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~ UNABLE TO SLEEP? UNABLE TO RELAX?~

First step is to use your bed for what its intended for, which is to go to sleep on, so if you use your bed as somewhere to lie down, or even get into bed way before you intend to sleep, change that habit now. Make sure the door is closed, or open, make sure you can see the door, as this can trigger you off and make you feel unsafe. If that feels unsafe, open the door a liitle, so you can see out the door.

If you write or listen to music, do so at least a few hours before you decide to go to bed; otherwise your mind remains awake. Likewise, music turned on low can help aid sleep, so as long as its not heavy thumping music, which only stimulates you awake

Inactivity before you go to bed helps you to relax so slow your mental activity down by not trying to get things ready for tomorrow, playing video games, listening to music, etc.

Bedtime routines need to become that, a routine that becomes a habit, and that habit allows you to become accustomed to it, and prepares you for what you are about to do, which is going to sleep.

As an exercise, try the following:

Snuggle down under the duvet/bedclothes, relax, and take three slow deep breaths, breathing by using your lower diaphragm.

Begin with your eyes open, and gradually close them on the third intake of breath. Feel your body sink into the bed, and begin to relax all parts of your body. Donít hurry this, go nice and slow, feeling the tension reduce.

Get the feelings of heaviness and relaxed muscles in your body, but if you begin to feel your thoughts stray, begin the exercise again.

If all else fails, the key to good results when you are doing muscle relaxation exercises is not just to tense and then relax each muscle group, but to actually rest those particular muscles for a short while after you've released the tension. You'll find that they are then far more relaxed than when you started.

Keep this going, relaxing muscles slowly and often and the result will be that you will have no option to be feel relaxed, and refreshed after some practice. HINT: Fully relaxed your facial muscles? You'll be surprised how tense your jaw, mouth and cheek muscles can be.

IF YOU DO WAKE IN THE NIGHT:

1. Donít panic or get annoyed about being awake, it just winds you up.
2. Relax by turning over, & Ďsnugglingí up before you become fully awake.
3. Donít get angry because youíre awake again.
4. If you canít get back to sleep after about twenty minutes, get up and do something different.
5. Try a relaxation exercise. (See above)

If you wake up, as you will, donít panic, just turn over, and begin to relax again, slowing your breathing down.

Also, donít get angry that youíre awake again, just turn over, close your eyes and go back to sleep, or if it get's too much, get up, stretch, yawn, relax, and then go to bed, repeating the relaxation exercise above.

All youíre doing is breaking a habit, and it takes time to break a bad habit, so persevere!


DREAMS

Some tips to help you control the dreams that may haunt you

It can help to write down what you've dreamed, (have a pen and paper to hand, so you can write it down and then get back to sleep again.)

A. FREE WRITING
Write down on paper a stream of consciousness reaction to your dream. Start anywhere and just keep writing whatever comes to mind. Don't censor or edit anything out. It's like free associating but you put the thoughts down onto a piece of paper instead.

Record everything you are thinking and feeling. If you get stuck, simply write "I'm stuck, I'm stuck..." over and over again until a new association comes up. Then keep writing.

Or write down on a piece of paper each element of the dream, and then write a stream of consciousness for each one. Compare what your wrote for each element of the dream. Look for similarities and patterns. Hold onto these writings - and go back to them later on. Days or weeks later you may see something that you missed the first time around.

B. FREE ASSOCIATION
To unpack the various meanings of a dream, take each object, person, situation, etc. and free associate them, e.g. write each part down.
What does it remind you of? What comes to mind when you think of that element of the dream? Let your imagination go. Let your attention wander. Come up with as many associations as possible. You can also do this in your head, or talk out loud. If you let yourself go with this, something will come up - a memory, an idea, a feeling. It may not tell you "The Meaning" to the dream, but it will give you pieces to the puzzle.


STRESSED & DREAMING ABOUT THINGS YOU'D RATHER NOT?

If you're stressed during the day, that stress will, without doubt, emerge during your sleeping hours, as it's your body's way of dealing with stress.

Sometimes the dreams you have can take on the form of symbols or as enactments of different scenes but are often the type which bring out the same emotions - anger, frustration, grief - whatever may be causing you distress, and making some of your dreams extremely disturbing.

You can turn this around and learn to interpret these dreams to try to identify exactly what it is that is causing you problems.

Keeping a dream diary is very useful to make sense of the dreams, or at least make them real, and therefore not so scary.

If your dreams are really terrifying, (nightmares) it's a sure sign of severe stress or a deeper emotional problem.

You might want to look at the pages on Nightmares and/or Post Traumatic Stress first for more information on the subject.

Normal dreams are a safety valve for the mind, allowing you to work through situations that impact on you during the day.

Don't expect your dreams to be make any sense or be coherent - they are usually a mixture of all sorts, and often fail to make sense, or become confused with reality, making you doubt what you really think, plus you can get the odd few scenes which appear to come from nowhere!


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