I have been a psychotherapist for several decades, specializing in clinical psychology and body-centered therapy. My work has focused on the relationship between cognition and behavior — or more simply said, between the mind and the body — as it relates to trauma, emotional functioning and physical health.
In 1991, my life and my clinical focus took a turn, as I had two major life crises occur in the same week. This caused extreme anxiety and soon after I developed severe insomnia. All of the sudden, it took hours to fall asleep. When trying to sleep, I would enter into a light sleep, mixed with anxiety and then awaken a few hours later. Over the next year I slept an average of only three hours a night. This devastated my life. I did not use sleep medications because of the severe side effects, health risk factors, and I did not want to become dependent upon medication. Instead I read everything I could find that claimed to help with or solve insomnia and tried all the treatments, however nothing worked.
One day I had an insight: What if my insomnia was not simply random hardship—what if this was part of my professional work and life path? What if I could explore my own insomnia in order to understand the physiological subtleties of how sleep occurs and be able to transform my own sleep difficulties and help others too? Well, that is exactly what happened.
From years of cultivating my personal and professional development, I had developed a deep awareness of my body and the subtleties of my mind. Before I knew it, I had embarked on an extraordinary journey to explore my own insomnia to make discoveries about how sleep occurs.
My first realization came relatively quickly and was obvious: Making any effort to try to sleep, simply pushes sleep farther away.
While most people initially try to quiet their minds and calm their emotions in an effort to get to sleep, this often simply perpetuates the struggle. Mind and emotions do not have physical form, so trying to calm them is like trying to chase a cloud, which is both illusory and impossible.. However, when the mind or emotions are agitated or too activated or agitated, there is almost always a corresponding tension or response in our physical body. In response to this, the mind often becomes more active as a way to not feel the body’s discomfort. Our mind pulling away from discomfort in the body is a root cause of mental activity, which interferes with our ability to fall and stay asleep.
Yet, in my deepening exploration of my own insomnia, I realized that while general body relaxation is very useful during the day, it was too much effort at night and did not result in getting me to sleep or staying asleep.
I have deep respect for the human body, which grows from two cells to over 40 billion specialized cells. Our bodies perform countless automatic functions without our having to remind or attend to them. The term I use for this complex and amazing biological phenomenon is: Body wisdom. I turned to my own body wisdom, asking it to please show me the pathway to sleep.
During the hours it would take me to fall asleep or fall back to sleep again, I began to recognize and cultivate the ability to gently bring my awareness away from my active thoughts and emotions and gently feel my body tensions without interfering trying to relax. The key was gently feeling my body tension with care, as a parent holds a baby who is in distress and is having trouble sleeping.
Body tension gradually began to relax by itself, and I could feel myself gradually moving closer towards sleep.
In order to capture my late night insights, I got a pen with a light in the tip, the type nurses use for charting in the dark. I covered the light with red cellophane to not alert my eyes in the middle of the night. I kept detailed notes which tracked my neurophysiological and sleeping patterns.
As I got closer and closer to falling asleep, I noticed what seemed like microscopic subtleties of how my body tensions would gradually soften, loosen their grip and begin to let go, opening towards sleep. In the middle of the night, I wrote down these observations with my lighted pen. Each morning, I would read my nighttime observations and scribbles and would organize, document and distill my findings into cogent thoughts and ideas.
At some point, I started whispering my middle-of-night observations and discoveries into a digital voice recorder, which was much easier than scribbling thoughts in the dark.
Each morning, I listened to and transcribed my previous night observations. I was often deeply moved because this information from the middle-of-the-night depths of the close-to-sleep state was full of subtle secrets people don’t usually retain upon awakening. It felt as if sleep itself was revealing its secrets to me—and in the way sleep naturally occurs.
This process was fascinating, very satisfying and quite different from sitting down during the day to theorize on what might work to have people sleep better.
From the early days of my research, I discovered that during sleep my tongue was pressed up against the roof of my mouth. From my neurophysiological training, I knew that the tongue is a highly complex muscle in the nervous system. However, the fact my tongue was activated in this way during sleep, and I had no prior awareness of this, was shocking to me. I surmised that I had probably been pressing my tongue against the roof of my mouth for much of my life. However, something confounded me: When people hold tension in their neck, shoulders or face, people are usually aware of it. So how could I have been holding tension in my tongue for much of my life and not know it? I consulted Ear, Nose and Throat specialists who held no answers. However, what I had discovered was that allowing my tongue to relax automatically began to calm my mind, emotions and body toward sleep.
As the nights and weeks went by and as I lay closer to sleep, I noticed that my breath had changed as well. Not in the commonly suggested way of breathing slowly and deeply. This change in breathing had more to do with the sound of my breath. During the day, when we listen to the sound of our breathing, we typically hear the sound coming from the nostrils or mouth. However, as I moved closer towards sleep, my breath had a quiet, more resonant tone, seeming to come from deeper within my body. This was the same sound I heard when listening to someone else while they were asleep. Similar to when you hear a dog soundly sleeping. My mind recognized this is the sound and feeling of sleep breathing that gently pulls us toward deep sleep. This was totally unrelated to the usually suggested deep or abdominal breathing exercises or counting the length of a breath cycle. As I continued to explore my sleep breathing, I discovered how to ease my breath into this inner sound and feeling, which I called the Inner Sleep Breath. I created a simple way for others to ease into the Inner Sleep Breath, which gently pulls you toward sleep.
Soon my body showed me a simple way to calm my heart. When our mind or emotions are activated, our heart beats more quickly. Conversely, when we calm the heart, it has a powerful calming effect on our mind and emotions. Calming the heart is a central switch in the nervous system that eases us toward sleep.
My body wisdom revealed other subtle body sensations that act as neurological switches gently pulling us toward sleep. These additional body sensations will be discussed in future blog postings and articles.
Earlier, I mentioned that the mind pulling away from body discomfort is a root cause of mental activity. As I discovered this, the reverse path revealed itself to me as well: I found that resting deeply in the core of my body was easier and more effective than relaxing my entire body. As my body tensions softened, loosened and dissolved, that felt like a soft pillow inside my body. My mind liked this sensation, and I began to rest more comfortably within myself, and my mind became quieter without my trying to make it quiet, easing closer toward sleep.
What became apparent: Body first—and mind follows.
Inside my body there was subtle and distinct body tension, that was like a barrier or threshold to sleep. When my mind and body became quieter and calmer, I would rest upon this body sensation threshold, not working to get through it, but simply trusting that as I continued to rest in this place, the body sensation would allow me “through” and I would ease into sleep.
During my days, I dove deep into research on insomnia, sleep and the neurophysiology of the body and mind.
My nighttime observations and discoveries were fascinating. After about a year, I began to sleep longer and deeper and had discovered enough about my inner pathway to sleep, I began to integrate these discoveries into a sleep methodology. I then started to work with people with sleep challenges and insomnia.
When we have sleep difficulty, it can have serious and damaging impacts on nearly all areas of our lives and relationships. Conversely, when we sleep well, this has a broad and positive impact on nearly all areas of our lives. By the late 1990s, my sleep discoveries were having such a positive effect on nearly all areas of my clients’ lives, I stopped my general psychotherapy practice and specialized in working exclusively with clients with severe sleep challenges.
Many people think insomnia is when a person hardly sleeps at all. People would routinely say to me, “I don’t have insomnia, I just wake too early and have difficulty falling back to sleep.” So I stopped using the term, “insomnia” and instead simply call it, “difficulty sleeping.”
Over the last couple of decades, client feedback has assisted my sleep research, development and continued refinement of the Sleep Easy method. My clients’ descriptions of their inner experiences informed and taught me much about how the body and mind move closer and closer to naturally occurring sleep.
Years of refinements have culminated into a completely integrated process.
All other sleep methods take traditional relaxation techniques and attempt to apply them to sleep—techniques such as general body relaxation, deep, slow or counting breathing, visualization, meditation, hypnosis and more. The Sleep Easy method does not utilize any of those techniques. It is a simple, easy way to notice and feel a few specific body sensations that naturally occur as the body and mind are falling asleep or back to sleep. These sensations act as neurological switches that create the feeling of the body falling asleep. These subtle body sensations are very different from, and deeper than, typical body relaxation. As the body deeply relaxes in this way, the mind becomes quiet without trying to make it quiet.
I also dove deeply into the data, research and practice of somatic treatment of trauma and different forms of body-centered psychotherapy. This work unlocked more valuable keys to accessing deep sleep.
Early on, I dreamt of offering an effective, easy to use, learn-at-home sleep method to aid more people than I could treat in my therapeutic practice. I refined my process to be as effective as possible in the shortest amount of time, and delivered a treatment program complete in just three sessions.
I soon became the Behavioral Sleep Therapist for Rehabilitation Associates of Colorado, one of the largest rehabilitation groups in the nation. I later became the Behavioral Sleep Therapist for Exempla-Lutheran Medical Center Sleep Center. And in 2009, I became a Behavioral Sleep Therapist for one of the largest primary care practices in Colorado, which serves over 200,000 patients.
In a published study in the journal Sleep Disorders and Therapy (May, 2016), the Sleep Easy Method was tested by United Airlines pilots, police, firefighters and the general public. 81.6% reported improved sleep, with the vast majority reporting that their sleep began to improve on the first night or within the first few nights of using Sleep Easy.
Over the years my sleep continually improved, and yet I still had some challenging night sleep. These occasional anxious nights became opportunities to deepen and broaden the effectiveness of the Sleep Easy method.
I continue to research, develop and refine additional sleep practices and methods that deepen our ability to sleep well and quickly.
From years of working with people who have difficulty sleeping, another major discovery is that the body sensations associated with crossing the sleep threshold are the same in almost everyone. As we explored and plumbed the territory of sleep, and showed people how to locate and feel these subtle body sensations, inevitably clients would have a familiar and comfortable recognition vs needing to learn and practice new exercises and methods. These familiar realizations often occurred to clients as “I know this feeling—I just didn’t know how to find it.”
The Sleep Easy method was born from middle-of-the-night observations of the subtleties that occur in the body and mind when close to sleep. Because of that, people report that Sleep Easy feels like the way sleep naturally happens, not like a method.
People who have tried all the other sleep methods they could find almost universally report that Sleep Easy is the most effective method they have ever used. People are so grateful that they finally can sleep well and deeply, and regularly send me feedback about how this has also transformed their daytime life.
What is the Sleep Easy Method?
Sleep Easy is a comprehensive sleep solution developed over 20 years. Used by individuals worldwide who suffer from extreme insomnia & other sleep difficulties.
In 1991, my life and my clinical focus took a turn, as I had two major life crises occur in the same week. This caused extreme anxiety and soon after I developed severe insomnia. Over the next year I slept an average of only three hours a night. This devastated my life. I tried all the treatments, but nothing worked.
At that moment, I began a decades long journey to learn more about how sleep happens. My findings became the Sleep Easy Method. My method has led to features in 100+ medical journals and publications like the International Journal of Sleep Disorders. I’ve worked with large medical groups serving over 300,000 patients and with companies like United Airlines, Hewlett-Packard, and more. But I know there are still millions with sleep disorders.
Our mission is to apply what I’ve learned to help you sleep better – starting tonight.
Are you ready for your FREE sleep consultation?