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How Can You Get Beyond Insomnia?

Written by: Dr. Adriana Popescu, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

One thing that I hear a lot from clients, especially over the last two years, is that they are struggling with falling or staying asleep, they are not sleeping enough, or their sleep is erratic or inconsistent. As a licensed clinical psychologist and empowerment coach, I know that quality sleep is vital to one’s body, mind and spirit. What I would like to share with you are some key ingredients for amazing sleep, more true rest and greater overall ease and relaxation.

Personally, I have struggled with sleep, rest and relaxation over the years, especially during times of intense pressure. It’s been one of my life’s missions to discover the very best tools, techniques and practices to create a greater possibility with this and all areas of life and living.


We all know that sleep is essential. Clinical studies routinely show that those deprived of sleep are less accurate, present and engaged. Does the question then become how much sleep is really required? What if what we’ve been told about needing 8 hours per sleep a night is not true for everyone?


When I was a child I was often so immersed in things that I found interesting and exciting that some nights it was almost impossible to fall asleep. The times set by my parents for sleep seemed way too long and not actually what my particular constitution required. For many families with children like me, there can be a lot of struggle around bedtime and frustration with kids staying up “too late.” For how many of you is this a familiar scenario? Or do you have children who seem “wound up” at bedtime or resistant to a rigid sleep routine?


One way I deal with this in my own life is to allow my body to sleep on its own schedule. Some nights I will go to bed well past midnight and other nights I will crash into bed shortly after getting home from the office. Other times I will be wide awake in the middle of the night. When this happens, I don’t toss and turn for hours, stressing about how tired I’m going to be in the morning. If I believe that point of view to be true, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I instead get up, start reading (especially something on the drier side) or watching something mellow on TV (nature shows are great for this) until I get sleepy enough to fall asleep.


It is really just a matter of staying in tune with my body, following the energy and allowing it to let me know when it is tired and when it is not. What if every person’s body is different? We all have varying sleep requirements and these can change every day based on our level of stress, diet, health, wellbeing and a variety of other factors. One thing I like to do with clients is to challenge the notion that there is a “perfect,” “correct,” or “best” set amount of time we have to sleep to be rested and productive the next day.


This brings me to another strategy to go beyond insomnia, which is dealing with any underlying anxiety that is causing sleep disruption. Many people are staying awake these days with thoughts of doom, worries and stress. It’s not an easy time in the world. A lot of what has made us feel safe and stable is now uncertain. So many people have intense anxiety and fear about the future. Others simply can’t be alone with their own thoughts and they lie in bed with their minds churning. For all these common situations I recommend finding a relaxation strategy.


Some relaxation strategies I use for myself and in my practice include: breathing exercises, EFT/Tapping and Access Bars®. These techniques all present a way to slow down brainwaves, calm the nervous system and create a sense of relaxation for the mind and body. They can all be easily learned or applied immediately.


Breathing exercises are great in that they can be done anywhere, anytime. Deep belly breathing, especially when the exhalation is at least as long, if not longer, than the inhalation, activates the vagus nerve, which helps move our body out of sympathetic nervous system arousal (stress) and into parasympathetic nervous system relaxation.


I cover another powerful calming breathing technique called four-square breathing in this article.


Another common relaxation strategy I recommend is meridian tapping, which can include TFT (Thought Field Therapy), EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and TTT (Trauma Tapping Technique). These techniques involve stimulating acupuncture points on the body with your fingers to restore optimal energy flows. Tapping also sends a deactivating signal to the amygdala, the emotional part of your brain responsible for initiating the fight-flight-freeze response; what creates the stress and worry of anxiety.


This technique can be so helpful with sleep issues or nighttime anxiety that are caused by traumatic events from the past. Tapping can be used to calm the emotional energy surrounding the experiences you may be holding onto so that they no longer impact you today, as well as to release stress-inducing thoughts that create feelings of anxiety and worry, often the main culprits in insomnia. If you are interested in learning more about tapping and how you can use it to calm your mind and body, I have a how-to video here.


Another technique that has been shown to induce deep relaxation and reduce anxiety, depression and insomnia is Access Consciousness Bars®, a set of 32 points on the head that a trained practitioner will touch in a session that usually lasts 1 to 1½ hours. Bars allow you to release stressful thoughts, feelings, emotions and points of view all while lying down and receiving a calm, nurturing touch to your head. Many people find that Access Bars improves sleep and that even a single session can create more of an overall sense of peace and wellbeing. You can find facilitators and practitioners of Access Bars in over 178 countries around the world: https://www.accessconsciousness.com/bars


The common thread that runs through all of these amazing modalities is energy. If we can change the energy of the thoughts, feelings, emotions and judgments (especially around sleep and the worries that keep us from sleeping!) we can create an immediate sense of peace and ease.


Many people have found that these relaxation techniques can free them from repetitive or intrusive thoughts or patterns that they can’t seem to change any other way. It can get them out of the “negative loop” of thoughts that come up over and over. It is by releasing the energy underlying these thoughts and emotions and situations that they can be changed, often permanently.


Deep and satisfying sleep is possible, especially when we get clear on what is going on for us and choose to implement some powerful strategies. If you suspect that there is a medical issue involved in your personal situation, please seek a professional health practitioner. Any of the relaxation techniques and tools mentioned here can be a potent adjunct to anything that you and your doctor decide to implement and the benefits can extend far beyond sleep into all other areas of life.


Here’s to having a great night sleep!


Want to find out more about this topic? I’ll be hosting a Facebook Live on Wed. February 16th at 11 am PST (your time in the world here) at https://www.facebook.com/DrAdrianaPopescu/. A replay will be available on my page if you can’t be on live.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and visit my website for more info! Read more from Adriana!

 

Dr. Adriana Popescu, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine Dr. Adriana Popescu is a licensed clinical psychologist and empowerment coach with over 25 years of experience in the mental health field. She specializes in treating addiction, co-occurring disorders, and trauma, and has directed a number of treatment programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. Adriana has a private practice in San Francisco and travels around the world coaching and facilitating transformational and empowering workshops. She coauthored the Conscious Being, Conscious Recovery, and Conscious Creation Workbooks, and she hosts a fascinating podcast called Kaleidoscope of Possibilities – Alternative Perspectives on Mental Health. She loves to empower people to overcome their imagined limitations, release their self-judgments, and discover the brilliance within – creating a life of infinite possibilities.

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