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nextI have written extensively over the years about the process of falling asleep and have sorted my journal into four areas of interest.

Chasing Sleep: The Vicious Cycle

The are numerous factors that keep us awake at night. Stress, over-active minds, stimulants, noise and other things keep our minds trained on awareness. My ears ring (tinnitus) and add to that a mind that worries over the silliest things and you get severe insomnia. At least that is how mine developed. My insomnia was so severe that I dreaded going to bed every single night.  During my quest for sleep I have been on every sleeping pill known to man. I have also taken anti-depressants. I found this curious as the only thing I was depressed about was my insomnia. But, doctors know best or at least I thought they did. As it turns out most doctors don't know all that much about insomnia. But they sure know how to prescribe hypnotics (sleeping pills) and anti-depressants.

 

In the two decades of battling chronic insomnia I have learned a thing or two. There are various entries in this blog about black-out curtains, alcohol dependent sleep disorderself-hypnosis, and tinnitus ; but the main idea I have tried to bring forward here is that visualization combined with naturally soothing sounds has worked miracles for me. This works because of one simple and scientifically proven fact. When we visualize we are stimulating the same region in our big human brain as when we dream. This area is called the secondary visual cortices (aka cortex) in our occipital lobe.

The Sleeping Brain

During the sleep process our brain transitions from Beta brainwaves (alert), to Alpha (relaxed) then continue onto Theta (daydreaming) and finally to Delta brainwaves (asleep). No physician ever enlightened me to this. I had to crack a book. At bedtime we can be relaxed and still not fall asleep. Why? Because numerous conditions can exist that never allow our minds to daydream ergo, we do not enter the Theta brainwave state. Think of the Theta brainwave state as a bridge between awareness and sleep. If you can't cross that bridge, you can't fall asleep. Naturally, anyway. This is where doctors step in and prescribe expensive, and physically draining, sleeping pills. Why can't we all happily skip through Theta and off to deep Delta brainwave sleep? Because chronic pain, tinnitus, stress, over-stimulation and worry can all bottle neck the natural process. In my case I was worried about going to bed as I knew the insomnia would come. As crazy as it sounds, I could not sleep because I was stressed out about not being able to sleep.

 

My advice to any insomniac reading this is to maintain a routine (i.e. sleep at the same time every night), get some form of exercise daily (i.e. walk), make your bedroom as dark as possible (i.e. black-out curtains) and practice relaxation techniques combined with visualization. I use naturally relaxing sounds but you can also use soft music and visualize someone ice skating to the music or even performing the music as you sit in the audience. Think of it as an artificially induced Theta brainwave state... or even virtual dreaming.

 

If it works for me, it will work for you. You can break the vicious cycle of insomnia. Understanding the natural sleep process is the first step.

 

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