I yawn, stretch my arms behind my head and stare at the ceiling. I’ve been in bed for a few minutes. Ahhh, the peaceful quiet all around. The room is dark. The kids are asleep. It’s an expansive moment for my mind. My mind seems to fill the entire room.
Okay, it’s been 20 minutes now. The novel meditative moment has passed. Now my mind seems to be filling up like a bowl that’s been left outside in a torrential downpour. I can’t seem to slow down or empty out my mind. So many things to think about, not the least of which is why in tarnation can’t I fall asleep?
I am tired, but cannot sleep. I begin to feel agitated and become physically restless. I turn this way… I turn that way. I cross and uncross my legs. I lay on my stomach, side and back. Each passing moment lends itself to increased anger and frustration. Now my mind has jumped ahead to tomorrow, lining up all those things I have to accomplish knowing that I’ll only do so by dragging this haggard, exhausted and fatigued body around for the entire day. This process goes deeply into the night.
Any of that sound familiar?
Recent estimates indicate that approximately 25 million Americans suffer from chronic insomnia. Some reasons for insomnia include:
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Circadian Rhythm Disorders
- Alcohol and other drug abuse
- Life changes and/or accumulation of life stressors
- Sleep Apnea
You should consult with your physician in order to determine the exact cause of your sleep problems. He/she may order a sleep study, give you a depression screen, check social stressors, order a blood panel to check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, suggest you stop drinking, give an anxiety scale or any number of interventions to identify a cause and get you focused on appropriate solutions.
In the meantime here are a few “Do’s and Don’ts” on how to reclaim your beauty sleep.
- When you lay down to sleep, deepen and lengthen your breathing patterns — shoot for five second inhales and five second exhales. You’ll be taking 6 breathes per minute. This takes some practice but works nicely.
- Take a deep breath and hold it. While holding your breathe, tense up the muscles throughout your entire body and hold both for 30 seconds. Exhale completely and relax. Take several relaxed breathes and repeat three times.
- Choose any relaxing color (blue, green, yellow, etc). Place your hands on your stomach and imagine that you are expanding a colored balloon in your stomach. Exhale an insomnia/anxiety color (red, black, etc) through your mouth. Continue this for 5-10-50 times, whatever it takes. It is impossible to focus on your body/breath while entertaining thoughts.
- Take a hot shower or bath before bed, or get up and do so if you are unable to fall asleep within 15 minutes.
- Take some sleep food for the brain. Before going to bed eat 1 ounce of protein, 1 ounce of cheese and 5 grapes or the equivalent.
- Get out of bed if you have not fallen asleep within 15 minutes. The brain is quite easily programmed. I don’t want your brain to associate “bed” with “awake.”
- Once you’re out of bed do not watch TV, get on the computer, listen to stimulating music, turn on a bunch of lights or do anything else that stimulates your brain into high gear.
- Once out of bed do sit quietly, meditate on emptying the mind, listen to quiet, soothing music or do some “light” reading. The research shows that deep meditation is as restorative as sleep and takes less time than sleeping for 8 hours.
- Purchase a Brain Training CD and some ear buds (they are the most comfortable to sleep on). Make sure the CD is designed for sleep. I won’t go into all the scientific details here. Just know that the brain needs to be in delta wave state 60 minutes for you to wake up feeling fresh. My favorite is “Sleeping Through The Rain” by a company you can find at www.hemi-sync.com. Don’t try this on just a boom box. The ear buds are very important to make this work.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark. Lights out!
- Exercise regularly. Exercise does a fantastic job of regulating sleep cycles. The only catch here is do not exercise within two hours of bedtime, as this can activate mind and body systems that will keep you awake.
- Drink Chamomile Tea an hour before bedtime and take Valerian root with it. If you open up your first bottle of Valerian root and it smells like rotten socks, don’t throw it away, it’s supposed to smell like that! Can you believe it!? 😉
- If worse comes to worst, consult a doctor. There are many effective medications used for sleep which can be prescribed by your doctor. Some of these include Ambien, Temazepam, Sonata, Remeron, Benadryl (non-prescription), Melatonin (Don’t take this if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder) Trazadone and others.
- Stay away from alcohol as a sleep aid. Many will argue that alcohol gets them to sleep, but brain wave studies show that once asleep, an individual does not reach the restorative level of sleep that results in feeling well rested in the morning.
Too many sleepless nights can lead to what feels like a psychotic break, so don’t push yourself over the edge. Good self care is so important. After just 2 nights without sleep, intervention is necessary! Please take care of yourself. A great night’s sleep after not sleeping well for a long time can be an absolutely wonderful gift to give yourself.
I welcome you to more restful nights!
Dave Turo-Shields, ACSW, LCSW is an author, university faculty member, success coach and veteran psychotherapist whose passion is guiding others to their own success in life. For weekly doses of the webs HOTTEST success tips, sign up for Dave’s powerful “Feeling Great!” ezine at http://www.Overcoming-Depression.com