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24 Mar

Sleep Your Worries Away

by Lissa Coffey

What’s keeping you up at night? Chances are it is worry. Let’s face it, in our hectic lives there’s always something to worry about, even if it’s the state of the world. Worry can contribute to insomnia, or trouble falling asleep. Worry can also cause what is called “maintenance insomnia” or difficulty in staying asleep. This is when we wake us up in the middle of the night, and then have a problem getting back to sleep.

 

Why does worry affect our sleep so much? During the day we might have all the same worries – but we’re engaged in other activities that take the mind elsewhere. At night, when it is quiet and the mind isn’t distracted, all those same worries come to the forefront of the mind, and we can’t seem to quiet them. It is important to give ourselves that “wind down” time to help settle the mind before hitting the sheets. Read, meditate, listen to soft music, or take a warm bath. And of course, make sure your mattress is supportive and comfortable as this is the key to having a cozy bed to climb into.

 

Worrying is nothing new. It happens to everyone, all over the world. Generations ago, the indigenous people of Guatemala created “Worry Dolls” as a remedy for their stress. These are tiny dolls, hand-crafted with fabrics from Mayan costumes twisted and tied around little pieces of wood and wire. It is all held in place with colorful yarn, which makes up the doll’s head, hair, feet and hands. At just two inches high, the dollars are small enough to tuck under a pillow. The tradition is that when worrying keeps you awake, you tell your worries to the doll, who then does the worrying for you so that you can sleep peacefully through the night.

 

This is the traditional story of how the worry dolls came about, and it is a wonderful way to introduce worry dolls to children to help them get to sleep.

 

The Worry Dolls

 

In the hills of Guatemala there lived an old man, his daughter, Flora, and Flora’s two children Maria and Diego. Their home was a small hut made out of mud and wood. The grandfather was a farmer, as many of his ancestors were, and as he taught his own family to be. One year there was a terrible drought. Without enough rain the crops could not grow well, and they had very little food.

 

The whole family would wake up with the sun and tend to the fields in the hope that the rain would come. Then Maria and Diego would go to school for the day. At night, Flora would make tortillas for dinner with what corn they had, and then weave colorful cloth to sell at the market. Grandfather would tell the children stories before tucking them into their hammocks at bedtime. One of the children’s favorite stores was about a magical doll that could grant wishes.

 

One night a robber snuck in and stole all of Flora’s cloth, everything she had worked so hard to make over many months. She cried that she had nothing to sell at the market and didn’t know how the family would get the money they needed.

 

The next day Flora came down with a fever, and Maria knew that she had to do something to help. She got an idea. She went through her mother’s weaving basket and found scraps of fabric in odd colors and shapes. She brought the basket outside, and told her brother to collect small twigs for her. With the scraps of cloth and the twigs Diego and Maria got to work. They worked late into the night, and kept their project a secret. When they ran out of cloth they saw that they had made dozens of tiny dolls in tiny clothes. Maria hoped that these dolls would be magical like the one in her Grandfather’s story.

 

That night Maria lined up a few of the dolls and spoke to them of her worries: “My little friends, we need your help. My family is in trouble. The fields are dry, my mother is sick, and we have no food or money. Please help us. Good night.” She placed the dolls lovingly under her pillow and lay down to sleep. Maria slept well that night, confident that the dolls would somehow help her.

 

In the morning, Maria and Diego packed up all the dolls and walked a very long way to the market. The family was so poor that the children didn’t even have sandals, they had to walk barefoot. When they finally got to the market they found that it was crowded with people. They had never sold at the market before, and she had never seen anyone else sell tiny dolls there, but she was determined that her plan would work. The two finally found a good spot near a shoe seller.

 

Maria and Diego laid the dolls on the sidewalk. The shoe seller saw them and wondered by anyone would want such tiny dolls. Marie explained that there was magic in the dolls. The shoe seller just laughed and said that the magic in his shoes doesn’t help them to sell. Marie was firm and said: “We shall see.”

 

It was a long day, and no one had bought any of the dolls. The children we getting sad, and worried. As Maria was packing up the dolls to go home, a man in fine clothes and a large hat came by and asked what they were selling. Diego piped up: “These little dolls.”

 

“Magic dolls!” Maria corrected her brother.

 

The man looked impressed. “Well, I could use a little magic. I’ll take all of them!”

 

Maria and Diego excitedly wrapped up the dolls for the man, who then handed them a stack of money, without asking the price. Maria thanked him and the man was gone before Maria could say anything more. She counted the money and found that there was enough for the family to live on for a year.

 

The two bought some food at the market and then excitedly headed for home to tell their mother and grandfather the news.

 

“We sold the dolls we made!” Diego exclaimed.

 

“Magic dolls!” Maria emphasized, and she told them the whole story.

 

“This doesn’t sound like any magic,” Flora said to her children, “It sounds like you worked hard and it paid off.”

 

“Ah,” the grandfather chimed in, “but you are feeling much better, Flora, how do you explain that?”

 

“And look! It’s raining!” Diego jumped up and pointed to the fields. Sure enough, it was raining and the fields were getting the water they needed. The drought was over.

 

That night as Maria got ready for bed, she noticed something in her pocket. She reached in to find a pouch that contained the same dolls she had slept with under her pillow the night before. She was surprised because she was sure she sold all of the dolls to the man. Inside the pouch was a little note that read: “Tell these dolls your secret wishes. Tell them your problems. Tell them your dreams. And when you awake, you may find the magic within you to make your dreams come true.”

 

For lots of great sleep tips visit The Better Sleep Council: www.BetterSleep.org

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2911002/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/too-early-to-get-up-too-late-to-get-back-to-sleep

http://blog.shamansmarket.com/the-legend-of-the-worry-dolls/

 

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15 Mar

“Sleepy… Verrrrry Sleepy…”

“You are feeling sleepy… verrry sleepy…” Those are the words that we think of when we imagine being hypnotized. You may have seen a stage show where a hypnosis performer gets people from the audience into a trance, and then gets them to act silly. But could hypnosis really be used to help us sleep better? For many, the answer is a resounding yes!

 

I studied hypnotherapy and got my certification years ago. I’ve found that this is an effective tool to use in many areas of our lives.

 

Hypnotherapy has been used to treat various ailments since the 18th century, although hypnosis itself dates way back to prehistoric days. Hypnosis isn’t magic, or brainwashing, it is actually a heightened state of concentration. There are many times we’ve been in a state of hypnosis and not even been aware of it – for example, when we are engrossed in a really good movie, or super focused on solving a problem. That’s when the rest of the world somehow goes away. We might be called for dinner and not even be aware of it. That’s how hypnosis works.

 

Hypnosis is often performed by a certified hypnotherapist who guides a person into a trance-like state where suggestions can then be given to the subconscious mind to help that person improve a golf game, increase their confidence levels, decrease anxiety, overcome a fear, or attain other goals such as getting a restful night’s sleep. But we don’t necessarily need a hypnotherapist to achieve these results. We can use self-hypnosis, a technique very similar to guided meditation.

 

When we have trouble getting to sleep, it’s likely that we are having trouble relaxing for one reason or another. We may be stressed, worried, or feeling anxious. Self-hypnosis is one way that we can help fix the relaxation response that triggers sleep. Hypnosis helps us to refocus our thoughts by focusing instead on certain words, music, or a soothing voice. In this way we basically retrain the brain to once again relax when it is time to sleep. We provide the mind and body all it needs to calmly drift off into a pleasant sleep state.

 

The benefit, of course, is that when we awaken from a great night’s sleep we feel more energetic and focused. So, we are naturally more productive and motivated!

 

There are many self-hypnosis apps and recordings available and you can try some to see what works for you. Some of these programs use “binaural beats” as a background “white noise” kind of sound. Before sleep the brain must achieve the delta frequency. Binaural beats, a combination of sound frequencies, are used as a tool to help sync the brainwaves to that delta frequency.

 

Autogenic training, also called Autogenic therapy, is one form of self-hypnosis. This relaxation technique was developed by Johannes Schulz, a German psychiatrist, in 1932. With Autogenics, through a series of sessions, we gradually learn to relax the limbs, heart space and breath.  The idea is to induce a feeling of warmth throughout most of the body, and a feeling of coolness in the forehead. It is a way for us to influence our own autonomic nervous system to counterbalance the effects of stress. The Autogenics technique creates a physiological response, preparing us for sleep.

 

To practice Autogenics follow these guidelines:

 

– Practice alone, in quiet, or with soft background music or environmental sounds.

– Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and no shoes.

– Practice before meals so that the digestive process doesn’t interfere with the relaxation process.

– Take your time, do not rush.

– Sit comfortably in a chair, or lie down.

– If you are practicing at bedtime, make sure your room is conducive for sleep, and that your mattress is comfortable and supportive.

– Now follow these six steps:

 

1) Warm -up: Begin slow, deep breathing. Inhale for one beat, exhale for two. With each breath, increase the duration of the inhales and exhales, always doubling the length of time for the exhales.  Breath to six counts in, and twelve counts out. Then reverse the process all the way back down to one count in and two counts out.

 

2) Heavy and Warm – Heaviness and warmth represent muscular relaxation.  Visualize and actually feel your limbs becoming heavy. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My arms and legs are” and on the exhale: “heavy and warm.” Repeat two more times.

 

3) A Calm Heart – Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My heartbeat and breathing are” and on the exhale: “calm and steady.” Repeat two more times.

 

4) A Warm Stomach – this helps you to add a central warmth and peace to your body. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My stomach is” and on the exhale: “soft and warm.” Repeat two more times.

 

5) A Cool Forehead – This helps you provide a calm, stabilizing coolness to the forehead. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My forehead is” and on the exhale: “cool.” Repeat two more times.

 

6) Completion. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “I feel” and on the exhale: “supremely calm.” Repeat two more times.

 

It is important to memorize this “script” so that you don’t have to spend energy trying to remember the words. Many people find it beneficial to record their own voice with the prompts, and this may be a good way to start. The repetition of the words helps to get the body and mind into a calm, relaxed state, which in turns promotes peaceful sleep.

 

When you are first learning Autogenics, practice this routine three times throughout the day. Before breakfast, before lunchtime, and then right before bedtime so that it helps you to fall asleep. Give it some time to see the best results. Most people notice a big, positive shift in their sleep patterns after a few weeks of practicing Autogenics.

 

Important note: Never listen to any hypnosis recording or try to use self-hypnosis while you are driving or operating heavy machinery. Also, hypnosis is not recommended for those with epilepsy or for those with any kind of psychosis. Always follow the advice of your health professional.

 

Here is a sleep hypnosis recording I made just for you!

Download
References

https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Yourself-Sleep-Using-Hypnosis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autogenic_training

https://bebrainfit.com/autogenic-training/

https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2013/06/24/the-science-of-hypnosis/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hypnosis

Lissa Coffey is the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. More sleep tips at www.bettersleep.org

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