by Rachel Hott, PhD
Source: The NLP Center of New York
I interviewed Susan Reimer-Torn on December 4, 2009 about her sleep strategies. Susan is the CEO of scentientbeings.com. She is a certified coach trained in hypnosis who works with individuals to help them make lifestyle changes that impact health. She has been working with an aromatherapist to create special scented blends to help individuals sleep well. She has created many strategies for herself because in the past there were times when she did not sleep well. However, she views herself as someone who has always enjoyed sleeping and believes that, “A good life is a sleep friendly life.”
On an ideal evening she will be getting ready for sleep at about 9:30pm. Her transition to sleep may take about two hours. As she transitions for sleep she creates several rituals. She becomes aware of drawing a limit for wakefulness, and is very conscious about choosing stimulating experiences. She will limit her phone conversations, stop e-mail, and will not watch any action movies. Earlier in the day she may have had caffeine, but will stop at 1-2pm. If her husband wants to talk about something that is too stimulating she will say, “Not, now, tomorrow.” She has shared with him that when she is getting ready to sleep that she needs to do something that will help her sleep, and he understands and respects her request. Anything that requires active cognitive decision making she will do the next day, during her awake time.
Here are some of the things she will do as she transitions for sleep. The word “transition” is one of Susan’s key words and she really experiences the transition as a formal process. She will do some relaxing yoga, do a specific focused breathing which includes inhale for 4 counts, holding the breath for 7 counts, and exhaling for 8 counts, reading a pleasant book, listen to music, lovemaking, which she says is a very nice way to help going to sleep, and taking a bath (this is her favorite option).
One of her first steps is managing her sleep environment. She will get rid of outside light by covering her eyes with a makeshift eye pillow. It is basically a legging that is lightly drawn over her eyes. Her eye pillow will also have one of her special blends designed specifically for sleep. She may also use ear plugs to cut out any distracting sounds. She does her best to go to sleep before midnight. She said that, “coming to bed is like coming home.” She also likes to keep her body cool, and keep water nearby. She will sleep on her left side on the left side of the bed. As she is falling asleep she tells herself, “Let go, you can trust, you can go to dreamland, you are exploring.”
Sometimes Susan is aware of a part of her that she refers to as her “agitated mind-the rouser.” She will intentionally have a conversation with this part and referred to the NLP technique, “The 6 Step Reframe” as a model for how she communicates with this part. She said that she asks the rouser, “ What is it that you want?” The rouser will say, “ I want you to be on top of things.” Susan then replies, “I want to be on top of things and I do better when I have a better sleep.” Susan then explained to me, “So we work it out.”
Sleep is important to Susan because it is how she functions. She stated that she holds onto the right to self-regulate and she does this with her sleep patterns. She says that she has two experiences, if she has an 8 hour sleep or hasn’t had a good sleep. She really likes to get an 8 hours sleep, 7 is okay, but if it is 6 she will have to make it up the next evening with 8 hours. She explained “I believe in sleep, like I believe in the unconscious. I need sleep to be who I am. I get a lot out of sleep, which includes wisdom and dreams. I trust the unconscious and enjoy letting go of waking life and entering into sleeping life.” One time she woke up and told her husband in an exasperated tone, “ I wasted my dream time, I dreamt we went to Zabars (a popular NYC grocery).” She values dreams as a special time and wants to be taken somewhere where she hasn’t been.
If Susan wakes up during the night she will do her best to remain in a sleeping mode. She will use the bathroom without turning on the light and when she goes back to bed she tells herself, “you are safe, let’s return to your dreams, just go there.” If she is feeling agitated and is aware of the rouser mind, she will say, “Hi, I know you are here.” She will continue to act as if she is in a dream because she believes in the waking dream, and that will help her fall back to sleep. If she has any difficulty, she may take valerian or melatonin, which are natural supplements.
When she wakes us she wakes up naturally. She does not use an alarm clock. If she has to get up early she gives herself a suggestion to wake up at the time that she wants to get up. Sometimes she will do some breathing to help her get ready to get out of bed. She described the breath which is a long inhale for 8 counts, holds the breath for 7 counts and then exhales for 4 counts. Once she gets out of bed she will do a meditative style of yoga for 20 minutes.
If she naps she will tell herself what time she wants to get up. She often takes naps because she needs to shut down from the over stimulation in the world. The nap helps her refuel. She considers herself to be an introvert and has learned to be an extrovert, but actually gets depleted when she is with other people and uses the nap to get back in touch with herself.
When she travels she will use her imagination to help her create the room to be a “safe room.” It is important that she is caretaking for herself, and she knows she can’t be fussy when she travels, so she uses a tremendous amount of imagination.
Lastly, she uses sleep as a way to be “intimate with myself.” Sleep is where she gets in touch with what matters most to her. She says it feels like she is in a “core state, of OKness,” which is a delightful place for her to be in both her sleep and wakeful lives.