Improve Sleep with Autogenics
Not only is insomnia frustrating when it happens, but it’s makes it more difficult to get through the following day. Lack of sleep can also compromise your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness, and can increase stress hormones that lead to weight gain.
Insomnia can become a viscious cycle.
You become afraid that you won’t be able to sleep, so you stress about not sleeping, which in turn makes it harder to sleep. These circumstances lead many people to turn to pills, which can have negative side-effects such as increased drowsiness the next day, increased appetite, and impaired memory.
Overall, the side-effect profile of most sleeping pills doesn’t sound much better than the effects of insomnia. If you'd like to sleep better without taking pills or supplements, try autogenic training.
Autogenics is a form of relaxation that involves self-suggestion. In other words, you tell your body that it is relaxing, and it does. I’ve taught several relaxation techniques to individuals and groups, and this technique has been the top choice for most of them for improving sleep. It’s also the one I personally find to be the easiest to use and the most effective for helping me get to sleep. There are several autogenics scripts available, but this is the one I use:
Lay on your back, close your eyes, and get comfortable. Take several deep, slow breaths. Imagine the air going all the way to the bottom of your lungs. Your belly, not your chest, should rise and fall.
Tell yourself “I am completely relaxed and at peace.”
After a few deep breaths, say to yourself “my right arm is heavy.” Repeat this to yourself 3 times, slowly, pausing between each statement. As you pause, focus on the feeling of heaviness in your arm.
Repeat this sequence with the following statements:
- “MY LEFT ARM IS HEAVY”
- “BOTH OF MY ARMS ARE HEAVY”
- “MY RIGHT LEG IS HEAVY”
- “MY LEFT LEG IS HEAVY”
- “BOTH OF MY LEGS ARE HEAVY”
- “MY HEAD AND CHEST ARE HEAVY”
You should actually feel your arm, legs, head, and chest getting heavier. Some people find it helpful to imagine a weight pulling each body part down.
I usually fall asleep somewhere before the last statement, but if you get through all of these statements and are still awake, go through the statements again, this time telling yourself that each body part is warm (replace “heavy” with “warm”). Again, some people find it helpful to imagine something warm like the sun or a heating pad on each body part as they focus on it.
You can also add statements such as “my breath is slow and regular” or “my heartbeat is slow and regular.”
WARNING: DO NOT try to FORCE yourself to feel heavy or warm. Instead, allow yourself to notice what happens when you tell yourself your body feels heavy, warm, etc. Some days you may feel more heaviness or warmth than others, and that’s ok. Just the calm repetition of these statements can help you relax. If you try to force it, you’ll just get more stressed.
Try it and let me know how it works!