Having trouble sleeping? In order to help my patients with this issue, I’ve developed a step-by-step adult sleep training exercise that helps!
Perhaps YOU need to do some adult sleep training.
I’ve been helping my daughter sleep train my infant granddaughter. The baby sleep training system we’re using takes 14 days – because that’s how long it takes to set a new habit – for infants and adults. Responding only to crying at regulated times but NOT getting her out of bed, allowing her to put herself to sleep is key.
Same for adults. If you’re having trouble staying asleep, getting out of bed, checking your phone, turning on lights, whatever you’re “doing” outside of your bed is reinforcing you being awake. If you have to go to the bathroom, keep the lights off and do so with the least amount of stimulation.
Return to your cozy bed and go right back to sleep. What if you can’t? Well, remember, you’re used to letting your nocturnal potty habits keep you up. So, like a baby, you need to learn to self-soothe. No, I’m not recommending you suck your thumb. But you need to learn a relaxation technique to put yourself back to sleep.
I recommend my go-back-to-sleep exercise below.
What if your brain is buzzing with worrying thoughts? The same exercise works by helping burn off the adrenaline that’s creating your anxiety. Worry feeds on itself. Do the go-back-to-sleep exercise right away. Don’t feed your angst by ruminating – chewing worry-cud like a cow.
Deborah’s Adult Sleep Training / Go-Back-to-Sleep Exercise:
- Be sure your pillow is in a good position and your pajamas and bed covers are comfortably situated. Lie flat on your back.
- Slowly contract your body one part at a time from your feet to your head. The key is to contract each part very consciously. All your attention is going to telling your body to contract and hold the contraction. First contract your feet, then lower legs, upper legs, buttocks, belly, back, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, face, squeeze your eyes shut.
- Hold the contraction of your entire body for 3 seconds.
- Slowly relax one part at a time from your feet to your head. All your attention is going to telling your body to relax one part at a time. First, relax your feet, then lower legs, upper legs, buttocks, belly, back, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, and last your face.
- Repeat the contraction/relaxation wave twice.
Now don’t forget you’re going to have to do this for at least fourteen nights if you want to set a new sleep habit.
Set yourself up for sleep success
First, be sure your bedroom is completely dark.
That’s right. No lights in your bedroom whatsoever. No digital lights, no night lights, no TV. Nothing. Light interferes with melatonin production. And if you’re having sleep issues, you can bet your melatonin production is not optimal.
Your hypothalamus controls your sleep cycles. And if you’ve had any lights on at night, you’re effectively telling your hypothalamus that it’s daytime. So your hypothalamus does not trigger your pineal gland to make melatonin.
You need to start your bedtime routine after dusk – that’s when any digital light exposure will delay your melatonin production. So no computer work or TV. At least for these fourteen nights. After that, you can use blue-light-blocking glasses if you must have screen time.
Second, be sure your room temperature is just right.
Your hypothalamus needs to be signaled that it’s nighttime by an adjustment of temperature too. So your bedroom temperature should be between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Any cooler and you’ll be cold and have trouble sleeping. Any hotter and you won’t be able to sleep deeply.
A cool bedroom temperature is especially important for infants, pregnant women and nursing moms, young children, teenagers, perimenopausal and menopausal women. Oh, yes, men need cooler temperatures too – especially young men and men going through andropause (the male equivalent of the change of life). So cool bedrooms for everyone’s sleep health.
If you’re cold at night, consider getting your thyroid function checked.
Third, use ambient noise to lull yourself into a deep sleep.
A white noise machine will do. What makes you most relaxed – the sound of ocean waves, rainfall, a fan? Find that sound and let it play for eight hours. Listening to the baby monitor with my granddaughter’s noise machine playing ocean waves reminds me that I always sleep deepest when we’re camping by the shore. Everyone has their perfect white noise to sleep to. I prefer you use a battery-operated sound machine rather than a digital device that is using cellular or Bluetooth. Sleeping by a digital device that is on connecting to the internet seriously disrupts sleep. And studies show that the health of your brain cells is adversely affected.
Last, you need a relaxing bedtime routine.
Yes, just like an infant you need to tell your brain – specifically your hypothalamus—it’s time to go to sleep.
A hot bath before bed can help you relax. Hot water helps relieve sore muscles and soothes your senses. Add Epsom salts for even more muscle relaxation. Some calming essential oils like lavender can help trigger your brain chemistry to wind down.
Get in your comfy pajamas. Curl up in bed and read a book. Don’t use a digital device – read a real book or magazine. Not the news! Read something relaxing.
Perhaps you might journal. I like to record my reflections from the day, any insights, all the good things, count my blessings on paper. No to do lists! Don’t get your brain revved up in bed. If you must create a to-do list for the next day, do it right after dinner and before you start your bedtime ritual. Don’t bring your worries into your bed!
Set your intention for a good night’s sleep.
I like to even tell my Hypothalamus what I’d like to dream that night. Most of the time it works!
Turn on your sound machine. Turn off your lights. Pull up your bed covers. And go to sleep.
If you are not able to reset your sleep cycles with these techniques in 14 days, then definitely consider supporting your hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus needs specific nutrients to do its job correctly. Besides controlling your sleep cycles, your hypothalamus controls all your hormones, your immune system and your neurological system. So if it’s not getting what it needs to keep you alive and healthy, your sleep may be affected.
I recommend Genesis Gold® with extra Sacred Seven® amino acids for my toughest insomnia cases. It may take three months to fully reset your sleep cycles. And longer if you have suffered for more than three years with chronic health conditions like autoimmunity, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroiditis, adrenal insufficiency, brain injury, mood disorders, complicated menopause, etc.
So be patient. If you’ve been stressed for years, it’s going to take hypothalamus support and sleep training to restore healthy sleep habits.