Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Hypnotist's Trick That Can Put You to Sleep

The Hypnotist's Trick That Can Put You to Sleep
Next time your racing thoughts keep you awake, calm your mind with this relaxing combination of breathing and eye movement.
By Jeffrey Rossman, PhD

Practice the upward-eye-roll technique, a method that can help you fall asleep whenever you need to.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—I marvel at my 14-year-old daughter’s ability to sleep blissfully through thunder, lightning, ringing telephones, and beeping alarm clocks. Ah, to sleep like a teenager again. Her pineal gland is squirting out an abundance of melatonin, the body’s natural sleepiness hormone. No matter what’s going on for her, she sleeps through the night. If only we grown-ups could be so fortunate. The sleep of most adults over the age of 45 is shorter, shallower, and more frequently interrupted than a typical teen’s slumber.

THE DETAILS: As we age, our bodies produce less melatonin. And we tend to have more physical conditions that wake us up: hot flashes, night sweats, trips to the bathroom, aches, and pains. A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 65 percent of American adults have trouble sleeping at least a few nights a week. Of the millions of Americans who wake up during the night, some get right back to sleep. Many others start thinking about things that jazz them up: Tomorrow’s to-do list, a relationship conflict, worry about a child, or a financial problem. Then come the worries about sleep itself: When will I get back to sleep? Will I feel wiped out tomorrow? How will I get through my busy day?

The good news is that everyone experiences awakenings during the night and, with a little practice, you can learn to relax your mind and get back to sleep easily. For most people, that is the key to getting a sound, restful night’s sleep. Over the years, I have recommended a variety of techniques to help people get the sleep they need, including self-massage and other tactics for get back to sleep when your sleep is interrupted. Here is a method that many people find to be amazingly effective. It is quite simple to do, and yet very powerful because of its specific influences on the brain and the body. And, perhaps fittingly, it involves a behavior that all those well-rested teens perform many times a day: the eye roll.

Every parent has been on the receiving end of the eye roll, that classic expression of teen annoyance. But when done in a more controlled, deliberate fashion, the eye roll can be a tool of relaxation. The upward-eye-roll technique was used as early as the 1800s by practitioners of hypnosis to induce a deeply relaxed trance state. The tactic combines the powerful, relaxing effects of slow, rhythmic breathing, with a subtle upward shift of your eyes. The hypnotists who developed it would have their subjects stare at a spot on the ceiling until their eyelids felt heavy and they became sleepy. We now know that when the eyes are rolled upward about 20 degrees, the brain automatically shifts into a relaxed alpha state. This alpha brain wave state is characterized by a slowing of brain waves, to approximately eight to 13 cycles a second. In the alpha state, your mind becomes quiet and your body relaxed. So entering the alpha state in bed at night helps you to
gently drift off into sleep.


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