Did you know that most people need 7-8 hours of restorative sleep to function properly? Sleep deprivation is one of the most common and powerful techniques for weakening psychological defenses. It is one of the most significant policies in the Behavior Control criteria of the BITE Model of Authoritarian Control. Once an individual joins a mind control cult, their sleep patterns often change dramatically. Members are frequently required to work long hours for the group or do endless chanting or hypnotic meditations through the night, drastically limiting their sleep. Cult members must prioritize the leader’s policies and goals over their personhood, leading to inadequate rest, poor nutrition, and minimal downtime. When assisting clients who have recently left a cult, one of my first steps is to help them establish healthier sleep and eating habits, which allows them to recover as they begin to tackle the psychological aspects of healing.
I recently had the opportunity to interview sleep expert Dr. Lauren Broch to gain a deeper insight into prevalent sleep issues that individuals face and to explore effective sleep hygiene habits that can help to overcome these obstacles.
Dr. Lauren Broch is a clinical psychologist, nutritionist, and sleep disorders specialist who takes a holistic approach to address various sleep, mood, and health issues. She operates a private practice in health psychology at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut and works as a staff member at the Northwell Health Sleep Disorders Center in New York. Her clinical practice accepts a wide range of sleep and mood issues. She holds a special interest in women and geriatric populations since they are more at risk for sleep and mood issues, which makes her a sought-after professional in the field.
Many Members of Mind Control Cults Experience Sleep Deprivation
In authoritarian groups, members live on little sleep and suffer numerous hardships for “spiritual growth.” I typically slept three to four hours a night in the Moonies cult. The higher I rose in the organization, the closer I got to total burnout and exhaustion. This culminated in my near-fatal accident when I fell asleep at the wheel of a Moonie van, having not slept for two days.
Lauren explained that while the average range varies, most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a night for optimal functioning. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is not exclusive to cult members. Data overwhelmingly indicates that inadequate sleep is a widespread issue, and many people are not achieving this crucial amount of rest.
Many cult members experience significant sleep disturbances during their time in the cult and after exiting, including hallucinations, delusions, or recurring nightmares. Insomnia, described by Lauren as having difficulty falling or staying asleep and awakening unrefreshed, is also common. Lauren highlighted that insomnia impacts at least 50% of the population, with 10-15% suffering from chronic insomnia (having insomnia for 3-4 nights/week for at least three months). Other sleep disorders discussed were sleep apnea (pauses in breathing while sleeping), restless leg syndrome, circadian rhythm disturbance, sleepwalking, and narcolepsy.
Sleep Solutions: Lauren’s Expert Advice on Cultivating Healthy Sleep Habits
My discussion with Lauren mainly focused on addressing people’s sleep issues. Given that a large portion of the population experiences various sleep problems, especially problematic for ex-cult members, I was eager to hear her recommendations for maintaining good sleep hygiene. Lauren offers the following sleep advice, which she expands on during our conversation:
- Establish a consistent sleep/wake schedule: The phenomenon of “social jetlag” is prevalent, where people curtail their sleep during the week due to work and then compensate by sleeping in on weekends. This disrupts the body’s natural sleep rhythm. Consistent sleep schedules achieve better sleep quality.
- Avoid extreme highs and lows when establishing a sleep/wake schedule: Lauren recommends using a sleep log to find one’s average sleep duration. Log your estimates of bedtime, sleep latency, time awake at night, final wake time, and total sleep for at least a week or two, and calculate the average total sleep time for these nights. Your “time in bed” should be about a half more than your average total sleep time. Set your bed and wake times based on time in bed. For example, if you sleep on average 6 ½ hours, your time in bed is 7 hours. With a normal circadian rhythm, you might set bedtime at 11 or 11:30 pm and wake time at six or 6:30 am. Use this guide to maintain a regular bed and wake time that aligns with this average and your preferred rhythm.
- Stimulus control: Lauren recommends establishing a solid connection between the sleep environment and the act of falling asleep. Engaging in stimulating activities such as watching TV, using electronic devices, working in bed, vigorous exercise, or bright lights, can create negative and alternate associations. These associations cause the brain to link the bedroom with wakefulness instead of relaxation and sleep.
- She recommends limiting alerting substances such as caffeine for at least 8-10 hours prior to bed and alcohol intake for 3 or more hours before bed.
- Live in harmony with circadian rhythms: Our circadian rhythm is our ‘internal clock’ and regulates numerous biological processes. Lauren recommends maintaining regular sleep-wake schedules, being active throughout the day, and managing light/dark, which affects melatonin release. This helps synchronize our internal clocks with the external environment.
- Melatonin: This hormone is released when it gets dark and signals to the body that it is time to sleep. Using melatonin supplements can be beneficial for maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm. However, Lauren emphasizes that individuals should consult with a healthcare professional before using them to ensure it’s the right approach for their needs, find reputable brands and limit to 5 mg or less.
- Processing daily concerns: Lauren suggests creating a worry list before bedtime to unload thoughts and concerns. I have worked with clients concerned about a loved one in a cult, and I often assign them specific “worry time” during the day. These five-minute blocks are dedicated solely to negative thoughts, allowing them to focus on their concerns. This approach helps compartmentalize their worries and lets the mind relax at night, knowing that these issues do not need added attention during sleep.
The Importance of Mind-Body Harmony for Cultivating Well-Being
We are biologically and psychologically complex beings, and our minds are deeply connected to our bodies. Therefore, listening and being true to our bodies will help us overcome sleep challenges and foster emotional balance. Likewise, adopting a positive mindset and healthy attitude will enable us to sleep better and feel rejuvenated.
Many people grapple with the delicate balance of work, family, sleep, and other demands and might not possess effective coping strategies. Dr. Lauren Broch’s expertise is invaluable in addressing sleep challenges and guiding individuals to improve their well-being. Learning and practicing good sleep hygiene is critical for promoting well-being. For former cult members, in particular, addressing sleep issues will help significantly in recovery, enabling them to find a healthier balance and greater life satisfaction.
Sleep in Women Across the Life Cycle from Adulthood through Menopause https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12628216/