You know how cranky you can be if you haven’ had enough sleep; or how flying to a different time zone messes with your head; or how you are unable to recover from life’s accumulated stresses because you can’t sleep. Using sleep aids may seem like a good solution. But taking sleeping pills only takes care of the immediate desire to sleep. Drugs can actually be very counterproductive because they interfere with normal sleep and dream cycles. They tend to induce deeper sleep (the theta level). But bypassing the natural descent from beta (waking) to the alpha phase (relaxed yet alert, gradually slowing into light sleep) can have serious consequences such as diminished recall, irritability, confusion and even mild hallucinations.
In addition, there are hosts of side effects from chemical sleep aids such as loss of libido, that are not exactly welcome… So the negative effects of sleep deprivation are not entirely cured through the use of drugs, because the drugs negatively affect other aspects of your life – and these effects may contribute to your stress levels, which, of course, makes it even harder to sleep… it can be a vicious downward spiral!
What are the phases of sleep? Each sleep phase is about 90 minutes each, and approximately four cycles per night); and each phase consists of various levels of brain activity. There are very predictable patterns. As we doze off at night, the brain actually rests deeply. Brain activity slows into the delta phase very quickly and remains in delta for most of that first 90 minutes. The subsequent cycles typically do not go as low as delta. More time is spent at the alpha and theta levels where dreaming occurs.
The Silva Method offers a much better, holistic solution to sleep deprivation that has benefits beyond getting a good night’s sleep! The Sleep Control Exercise gets to the root of most sleep problems: the fact that your mind is dwelling on problems that it can’t find solutions to. Well – let’s rephrase that – your mind can’t find solutions in the left hemisphere, which comprises all of your self-talk and obsessive thought behaviors about your problems! However, in the alpha sleep phase, your right hemisphere becomes more active. Then, solutions appear more readily.
The Technique to Fall Asleep
The Sleep Control technique promotes healthy sleep patterns and self-soothing stress relief. The beauty of the Sleep Control technique is immediately apparent when you remember that one class you had, the one with the professor whose voice droned on and on and on in a dreadful monotone – it’s not that the content wasn’t interesting – but the delivery was so boring it automatically put you to sleep. It wasn’t your fault at all that you could not for the life of you stay awake! In fact, the Sleep Control exercise masterfully uses your brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) to put you to sleep. The RAS is one of the most primitive parts of the brain. It is responsible for regulating arousal and the sleep-wake transitions (Wikipedia). The RAS increases blood flow to the areas of the brain necessary during tasks or events requiring increased attention and alertness; and conversely, it shuts down activity in those areas when sensory input (such as the professor’s drone) becomes too monotonous. In other words, boredom puts you to sleep.
The Sleep Control technique takes advantage of this. It is repetitive and oh, so boring! You create a mental chalkboard on which is a huge spiral of numbers from 100 to 1 and the word “deeper”. In the exercise, you carefully and precisely erase numbers and imprint “deeper” again and again. The exercise engages the whole brain as you force yourself to pay attention to the details of the exercise: as the left brain is busy counting down from 100 and imprinting the word “deeper”, the right brain is busy with the visual aspect of the exercise (a spiral). Soon, the brain decides that this is too boring and too much work, and the RAS shuts down the system.
The Sleep Control method also encourages writing down your worries and problems before you go to bed, and next to that, writing a possible plan of action. This will prime your mind to hunt for solutions as you sleep. You know how some internet ads promise that you can make money when you sleep – well, that’s a maybe – but you CAN solve your problems while you sleep, by using several of the Silva Method techniques!
Once you’ve mastered Sleep Control, you’ll be able to fall asleep anytime, anywhere, and get right back to sleep if you should happen to wake up at night. In addition, if you should be awakened suddenly, you will be more alert and rested. What about waking up when you want, and staying alert when you’re sleepy but need to stay up? The Silva Method Clock Exercise and Awake Control Exercise reverse the process.
The Clock Exercise uses your brain’s incredible innate ability to keep time and use conscious intelligence to transition from sleep to wakefulness precisely when you wish – without annoying alarm clocks! If you want to wake up 10 minutes before your cat starts bothering you for breakfast, you can. If you want to wake up in the middle of the night to recall a dream, you can. The most amazing aspect of this exercise is the development of your ability to focus your attention on a goal and manifest that goal when you want. The implications of this, as you learn to effectively use the Law of Attraction, are immense!
The Awake Control Exercise teaches even greater mental mastery in that you develop the ability to remain awake and alert even when you are very sleepy – especially helpful if you are driving long distances, which is boring, repetitious and literally “mind-numbing,” and causes your RAS to want to shut down brain activity.
The combination of the Silva Method’s Sleep Control, Awake Control and the Clock Exercise will help you take back control of your life, de-stress and have the ability to face the day’s challenges rested and refreshed. And if you incorporate dream recall into the mix, you further enhance your problem-solving and creative skills!