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Why we wake up in the middle of the night and how to break the cycle…..

An on-going request from my clients is how to work with the ‘anxiety hour’. This is the problem when people wake up suddenly between 3.00 and 4.00am with restlessness and anxiety. Invariably, they feel like they have energy to start the day right then. But alas it’s only 3.00am!

I experience this too, especially during times of stress and when there is a lot expected of me. Times when I need to dig deep. Not only is this annoying, it's also bad for our health. Lack of sleep can severely impact our lives; a good nights sleep helps to heal the body, improve the immune system, and recover from sickness. In fact, Ariana Huffington goes so far as to say ‘‘A Sleep Revolution Will Allow Us to Better Solve the World’s Problems’ and recommends some great tips for better sleep. I’ve added my own tips to Ariana’s to create a more holistic solution that incorporates mindfulness and a few other gems.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful:

1. Bring Your Attention to the Present Moment

Our thoughts at this hour are either based on something that happened in the past that is troubling us or something threatening or exciting that MAY happen in the future. Reliving the past or trying to predict the future are stories we are telling ourselves. They exist solely in our minds. In reality, the present moment in which you twist and turn is probably a nice one; there you are in a cosy warm bed, with a roof over your head, and blankets cocooning you. If you can bring your ‘thinking’ mind to focus on how things really are, you can drop out of the fear and agitation and into the stillness of the present moment. Every time your mind wanders, just bring it back to the present moment over and over again.

2. Mindful Breathing

You can bring focus to your physical body to distract your attention from your thinking mind. Here’s a simple breathing practice to cultivate calm and ease:

Place both hands on your belly.

Feel your belly rise on the inhale and relax on the exhale.

Take an inhale through the nose, feeling the belly fill with air on the inhale and relax on the exhale.

Repeat three times.

On next exhale, open your mouth and let the breath seep out until all the air has left your body.

Repeat three times.

3. Amino Acids

Taking amino acids 1 hour before going to bed can help. I find L-Trypophan and Gaba to be effective in keeping me asleep all night long. The proof is in the pudding. I’ve recommended this to others and they’ve reported great results too. The brand I recommend is Total Amino Solution by Genesa. Play around with the dosage but two tabs does the trick for me!

4. Bed Time Ritual

Ariana Huffington offers great advise for a bed time ritual and recommends the following 12 tips for better sleep:

1. Create a bedroom environment that’s dark, quiet, and cool (between 60 and 67 degrees).

2. Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

3. Don’t charge your phone next to your bed. Even better: Gently escort all devices completely out of your room.

4. Stop drinking caffeine after 2 p.m.

5. Use your bed for sleep and sex only—no work!

6. Keep pets off the bed (sorry, Mr. Snuffles).

7. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts in the evening to help calm your mind and body.

8. Wear pajamas, nightdresses, or even a special T-shirt—it’ll send a sleep-friendly message to your body. If you wore it to the gym, don’t wear it to bed.

9. Do some light stretching, deep breathing, yoga, or meditation to help your body and your mind transition to sleep.

10. Choose a real book or an e-reader that does not emit blue light, if you like to read in bed. And make sure it’s not work-related: novels, poetry, philosophy—anything but work.

11. Sip camomile or lavender tea to ease yourself into sleep mode.

12. Write down a list of what you’re grateful for before bed. It’s a great way to make sure your blessings get the closing scene of the night

5. Positive Visualization

Thinking about ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ by Wendell Berry always calms my spirit during a restless night. Wendell captures the ‘anxiety hour’ succinctly in his poem so I thought I’d share it with you. Hope it brings calm to you too during your next 'anxiety hour' :)

The Peace of Wild Things


When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things" from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press.

Source: Collected Poems 1957-1982 (Counterpoint Press, 1985)

Thank you and sweet dreams :)

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