Tip: One of the symptoms of high stress levels is waking with a start in the small hours – commonly 3am or 4am. Don’t let this stress you out further – use self-hypnosis to gently help yourself fall back into sleep.
How: Try the following methods from Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, psychophysiologist at Capio Nightingale Hospital and author of Tired But Wired (Souvenir Press 2011) to gently help yourself drift back into sleep:
- Exhalation counting As you exhale, slowly count from one to ten, a count of one for the length of every exhalation. When you reach ten, start again. This kind of repetitive and slow counting creates a trance-like state that makes it easier to fall back to sleep.
- Your perfect bedtime story Think of something you love to do, that is non-competitive and engages your imagination, then literally watch yourself doing it step-by-step. The idea is to create a scene you find safe, comforting and calming. If you love to cook, imagine yourself chopping, stirring, frying up the perfect meal. If you love to paint, think of yourself sitting in and slowly creating your ideal landscape.
- Wave lull Imagine yourself lying on your favourite beach scene – anywhere from a cliffside in Cornwall overlooking the waves to a sandy bay in Barbados. Then count the waves lapping at the sea. As you hear a wave coming in take a breath in, as you hear it going out, take a breath out as you gently fade back into a restful state.
- Don’t clockwatch Turn the clock away from you before you get into bed at night. Watching the clock creates anxiety and what is called ‘Attentional Bias’, says Dr Ramlakhan. That’s when what you focus on – such as getting back to sleep – is less likely to happen because you’re simply trying too hard.
Why: Sleep is crucial but worrying about not sleeping makes you release stress hormones. If you’re lying there awake, rejoice in the warmth and comfort of bed; you’re still getting rest if you stay calm.
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