Mind-Body Counselling and Psychotherapy

Mind-Body Counselling and Psychotherapy

Using a variety of theories and approaches, I help my clients access their own (often hidden) resources to promote healing and transformation in their journey towards wholeness, authenticity, genuine positive relationships, and a deepening connection to self, nature, spirit, and community.

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Sleep Problems?

Jennifer Scott, RCC, RSW, BC-DMT

Topics included in this article:

  • What causes sleep disturbance?
  • What you can do about sleep disturbance.
  • Bedroom Ambiance
  • Lifestyle Habits that Support Good Sleep
  • Bedtime Routines
  • REST-ful activites 2 hours before bedtime
  • If you do waken in the night...

(This information is adapted from a variety of sources including the websites listed on the links page, my clients, and my own experience.)

What causes sleep disturbance?

Some of the most common causes are poor sleep habits or sleep environment, any emotional or psychological issue, stress, depression, anxiety, menstruation, menopause, growing older, medical issues and some medications, pain, an altered sleep schedule, and a change in time zones. But did you know that almost any kind of trauma, including things like surgery, accidents such as falls or a car accident, abuse, assault, and so on can also cause sleep problems? Sleep problems from trauma may not show up until years after the event.

What can you do about sleep disturbance?

Sleeping better is always possible if you know what to do. There are 3 steps you can take to help yourself to a better night sleep.

The first step is to assess your lifestyle, sleep habits, sleep routine, and your sleep environment. This is commonly referred to as sleep hygiene.

If you have tried making adjustments to your sleep habits and environment and you're still not sleeping well, the next step is to see your physician to check on the role of medications, medical disorders, serious sleep disorders, or other factors.

The third step is to see a counsellor with expertise in sleep problems and sleep coaching. Sleep coaching offers an individual assessment and recommendations just for you, based on your needs, sleep environment, habits, daily schedule, and so on. A sleep coach will help you assess the causes of your sleep problems and design personalized strategies to help you sleep better.

In addition, a counsellor will help you work through the underlying causes of your sleep problem. They will help you talk about negative attitudes you might have about sleep and learn effective behavioural sleep techniques, such as sleep restriction, and stress management techniques to promote better sleep.

Bedroom ambiance:

  1. The bedroom should only be used for sleep and intimacy. No electronic devices such as TV, radio, computer, or even a phone, should be in the bedroom.
  2. Reading in bed disrupts the message of sleep and so should be avoided.
  3. Your bed, pillows, and bedding should provide adequate warmth and support. Use natural fiber pillows that cradle your head, such as down, wool, or silk pillows. Place one pillow under your shoulders, one under your neck, and pillows under or between your knees.
  4. Try the old fashioned sleep remedy of putting a few drops of lavender essential oil on a cloth or sachet near your pillow and breathe in the relaxing scent.
  5. The room should be calming with soft colors, orderliness, and only necessary items.
  6. Clock numbers should not be visible and don't check the time during the night. A battery clock is preferable to electric as it makes no noise. You may not be conscious of soft noises, but your nervous system registers all sounds.
  7. The room should be as quiet as possible. Earplugs can be helpful (foam, wax, or try custom made earplugs), or some people prefer a fan, air purifier or "white noise" machine to block out sounds. Ambient sounds such as soft rain or wind, however, can be soothing for some people.
  8. Keep the room dark by using an eye mask or black out curtains.
  9. Wear light, loose, non- restrictive clothing to bed.
  10. The room should be cool but your body should be warm.  Fresh air from the window or a fan should be balanced with warm bedding.
  11. Your feet and solar plexus should be warm. Wear warm socks or place a hot water bottle or heated bean bag at your feet (not touching your feet). Try a hot water bottle on your solar plexus.
  12. Practice sensory awareness. Feel the weight of your body in the bed, the sensation of your skin touching the sheets, relaxing the tiny muscles in your face and neck, etc.
  13. Pets have a different sleep cycle than humans and can disturb your sleep.

Lifestyle Habits that Support Good Sleep

  1. Avoid naps or limit them to 30 minutes before 3 PM.
  2. Regular exercise, even 20-30 minutes a day. Exercise in the morning or early afternoon. Exercising too late raises body temperature. A cooler body temperature promotes sleep.
  3. Healthy diet. In particular, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, especially 6 hours before bedtime.
  4. Practice disputing self-defeating thoughts.
  5. Spend time outdoors in daylight (ideally 2 hours/day), which helps regulate sleep hormones and thus helps regulate sleep-wake cycles.
  6. Keep active and engaged. The antidote to stress is not rest, but food for the soul. So find an activity that brings you pleasure and satisfaction and do more of it.
  7. Spend time in nature. Nature is inherently healing and soothing to the nervous system.

Bedtime Routines:

  1. The body needs REST before you can sleep. Engage in relaxing activities 2 hours before bedtime to prepare your body and mind for sleep.
  2. It is helpful to have a bedtime routine and stick to it every night. Keep the same order of the routine. This prepares your mind and body for sleep.
  3. Avoid stimulating activity in the evening, such as vigorous exercise or big discussions or arguments.
  4. Wake up at the same time each day. Ideally go to bed at the same time each day as well, but avoid going to bed when you are not sleepy.
  5. Eat dinner at a regular time and avoid large meals and excess liquid close to bedtime.

REST-ful activities 2 hours before bedtime:
(adapted from a variety of sources)

  1. Daily reflections A: Sit comfortably, maybe light a candle or have a warm herbal tea to sip on. Mentally review your day, starting in the morning and progressing through your day. Record in a journal what you are most grateful for that day and what you are not grateful for. Processing your day before you sleep helps calm and settle your mind.
  2. Daily reflections B: If disturbing thoughts or worries arise in the above exercise, journal or talk about it with someone. You may also want to reflect on any actions, such as a conversation, forgiveness, or counselling perhaps, that need to happen to resolve this problem. With an action plan in mind, your mind and body will find it easier to relax.
  3. Practice a relaxation exercise to induce the relaxation response.
  4. Befriend the darkness. Simulate dusk by dimming or turning off lights.
  5. Light a candle or a fire in the fireplace.
  6. Read non-stimulating books or magazines not related to your work or daily life. These will help distract your mind from your daily activities. Reserve these readings just for bedtime reading material and do not read in bed.
  7. Make simple preparations for the next day, such as checking your schedule, so you won't be thinking about it during the night.
  8. Massage your feet. Smooth down your whole body.
  9. Practice some form of light, gentle stretching. Daily aerobic exercise helps with sleep, but avoid it at least 6 hours before bedtime.
  10. Listen to soothing music.
  11. Have a light snack so your stomach is not empty. Snack on foods with tryptophan and carbohydrates, such as warm milk, turkey, low-sugar cereal, yogurt, or herbal tea. Calcium and magnesium are soothing. Avoid eating a large meal 2 hours before bedtime.
  12. Avoid watching TV or using the computer. Even though it may seem like your body is relaxing, the nervous system is highly stimulated by the light and movement of the images as well as the sound.
  13. Listen to relaxation tapes especially designed for sleep.
  14. Play with your pet.
  15. Have some kind of contact with nature outdoors.
  16. Enjoy hobbies such as knitting or puzzles if you find them relaxing.
  17. Use your imagination to create your own relaxing techniques to prepare your mind and body for sleep.

If you do waken in the night and can't get back to sleep:

  1. Do not look at your clock to see what time it is. Set your alarm and trust it.
  2. Re-check your sleep environment factors and repeat your favourite relaxation exercise.
  3. Practice the sensory awareness exercise.
  4. If you still can't sleep after 20 minutes, get up and repeat some relaxing activities, especially ones you have tried before that work for you, until you feel sleepy. Try a snack and keep the lights dim. Then go back to bed and do your relaxation exercise again.
  5. Try counting sheep or engage your mind in some other repetitive activity.
  6. Don't stress about it. Concentrate on relaxation, not sleep.

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