Insomnia: The Sleep Guru Interview

Friedrick Nietzsche once said ‘Sleeping is no mean art: for its sake one must stay awake all day’. But what do you do if you are one of the surprisingly large number of adults that find sleeping well at night difficult?

With 30-40% of adults experiencing some level of insomnia within any given year, and 10-15% experiencing chronic and/or severe insomnia (The London Sleep Centre), sleeping aids that promise to help cure the problem are big business worldwide.

The London Sleep Centre characterizes insomnia as ‘an experience of inadequate or poor quality sleep characterized by one or more of the following: difficulty falling asleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, waking up too early in the morning or non-refreshing sleep. Insomnia also involves daytime consequences such as tiredness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating and irritability.’ Interestingly, the prevalence of insomnia increases with age and is more common in women.

Alison Anandi Francis – also known as The Sleep Guru – is a Sleep Specialist, Yoga Teacher, Qualified NLP instructor, Hypnotherapist and Fitness Instructor. As an insomniac herself, her mission in life is to help everyone enjoy a sound night’s sleep without the need for sleeping aids.

We at Dormeo UK were lucky enough to pick her brains…

Dormeo UK: You are a highly respected Yoga teacher, having trained extensively in India. When did you first become interested in sleep in particular?

The Sleep Guru: I suffered from insomnia for about 15 years, so sleep has always been something I was interested in.  I was introduced to the breath in 2007 whilst in India and never looked back. I found that working with the breath changed everything including dealing with my insomnia. Over the next 7 years I experimented with all things yogic including the breath and Ayurveda and found that I wanted to focus my attention there.  The Sleep Guru was born in 2012.

Dormeo UK: Just how important is sleep to our wellbeing?

The Sleep Guru: Sleep is absolutely fundamental to our wellbeing.  I would say that in order to live well  we need to breathe (obviously), drink water, sleep well and eat great food, in that order!

Dormeo UK: You firmly believe that Yoga aids restful sleep. Can you tell us how?

The Sleep Guru:  Yoga stretches and relaxes the body and working with the breath balances the mind. If you relax the body and balance the mind, your system will come back into balance and you will undoubtedly sleep better.

Dormeo UK: Could you share with us some of your other top tips for sleeping well?

The Sleep Guru: My five top tips are:

  1. Disconnect yourself from the internet and connect to yourself. When you become disconnected from yourself, you become stressed. Switch off your computer and TV at least 2 hours before bed time and spend that time reading and relaxing instead. Do 30 minutes of deep breathing before you head for bed.
  1. Eat before 7pm and make it light. Your evening meal should be something light and easily digested.  No heavy lasagnas or rump steak please; save those for lunch!  Otherwise your system will remain busy trying to digest it all, and that’s like trying to sleep while you’re running a race!

(Dormeo UK’s previous blog post also gave this advice – especially when the weather is warm).

  1. Improve your daily ritual. You’ll find that people without sleep problems often go to bed and get up at the same time every day – even on a weekend or day off! This develops a good sleep pattern, and your system will become as reliable as the sunrise and sunset once you get into your own little routine!
  1. Restorative yoga. I love restorative yoga postures. They completely relax the body, washing away stress and make you feel rested and peaceful within 10 minutes. Try my DVD ‘The practice of sleep’.  It gives several different options of practices depending on how much time you have available.
  1. Invest in a decent mattress. A decent mattress is vital for getting a good night’s sleep and not getting out of bed with a bad back. You spend about 227,468 hours in bed over a lifetime, so a wonderful comfortable bed with quality bed linen is a must.

(Dormeo deliver the highest quality-per-pound memory foam products anywhere. From our best-selling Dormeo Memory range, our innovative Speciality range, right up to the award-winning, groundbreaking Octaspring mattresses which offer superb comfort and cradling memory foam support for your entire body. We pride ourselves on being able to provide a mattress for every body, every bedroom and every budget).

Dormeo UK: What are your recommendations for overcoming insomnia and other sleep difficulties?

The Sleep Guru: The main cause of insomnia is stress and anxiety.  It is important to look at the root cause and bring balance back into your life. Healing the natural way involves making lifestyle changes.

Dormeo UK: Can you tell us about ‘Sleep Hacking?’

The Sleep Guru: This new idea is taking city office workers by storm. The basic premise is that you cut down how long you’re asleep, by making sure you have better quality sleep over a shorter space of time.

The thing is, sleep is a natural thing. By trying to ‘hack’ your sleep, you’re essentially trying to cheat nature; and that never ends well. Human beings need a certain amount of sleep in order to be fit and healthy. It’s true that you do need less sleep in the summer months  as we wake up from hibernation mode, there is more sunlight which keeps you awake, and more movement. But we’re not talking several hours less here!

There is a gene present in some people that allows them to function well on only 6 hours of sleep a night, but that gene is present in only 3% of the population. The other 97% of us need to get regular, good quality sleep of 7-8 hours each night in order to be at our best.

We as humans seem to have become increasingly inclined to mess about with the natural rhythms of our bodies: caffeine and other stimulants, drugs, etc. We force ourselves to be awake during the day, and when we want to sleep we take something else to force unconsciousness. If we could just stop and reset our systems we would probably find that we all function a lot better when relying on our natural rhythms.

When you sleep well, your productivity increases. Research shows that if you have a set amount of time in which to complete a task, you usually do it within that time. If you’re given twice as much time to do the same task, you will – consciously or unconsciously – stretch the task out to take up all of the allotted time.

People who are using sleep hacking to increase the number of hours they can spend in the office worry me; wouldn’t they rather be spending more time with their family, their friends, or just sitting outside, enjoying life? The idea of sleeping less so that you can work more is, quite frankly, bonkers! But also – bearing in mind the research I’ve just mentioned, do we really believe that by spending more hours in the office, we will get more done? I sincerely doubt it.

The answer to ‘I need more time’ is not to sleep less; it is to plan and schedule, so that you are using your available time more efficiently. I firmly believe that if you focus on your health, wellbeing and productivity, you will not feel the need to cut your sleep time in order to work more.

Dormeo UK: We have just written our top tips for sleeping well in the hot weather. Do you have anything specifically you’d recommend?

The Sleep Guru: I would not recommend sleeping with air conditioning. Keep the sun out during the day by closing the windows and curtains or shutters, then open in the evening when the sun goes down.  A cool shower before bed and cool cotton or linen bedding!

Dormeo UK: You have a book coming out early next year. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The Sleep Guru: I am just editing ‘The Surrendered Breath’ which is scheduled to launch in January 2016. The book is about how to use the power of the breath for wellbeing and sleep. The breath is a fundamental tool for the healing.  In the book, I share fun easy exercises and show you how to use the different aspects of the breath for sleep and bringing your whole being back into balance.

Dormeo UK: Thank you so much for talking to us, Anandi. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

The Sleep Guru:  Sleep is fundamental to health, without it, it is impossible to reach our full potential. I firmly believe that taking the right holistic steps one can create a healthy sleep regime without the use of sleep aids.


Read more from The Sleep Guru and get in contact by visiting her website.

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