Can't sleep at night? Trouble waking in the morning?

Recently an attendee of Visualise told me that they had been experiencing difficulty falling asleep at night after class.

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I feel like I get six hours of sleep during Visualise and then when I go home to bed, I can’t sleep.

Trance states can be deeply restorative and I recommend people meditate or power-nap during the day to improve concentration and productivity. This instance was concerning though as my participant needed to wake at 5am, and they weren't getting to sleep until well after midnight.

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I wondered if this was something they had experienced previously, before attending Visualise. Turns out, sleeping before midnight had been a challenge for this person since they were a teenager. 

Now, I'm not one to throw around diagnostic labels. I'm not a doctor or sleep specialist, but I believe it's helpful to realise that just as people have differing personality types, they can also have differing circadian rhythms. 

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In 2014 The International Classification of Sleep Disorders labelled the issue of not sleeping until after midnight and having difficulty waking in the morning as delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSPD). 

DSPD is the persistent dysregulation of a person's circadian rhythm (biological clock) in comparison to the general population, and societal norms. All people have a kind of internal clock that dictates when they wake up and go to sleep.

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Scientists believe DSPD is a person's biological clock running to a differing rhythm to most people's. The disorder affects the timing of a person's sleep, periods of alertness, core body temperature rhythm, and hormonal cycles.

If you experience staying awake late at night and waking later in the day, without interference to your life, this is called delayed sleep phase syndrome.

Labels aside, trouble sleeping at night and waking late can interfere with your productivity and sense of well-being, especially when you need to rise early for work. Understanding that your circadian rhythm might be different to the norm can help you in making changes to your sleep habits and lifestyle.

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DSPD is common amongst teenagers and often forms during adolescence, it is also linked to depression.

You can receive a formal diagnosis for DSPD by seeking the help of a Sleep Specialist who will conduct a formal assessment of your sleep habits and routines.

For more information on sleep disorders, and to find a specialist near you, visit the Australasian Sleep Society.

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In the meantime, here are some tips for treating DSPD:  

The most common method of treatment for DSPD is to gradually scale back your bedtime until you reach an appropriate hour to receive a restful night's sleep. You will need to be committed to, and rigidly implement this bedtime, so as not to fall back into your old routine. Unfortunately, so much as one late night out could lead someone with DSPD back into their usual sleep time. 

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Give yourself some extra time to seek out the sun each morning. Should you meditate in the morning, this would be an ideal time to do so outside while the sun is shining. Getting regular sun helps regulate melatonin - this is the hormone your body releases at night to help you sleep.

Go Camping!

You'll hate me for saying this, but if you avoid using electronics before bed you're much more likely to fall asleep. This is because electronics with blue light screens (just as the sun) suppress melatonin and overstimulate the mind. I recommend avoiding electronics two hours before bedtime. I'm sorry. It sucks, I know.

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Create a healthy ritual around bedtime and sleep. It might be that you practice some gentle yoga, read something engaging (that's not on an electronic screen), have a cup of chamomile tea, keep a written or drawing journal, or take this time to meditate on sleep itself and the dreams you wish to have throughout the night. Whatever your routine, make it one that's enticing, relaxing, and healthy for you.

Avoid sugary foods before bed and coffee after 12pm. 

Keep your bedroom tidy and free of outside concerns. When you decide to go to bed, go there with the intention of relaxing without any of life's worries there with you. If it can't be resolved in the next 8 hours of sleep, let it go. 

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A beautiful practice for sleep is Yoga Nidra, and my all time favourite recording of what I believe to be a full proof guide into sleep is: Yoga Nidra for Sleep with Jennifer Piercy. Check it out!

I will be posting guided meditations on my website soon, some of which are designed to help you sleep and remember your dreams. 

Until we meet again. Sleep deep my friend,

Lauren