A lightbulb moment.
I’ve always been uncomfortable with using the label ‘sleep expert’. But it’s what the media calls me. But am I really the expert? This is a question that I have been asking myself following the release of my second book Fast Asleep Wide Awake last week. Maybe it was the rather gratifying flurry of press coverage that elicited a query from a ‘sleep expert’ who wanted to know what my credentials are.
I have a degree in physiology, a doctorate in neurophysiology and over twenty five years of experience in helping people to regain balance and sleep. Oh yes, and an unbridled passion for doing this work maybe because I’ve a long standing history of hiccupy sleep myself but mostly because I think our bodies are amazing. Physiology is amazing and I love showing people this. I never set out to be sleep expert I merely set about noticing patterns (so you could say I’m an expert at noticing certain types of patterns). I noticed that when people did this it affected their sleep that way and if they did that it affected their sleep this way. And then I set about showing people how to notice their own patterns. Simple really.
But does this make me a sleep expert?
What I do is not rocket science.
I’ve never had anyone say to me ‘what you’ve told me is so complex, so amazing. I would NEVER have known that!’ In fact, more often than not people say to me ‘what you’ve told me is such common sense. You’ve just reminded me.’
So you could say I’m an expert at reminding people what they already know but have chosen to forget.
And it really is simple because even a child would know these things… Such as
- if you put fuel into an engine it works better – ie we need to eat in order for the body to function optimally and
- if you want your car to take you on a long journey, fill it up with fuel at the start of the journey – eat breakfast!
- you need to put the right type of fuel into an engine to get it to work properly – a breakfast of fear, emails and caffeine is a false economy
- oxygen is needed in order for the essential combustion process to take place – we need to stop holding our breath
- if you over-rev the engine it will take longer to cool down or even break – we need to slow down
- if you never switch the engine off it will eventually burn out
I could go on but my understanding of engines and cars is limited. And anyway, human beings are far more interesting than cars. And we have a far more sophisticated hierarchy of needs that so many forget, and in the forgetting the need becomes ‘I need sleeping tablets’ or ‘I need to see a sleep expert’. Again, all I do is remind people of these needs… but they’re so simple. Even children – especially children – know that:
- It’s good to move. You sleep better if you move regularly.
- If you’re sad letting it out is good for you. A heavy heart is likely to wake you up fretting between 2 and 4 am
- Happiness is good for you. You sleep better if you’re happy and, by that same token
- Hugging is good for you. Deep, human connection makes us feel safe, loved, able to trust in life…and thereby, sleep.
- Every day is filled with tiny pleasures and joys – if we choose to notice them rather than being perpetually fixated on what’s wrong with our lives and in the world. Gratitude and appreciation makes us feel safe. We sleep when we feel safe.
- Hating what you spend most of your time doing is toxic. There’s nothing that will get you out of bed quicker first thing in the morning than a sense of meaning and purpose.
Didn’t you know all of this anyway?
You’re fully entitled to call me a ‘sleep expert’ if it makes you feel better. But I challenge you to think of yourself as your own sleep expert. You know what to do. Encoded within every strand of your DNA is the information that tells your body how to sleep. It’s been there for hundreds of thousands of years – for as long as we’ve been on the planet – it’s an innate ability. You’ve just forgotten.
So it was a blessing when my credentials were challenged and I was given the chance to think about what is it that I really do? Am I really an expert?
I am called a sleep expert. But I’m really an expert at helping people to remember. Helping them to slow down and notice. And reminding what they knew all along anyway. So maybe, by that token, we’re all experts anyway.
Yours in amazing health and energy,