roger Federer sleeps 10 hours a night and Usain Bolt; nine.

How well do you sleep? If you could improve your sleep in one session, would you take that step?

Massage for serene sleep

Massage for serene sleep

Massage has had a positive effect on every medical condition we’ve looked at.
– Tiffany Field, PhD

This second blogpost on sleeplessness, and how to overcome it, looks at the power of massage and aromatherapy. Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Psychology, and Psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Tiffany Field, believes massage has a myriad of wellbeing benefits. Let’s see how it works for sleep.

Morpheus has been a less than reliable bedfellow of late. Routines have been interrupted and, much to my shame, I spent several days last week running on six hours or less. And you know how these sleep-less habits can kick in…

When you’re practising what you preach and the lovely, fickle Morpheus still appears to be spending his early hours elsewhere, then it’s time to try another tack.

So when I booked myself in for a Serene Sleep Spa Day at The Midland Hotel in Manchester I was in the perfect state to test. It’s possible to arrive an hour early and take advantage of the spa’s pool, sauna and steam room facilities, all of which I tried out.

As Tom Cruise tells Rene Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, ‘You had me at “hello”…’ Once I was wrapped up in my robe and slippers and padding towards the Himalayan salt-walled sauna I was at the “hello” point. By the time I’d swum about, steamed myself liberally and tropical showered myself back to consciousness, I wanted to move in. How could this get any better?

How little I knew.

A Serene Sleep massage here involves the power of aromatherapy, hot oils, hot stones and rose quartz crystals. Face down on the massage table, swaddled in towels, my therapist asked me to deeply inhale three times from a steaming bowl filled with a concoction that included rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang and lavender oils.

Up I go to another relaxation level.

And then the massage begins. Ever had a hot stone massage? I’d seen advertisement pictures of women with stones balanced down their bare-backed spine. I’d thought: ‘hmm, that looks a bit odd/potentially tortuous’. That is not what a hot stone massage involves. The hot stones are held by the therapist. As she pushes them into the muscles of the back, the back muscles relax under the pressure. And, of course, all the heat just enhances the effect as the quartet of aromatherapy oils sink deep into the skin as the stones are swooshed about in a smooth, sweeping action.

My face receives similar attention, this time using polished smooth rose quartz and my scalp is massaged as well. Yes, my hair is now full of oil. I don’t care. I don’t care about anything at this point. I just don’t want it to stop. Ever.

My therapist asks me if I have any questions. I’m so relaxed I find it hard to formulate any in-depth thoughts, but I manage to ascertain that this blend of oils is especially formulated to aid relaxation and restful sleep. Deeply inhaling the oils was to get them into my blood stream through my olfactory system, while the back, face and scalp absorb them in through the skin.

I spend a dream-like half hour sipping herbal tea and reading a magazine in the relaxation suite before wolfing my high tea and saying goodbye to the very lovely spa team. I float off into the icy cold late afternoon, oblivious to the world. I couldn’t care less that I was waiting for  bus with no make up on and hair full of oil (Apparently the trick is to keep the oils on for as long as possible; so I slept in them).

The journey home swam by and I cheerfully sat down to three hours’ work without a care.

And did I sleep like a baby? I read for about 15 minutes before nodding off and I slept five-star restorative sleep. Yes, I woke up a couple of times, but I slipped back without more than a murmur of ‘what’s the time?’.

As a therapist I’m always interested in others’ practices and I cannot fault aromatherapy-based spa experiences for bringing a delicious sense of ‘because I’m worth it’ luxury into our lives. You get what you pay for in life. The energy put into the spa day experience at The Midland more than justified the investment I brought to the table.

My only quibble; why create a package that includes a high tea that’s so cake-centric? It’s like you slip from one zone of herbal teas and health into another of retox by sugar and less-than-complex carbs. Don’t get me wrong, the dainty sandwiches were tasty and I’m confessing here I parked my Lent pledge to enjoy two very delicious scones. Surely there’s room on the menu for a more healthful high tea option?

And of course, there’s the question; is this a long-term solution to sleeplessness? Perhaps not; I’ll let you know how long the effects last, but I’m certainly a fan of the serene sleep massage can bring to a woman’s wellbeing and as I type this, more than 24-hours later, I still feel the ripple effects of all that calm and balance.

The House of Sleep

The House of Sleep

How do people go to sleep? I’m afraid I’ve lost the knack. I might try busting myself smartly over the temple with the night-light. I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.
 ~ Dorothy Parker

God bless Dorothy, blindingly witty even through her insomnia, although of course sleeplessness isn’t very funny when it’s you.

Remember that macho culture around sleep from not so long ago? ‘Sleep is for wimps… I’ll sleep when I’m dead… sleep is a luxury…’ I’ve heard all of these and more from the candle at both ends-burning brigade, who might have even dabbled in that fad for trying to get by on as little as possible because more is more and all-nighters are all part of the fun, aren’t they?

All yet – and that’s a very big YET – there’s a huge amount of evidence to argue that the top performers do not burn on through the night, they do not throw off the call or Morpheus in pursuit of more, because they know what they end up delivering is a less-than-genius less.

In his book, The 10,000-Hour Rule, Malcolm Gladwell drew attention to an experiment which looked at the performance of violinists. What separated the good from the exceptional was not just their natural gift or the hours they put into playing, it was the quality of their practise; because the exceptional slept more. The best not only slept almost nine hours a night, but they also had hefty afternoon naps, allowing them to recuperate so they could nurture their talent with greater focus.

Sleep is not for wimps. It’s for masters.

There are plenty of studies to show our thinking is less than at its best when we’re sleep deprived. Bill Clinton has said the worst mistakes he ever made were caused by sleep deprivation and Google even goes to the lengths of providing sleep pods for its employees, so they can catch a power nap when they need one.

So how do we get a great night’s sleep, or at least get better sleep than we do now?

Of course if insomnia is a major issue for you, you could see a Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) practitioner to help you root out where your poor sleep habits come from and learn how to embed new, deep-rest thought processes and techniques that will lull you into healing sleep.

But here are a few suggestions which might, alone, make all the difference…

5 Fast Fixes for a Good Night’s Sleep

  • Screens off! Step away from your laptop/smart phone/TV at 9pm or at least an hour before you go to bed. Read books. Prepare a nutritious lunch for the next day. Play cards or knit or just fold laundry if you like, but step away from screens. I foolishly recorded a short video one evening last week on my smartphone but because I wasn’t at my best it took until 10pm. I was still bushbaby-eyed awake at 2am.
  • Stop drinking caffeine after lunch. You’ll be amazed at the difference. No waking up for midnight trips to the loo. Or certainly less.Try a gentle herbal tea formulated to aid sleep before bed.
  • Don’t eat a heavy dinner. Or a late dinner. Once upon a time you may well have scoffed a curry at midnight and then slept like a baby. I even keep my proteins light in the evening to avoid any rumbling of indigestion.
  • Bed time yoga. There are gentle movements and stretches which prepare the body for bed, bringing energy down and calming the mind ready for rest. And they won’t take more than 20 minutes.
  • Don’t have a hot bath. Relaxing though they may be, hot baths are also stimulating and if you’re anything like me it will take you ages to regulate your body temperature if you slip into bed after a bath. A hot bath in the morning makes much more sense.

What to do when all else fails

Yoga Nidra – it’s the kind of power nap that reaches the parts other power naps fail to reach.

Working to relax you mentally, emotionally and physically, one hour of yoga nidra is said to be the equivalent of four hours’ sleep. It’s a bit like listening to a guided relaxation, but it works on deep, deep levels to restore rested balance. Although usually practiced lying down, yoga nidra can work in a sitting position, so you could yoga nidra on the train or on a flight.

Today has been propelled by yoga nidra, thanks to a rotten night’s sleep brought about by my partner working in London for a few days. I rarely settle into easy sleep the first night he’s away, so 45 minutes on my mat this morning listening to a yoga nidra has been a huge investment in being able to function in a calm, relaxed way. I may not feel 100% but I’ll be fine until 8pm this evening.

Next week I’m off for a spa day to check out a sleep-themed series of treatments. I’ll be quizzing the therapists on what they do and why (if I don’t fall asleep immediately) and I’ll report back on what I learn.