Difficulty Getting to Sleep? Try “Serial Diverse Imaging” to Trick Your Brain Into Going to Sleep

I don’t know if it’s street noise, the dog trying to take over my pillow, age, or some combination of things, but in recent years, I’ve found myself having more difficulty sleeping through the night.

Sometimes I fall right back to sleep so it’s no big deal. But there are other times when my brain is just too alert, making it difficult to shut off all the thoughts in my head, and fall back asleep.

There was a time when I’d just get up and do some work instead of staying in bed. Because getting stuff done at 4am does feel super hard-core and productive.

But there’s a ton of research out there which suggests that not getting enough sleep can actually sabotage our goals in many aspects of our lives. It can inhibit our ability to learn and make gains in the practice room and classroom, make it more challenging to make good food choices, and in the long run, even put us at a higher risk of dementia.

Of course, knowing how important it is to get good sleep just puts more pressure on needing to sleep. Which makes it harder to get back to sleep!

So what can we do?

Ann Bergeron: On Facilitating a More Positive Learning Experience, More Effective Skill Acquisition, and More Creative Artists.

As many kids do, my two little ones started asking for a dog when they were 5 and 3 years old.

At the time, our answer was a hard no. I mean, managing two kids already felt like a lot. We couldn’t imagine adding a high-maintenance ball of fur to the equation.

So as many parents do (or so I’m assuming), we kicked the problem down the road for future us to deal with, saying that while we didn’t think they were old enough to take on the responsibility of dog ownership, maybe in five years, when they were 10 and 8, we might reconsider.

We assumed that they’d forget about it. But of course they didn’t. And to convince us that they were responsible enough to have a dog, for 30 days, the older one woke up every morning, dragged himself out of bed, down the hall, out the door, down the elevator, out of the building, and took a selfie of himself on the street “walking” his non-existent dog.

So we got a dog.

And the first thing we learned, is that we had no idea how to train a dog. How to get it to sit, stay, pee outside instead of inside…the little furball didn’t come pre-trained with any particular commands, so we were kind of at a loss.

A bit of Googling led us to discover clicker training, which basically is a way of positively reinforcing or highlighting desired behaviors and providing feedback to the dog, so it knows when it has done something good. Which is a contrast to the more aversive approach to training that involves using pain or fear to get a dog to repeat a desired behavior.

This more positive approach resonated with us, so we gave it a try we delegated all of the training to our daughter, and it all seemed to work out pretty well.

So I was intrigued, when a few years later, I was listening to a Hidden Brain podcast episode and an orthopedic surgeon named Martin Levy described how he was using clicker training with – wait for it – his surgical residents. That’s right – clicker training for humans.

The gist, is that this way of teaching helped to take negativity and judgment and anxiety and fear out of the learning process, and seemed to improve skill acquisition as well. And there was even an organization named TAGteach which had a whole system developed specifically for humans. Which made me wonder…might this approach to teaching also work with musicians?

Umm…so does it?