Sleep Naturally – An Interview with Steve Andreas

by Rachel Hott, PhD
Source: The NLP Center of New York

Sleep Naturally
This is the fourth modeling interview I have done regarding sleep.

The Institute for the Advanced Studies of Health (IASH), will be holding a conference in October 2010 in San Francisco and one theme at the conference will be to share successful sleep strategies. Through an e-mail correspondence from Steve Andreas I received feedback about my three previous sleep articles. Steve is a world renowned NLP developer, trainer and author. Basically he thought that there was only one, “A Good Night Sleep,” that was natural and potentially useful. He felt the other two were too complex, involving too much time, effort, and conscious mind. (All of these articles are on my website. www.nlptraining.com under the resource section). He then shared that he sleeps well and invited me to model him.

Fortunately for Steve he was heading to Hawaii, and unfortunately for me I was in cold New York City. However we prevailed by setting up a phone interview. Needless to say interviewing someone by phone will miss all visuals. Due to where he was located we could not Skype. This is my best attempt to model his natural ability to go to sleep easily.

Steve typically goes to bed around 10:30 pm and wakes up naturally between 6:30-7:00 am. After having his eight-hour sleep, he wakes up easily, and considers himself a morning person. He mentioned a recent article in a British psychological journal that said that morning people are more proactive, and that this may be related to the motivation strategy. He likes waking up and being energized and ready for the day.

He said, “I just go to sleep.” So how does he “just go to sleep?” Well, one important thing is he makes sure he has enough exercise throughout the week, which means about three-four days, either hiking, chopping wood or gardening. Ideally he would do some sort of exercise for at least an hour. He said that he figured this out a long time ago and moderate exercise is a prerequisite for his body to feel ready to sleep.

Another necessary preparation is to make sure he is warm, particularly that his feet are warm. He will usually take a hot shower before going to bed, unless he is in a warm climate. He likes a nice bed, “nothing fancy, but it needs to be warm.” His final preparation before going to bed, is to have a glass of milk and/or a bowl of vanilla ice cream. (Breyer’s natural is his preferred brand).

Going to sleep easily is something that Steve has taken for granted. He may review his thoughts for three or four minutes before falling asleep. He does accommodate to his wife’s schedule and goes to sleep about an hour earlier than he does when he is alone. “I always get into my sleep posture. Everyone has a particular posture that is associated with sleep, a kinesthetic anchor, and it is really helpful to know what yours is—it doesn’t matter what it is. Mine happens to be that I lie on my stomach, put a pillow under one shoulder, one leg is stretched straight out and the other leg is crossed over behind the knee, so my legs and body looks like a number four. He can switch the posture to the other shoulder or other leg crossed as well.

“Then I sort of ‘fold in upon myself’ mentally It is a little like taking your hand and bringing it to your palm. My attention turns inward, as if my forehead is curling in, and collapsing in on itself—a little like a cat curling in the grass before lying down.”

When asked about his beliefs about his ability to sleep easily, he said that it is just something that works. “I assume my body will work its way; I assume I will sleep.” He said that throughout his lifetime he has woken up to pee—4-6 times per night—and then gone back to sleep quickly and easily.

He happily reported that recently at a conference he shared a room with two roommates and one was a terrific snorer—“a long, loud “ahhhknorrhh” inbreath, followed by a series of choking, drowning sounds!” Steve slept beautifully and was pleased to say he thought he had passed the “supreme test.”

When he doesn’t get to sleep quickly and easily, he has many alternative strategies. Here are some of his alternatives, or as he refers to them, “a couple of tricks.”

He imagines that his body is made of wax. He then imagines the sun is shining down and melting him into the bed. That often works very easily for him and he is back to sleep (shifting his attention from visual/auditory thinking to kinesthetic).

If he has thoughts going on in his mind, he also has alternative strategies. For example, he will focus on the images in his mind, then lay them down flat, and imagine them as a beach. Then he watches shallow gentle waves coming over the thoughts. That is usually enough for him to fall asleep.

However, if he is really preoccupied, and stays awake for more than an hour, he will do something that he said Milton Erickson often tasked his clients with insomnia to do, which is to get up and do something useful. So he may get up and read or write for several hours, and then go to bed later. When that happens, he doesn’t feel as awake the following morning, but “It’s a lot better than lying awake, staring at the ceiling.”

Another trick is to get yourself to yawn, and there are several ways to do this. “You can always just open your mouth and yawn, but there are more indirect ways that are less conscious, and therefore more convincing and evocative. You can imagine that little tingly feeling in the center of your cheeks that you feel at the beginning of a yawn, or you can just imagine that you are watching someone else—or several people—yawning and notice what happens. Yawning in response to someone else is an indication that you are sleepy.” Steve happily shared these with a chuckle.

One more trick is to notice the moving visual images that are keeping him awake, and making them transparent, and/or slowing their tempo. Whenever he offered these alternatives, it seemed like there were more to come. I asked him about this and he said he is just being creative, using “visual constructs” (creating images) and finding whatever works.

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