Sleep Care

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Farewell Insomnia: Simple Steps to Sleep, Part 2

Richard Shane, Ph.D. 

In “Simple Steps To Sleep, Part 1,” you learned that your tongue and throat act as switches to your nervous system. Allowing your tongue and throat to become slightly more comfortable begins to calm your body and mind.

Step 3

The third “switch” in your nervous system is your breathing. When trying to breathe more comfortably, most people try deep breathing, breathing slowly and evenly, breathing into their abdomen, etc. While that can be useful for daytime relaxation, it is too much work and not effective for sleep.

Preliminary exercise

When you exhale, your lungs deflate and your chest falls inward, toward the center of your chest. Put one hand on your chest and look at your hand. Take a few deep breaths

and as you exhale, while watching your hand, you will see your chest moves inward. Now take your hand off your chest and, as you exhale, feel your chest moving inward, without trying to change your breath. Feel this for enough breaths that you are confident you can easily feel it.

Breathing happens without having to remember to breathe. Even if you are stressed and your breath is uncomfortable, the fact that your breath exists is much greater than whatever you are stressed about. Breath is worthy of appreciation. When you exhale and feel the inward movement of your chest, without trying to change your breath, it can be like feeling your breath with a sense of appreciation that breath exists. From this, breathing naturally becomes more comfortable. This is a much easier and more natural way of trying to calm your breath.

Step 4

The fourth and final “switch” in your nervous system is your heart. This

method gives you a way for your heart to feel protected and safe. Your heart then sends your body and mind signals of “It’s safe to rest.”

Don’t try to calm you physical heart (on the left side of your chest), but rather the area deep in the center of your chest. I call that the “heart area.” It’s easier to calm your heart area, and that automatically calms your physical heart. As you exhale and your chest gently moves inward toward the center of your chest, that helps calm your heart area. Your heart doesn’t need to become very calm. When it just begins to become calm, you will feel relief.

You might think, “How can I feel safe when I have so much stress?” If you were out in a storm, you might need to brace yourself. Once you are inside, you can calm yourself because you are indoors, protected from the weather. Allow your tongue and throat to become more comfortable, as you exhale, gently feel the inward movement of your chest, without trying to change your breath, and feel this begin to calm your heart area. This brings your awareness to a feeling of comfort and safety

inside your body, safe and protected inside, even if there are “storms” in your life. This becomes like a “secret place” to go to inside yourself to ease into sleep. Your mind likes this feeling, begins to rest in that feeling, and begins to become quiet without trying to make it quiet.

When your head is on a pillow, you don’t concentrate on the pillow, you just rest in it. Similarly, you don’t have to concentrate on the comfortable body sensation. Feel it and let yourself rest in that comfort.

The old goal was “I have to get to sleep (or back to sleep)” That creates too much pressure, which makes sleep difficult. Now have your goal be to get close to sleep with the steps summarized below. Obviously, you can’t do something to get to sleep. However, with these steps, you can do something simple to get close to sleep. Your body then recognizes that feeling and carries you the rest of the way into sleep.

Summary:

  • Allow your tongue and throat to be slightly more comfortable.
  • As you exhale, feel the gentle inward motion of your chest calming your heart area.
  • Rest in that feeling, close to sleep. In it’s own time, your body can carry you the rest of the way into sleep.

The next Article, # 3 is titled, “The Joys of Sleep.” This will give you a way to fall back to sleep more easily if you are awakened too early. If you would like to be notified when the next article is published, please follow us on Facebook and/or Twitter.

May you sleep easily and well,

Richard Shane, Ph.D.

 

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