With ever-increasingly busy lives and consistently greater demands on us modern humans, very rarely do we stop to consider how our activities before bedtime might affect our tomorrow. Often crashing into bed, exhausted and over-loaded. But what if we came to understand that our pre-sleep activities might work to our advantage. Enabling us to be more efficient, creative, focused, confident, calmer and just that little bit more Super-Human the next day.
Below are some excellent suggestions for improving your Super-Human tomorrowness that are based on the latest research findings and validated by experiences within private practice
1. Detox Begins (as early as you can during the day)
We all understand the importance of a good nights’ sleep for physical health but when it comes to mental health, sufficient, healthy REM (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep) cycles are hugely important for cognitive processing, problem solving and memory consolidation as I outline in a previous blog ‘You are What your Sleep’. When we are short on REM, memory is impaired, our attention falters and our ability to successfully think through a problem hindered.
So priority one has to be cutting out those stimulants which interfere with a good night’s sleep.
Caffeine is sleep enemy number one. Found not just in Coffee but Tea and Chocolate and let us not forget the other baddies- sugar, alcohol narcotics and certain foods containing a chemical called Tyramine which in turn triggers the release of noradrenaline, a brain stimulant, keeping us alert.
Other examples of foods to avoid include bacon, cheese, nuts which can keep us awake at night.
Eating a large, heavy meal too close to bedtime may also interfere with sleep. Spicy or fatty foods can cause heartburn or indigestion which leads to difficulty in falling asleep and discomfort and waking throughout the night.
If our bedtime is 10pm a great goal is to cut out caffeine at around, cut out alcohol completely and be selective in what snacks we chose before lights out
2. Turn off the Blue Light (2 hours before sleep)
Neuroscientists understand the importance of smart phone screen time before bed for a good night’s sleep. This is because the stream of photons omitted from the device tells brain to ‘stay awake’ and not to secrete Melatonin which we need in order to feel sleepy. This is damaging because the active brain cells need to rest but also very importantly, we need sleep to allow our supportive cells ‘glial cells’ to clean up the toxins that the neurons produce. If we don’t get enough sleep, these toxins cannot be broken down and build up remain there.
Let us also not forget the importance of those REM sleep cycles for memory consolidation, creative insight and cognitive processing. For the vast majority of us is 7-9 hours’ sleep is about right. By setting a timer to activate our blue light filter on our devices a couple of hours before bed (there is a setting for most phone to do this) and resisting the urge for one last check your emails or Social Media sites in that last twilight hour before lights’ out we can prioritise sleep again and all the positive advantages resulting from it.
3.Treasure-hunt the Positives (Before lights out)
Being positive might sound a little new age, but the impact it has on us is no myth. Neuroscientists are adamant that our brain can be shaped at a cellular level by the way that we think. If we consistently think in a positive way, we strengthen the connections between brain cells and create a circuit of positivity which becomes our brain’s default mode. The term for this is Neuroplasticity. It is now widely understood that we can deliberately rewire our brain by how we think and behave, both positivity and negatively. It figures then, that if we go to bed thinking about how dreadful our day has been and everything that has gone wrong, we strengthen a pathway of negativity which cycles around the brain in a loop, day in day out. Whereas if we reflect on everything that has been positive at the end of the day, the positive circuitry is strengthened.
How do we do this?
Make a note of at least 3 (more if you can find them) positives about your day and what you are grateful for. However small and trivial. Even a bad day can be coloured by positives…. “My car broke down and I was really late for work but it was lovely how that man stopped to offer me assistance and I could then get the car into the garage”.
Rehearsing the positives is a skill which takes enormous practice but like any skill, the more we practice, the easier it becomes and the more physically embedded it becomes in the pathways within our brain.
4.Send you Subconscious on a Mission (Lights out and eyes closed)
We understand far more about the conscious part of our brain than we do the subconscious, but what we do understand is that if we assign our conscious brain a task before sleep or Hypnosis for that matter, the subconscious will work hard during our REM sleep cycles to find a way of moving forward.
A challenge or a problem that we have been consciously battling with to come up with an effective solution can be actively passed to the subconscious during sleep. The subconscious is creative, innovative and pragmatic and we often see it at work with those ‘Ah ha’ or ‘Eureka’ moments when we come up with a solution to a seemingly incomprehensible problem out of the blue when we least expect it. This is because the roaming brain, whether it be asleep, day-dreaming or in a hypnotic trance sets off on a journey to find solutions to issues when we are not consciously thinking about them anymore. Once the train has left the station, there is no going back so to speak.
If we have had a challenging day and there is some problem or issue that we may face in the future, a great tip is to consciously engage the subconscious. Sounds confusing right? But in actual fact all we need to do is spend a small amount of time before drifting off to sleep focusing on that issue, bringing to mind possible courses of action, reviewing the positives and negatives of each then ‘turning off’ the conscious switch. By that, I mean, actively telling yourself ‘I have thought about that issue, my options, the pros and cons of each and now I am handing it over to you, subconscious. I am going now to focus on step
5.Relax with Hypnosis
Playing a Hypnotherapy recording as you drift off to sleep has the wonderful effect of putting you in the optimal brain region for sleep. The Left Prefrontal Cortex. Doing so promotes a peaceful sleep with healthy cycles of REM. Remember, the sleep cycle responsible for problem solving, insight and solution formation.
Hypnosis can also have the powerful additional advantage of producing Serotonin (our feel good, coping hormone) and allowing interference from our Conscious Critical Faculty, a brain area associated with resistance to new ideas and change, to quieten down. This in turn allows our thought energy to be directed to the higher, intellectual regions, The Cortex. If we can calm down our ‘Chimp Brain’ as it has been referred to, we can become more creative, solution-focused and objective and our Subconscious can open up to the positive advantages of Suggestion and Visualisation inherent in Hypnotic trance work.
In a nutshell, for a more Super-Human you tomorrow (motivated, focused, rational, confident and calm): Wind down the body and the mind and navigate your subconscious resources towards your end goal.