By Jude Bijou MA MFT
We all know it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. Being well rested is vital to being our best at work and home.
But many of us take our problems to bed, staying up tossing and turning instead of getting valuable sleep. The CDC reports that about 10% of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia. And, according to a study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, at least 8.6 million Americans take prescription sleeping pills.
There’s a natural and safer way. Here are suggestions for getting that great night’s sleep you need in order to be productive and happy.
Shiver and Shake.
Not being able to sleep is related to having too many unexpressed emotions, especially fear. We experience fear as feeling overwhelmed, anxious, confused, agitated, or stressed. Underneath those feelings is a pure physical sensation. If we deal with it on a physical level, we can move that energy right out of our bodies, allowing our mind, body, and spirit to calm down.
Think about it: What does a dog do when it’s scared? It shivers, quivers and trembles. And children: if they’re scared they tremble, if they’re cold, they shiver. It’s the same when we deal with a traumatic event or unexpected life-altering news. Our hands become shaky and we shudder uncontrollably. Our stomach clenches up, or we feel paralyzed. The fear we experience is triggering our primitive survival instincts, and our body is reacting naturally.
We need to allow our bodies to do what is natural. I know most people resist this idea. We like to “keep it together.” Or maybe the idea of shaking away the fear seems too easy. But in my thirty-plus years as a psychotherapist, seeing hundreds of clients, I’ve found that this cure really works. Give it a try.
Ridiculous as it sounds, pour yourself out of bed (or do this before getting into bed), get up, and shiver, quiver, tremble and shudder. It takes less than two minutes. Shudder up your spine, out your arms and hands, down your legs, and around your neck. Do it hard, fast, and with abandon. Really get into it. Feeling inhibited? Make sounds–squeal, whine. Think, “It’s okay. I just feel scared. Everything will be all right.”
Want to see how to “shiver” your fears away before bedtime? Watch a one-minute video here. Give it a wholehearted try. I bet you start laughing. Much to your amazement, you’ll find your body and mind will finally relax. I’ll bet you drift right off to a good night of sleep.
Here are 5 other tips for improving your ability to sleep:
1. Turn off electronics.
At least a half an hour before bedtime, stop all your focused stimulating activity. Shut down those computers. Turn off the television news and scary shows.
2. Eat light in the evening.
Don’t have a big meal or a large amount of food less than two hours before you go to bed. A piece of fruit or a glass of milk is all right, but that’s it. Keep it light.
3. Write it out, then park your brain.
If you lie awake, mulling over tasks for the days and weeks ahead, write them down and get it out. A half an hour before bedtime, make a to-do list. That way, it’s down on paper and out of your head, and you won’t be preoccupied with it. Then put it aside, and repeat over and over: “I’ll do what I can, and the rest is out of my hands. Now is the time for sleep.”
4. Make bedtime relaxing.
Create your own pre-bedtime ritual, something sweet and relaxing. Make a list of 11 things you appreciated about the day, or listen to calming music. Take a warm bath or sit in a Jacuzzi. Or, do some simple, easy stretches. You’ll feel soothed, and ready for sweet dreamland.
5. Strive for balance.
Exercising regularly keeps your body functioning well. So make sure you’re making time to move. And learn to handle what’s on your plate in a timely manner so you can arrive at a balance between under activity and overwork, and your social life and work life.
Jude Bijou MA MFT is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and consultant. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her multi-award-winning book, Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. Learn more at www.attitudereconstruction.com.