Relaxation Techniques: The Silent Insomniac
I had insomnia* for years. My insomnia was a complex that had elements of Tinnitus (ear ringing), stress, and hyper-awareness. I say 'complex' as I believe most people have a variety of reasons they have relaxation issues. Trying to pinpoint a single reason why I was not sleeping was a wild goose chase. After a night of flipping and flopping; and then collapsing from utter exhaustion a few hours before having to get up, I would show up for work on most days dragging my exhausted body through the door. However, it is interesting that the one thing I rarely did was talk about it. Some of my family and a few good friends knew about it, but that was the extent of it. For years I had a perception that my insomnia affliction would be seen as a weakness. I even modified my work environment around my insomnia. I would seek jobs where I was alone or 'on call' for most of the employment.
Why am I telling you this? I have a visceral sense that there are lots of insomniacs like me. We don't talk about it. We try to go through our lives ignoring the problem and hoping it will fade away. We end up filling endless sleeping pill prescriptions or possibly drinking alcohol to get sleepy. Or maybe we just tough it out. Chasing sleep becomes the center of our lives but it's all kept very hush hush from the real world.
If there is any real secret to falling asleep it is in understanding the process all humans go through to fall asleep naturally. The human brain has specific patterns that it wants to transition through each and every night. We start by relaxing, we get daydreamy and we fall asleep. Sounds simple enough. But it was that 'daydreamy' part my brain wasn't willing to initiate. That daydream part of the sleep onset process has a name. It is called the Theta brainwave state. Few doctors will talk to you about it because, unless they are sleep physicians, they probably only covered it briefly in medical school. Unless you can release your awareness enough to allow this pre-sleep Theta state to occur you will continue to have sleeping problems.
Here is the simple formula that finally released me from my nightly battle with insomnia:
I also keep my bedroom pitch black, usually have a frozen bottle of water next to me on hot nights (the human body is at it's coolest during sleep), keep my room neat and uncluttered, and never watch television or surf the Internet in the bedroom. The bedroom should be used for relaxation, sleep and, well, .. that other unmentionable thing.
Simple visualization can be done without purchasing anything. All the equipment you need you were born with. By visualizing you are stimulating the Secondary Visual Cortex in your brain. This is the same area of our brains that is quite active in dreaming. Dreaming is one of the first things our brains like to do upon falling asleep. In a sense, the Theta brainwave state prepares the sleeper for dreams.
By the way, if you feel like talking about insomnia you can find me on Twitter most nights. Not talking about it can make us feel isolated and there are too many millions of insomniacs out there for that to happen these days. Unless, of course, you are the silent type.
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*Insomnia can be an indication of a serious underlying health condition. Our opinions are in no way intended to be taken as medical advice. If you feel your insomnia issue warrants it please seek the advice of a qualified physician.