Some folks have difficulty getting to sleep, while others can’t stay asleep. Sometimes this is due to an underlying health condition, but often it’s due to stress in a person’s daily life. Once you rule out the medical causes with your health provider, then you can work on your sleep habits.
Most of us fill our daily lives to excess: we stuff our hours as if they were pasta shells. We have oodles of meat and cheese appointments, chores, tasks, and details that fill our pasta shell days and leak out into the pan that we call our bedroom. Some of us carry our cares and plans for tomorrow into this container, for we’ll pour more sauce over it once we are ready to put it into the slow cooker that we call sleep.
Instead of our bedroom being a sanctuary away from our day, often it is a continuation and more of the same. If we aren’t watching the late news, we are thinking about the stories of pain, anguish, war, and mudslinging. Today’s work and tomorrow’s worries all twine together. No wonder we twist, flip, and turn until the wee hours of the morning! Then the next night comes and our anxiety about getting a good night’s rest prevents up from sleeping once more. We are on the downward spiral into a deep hole of tired.
I’m a NASCAR fan, so indulge me a bit of racing analogy. If we treat our bodies like race cars and drive them hard into the turns without hitting the brakes or letting off the accelerators, we are most likely going to hit the wall! This isn’t good for the car. Usually we take some other cars with us also. What I’m saying is, sometimes going less than the maximum speed means that you will finish in one piece and finish up front, rather than run fast and quick for a bit, but then finish in the back of the pack at the end of the race.
How can we discipline ourselves so we can have an opportunity for a restful sleep? We can learn this behavior, for I was taught this during a stressful time in my own life.
1. Cut back on caffeine during the day.
2. Eat breakfast, lunch and a light supper.
3. Do some physical exercise each day.
4. Clean one room each day.
5. Cut back on alcohol use in the evening. (It interferes with sleep)
6. Take a warm bath or shower 2 hours before bed
7. Put on music or comedy on the tv. No tense or violent shows, no news shows.
8. Read fiction, preferably of no redeeming value whatsoever. No heavy lifting. Save that for tomorrow!
9. Warm fluids, decaf. I recommend Tension Tamer by Celestial Seasonings. It has chamomile, for those with flower sensitivities.
10. Take Rx at same time every night. Get into bed at same time each night.
When I first started this routine, I had difficulty slowing my life pace down. I was too accustomed to hitting the wall each night. As a result, I would get into bed, be stiff as a board of uncooked lasagna, and be gritting my teeth trying to eat it raw! I started progressive relaxation exercises while lying there on my bed. These gave me a bodily focus, rather than my worries. I began with my toes, squeezed these tightly, relaxed them; tightened my feet, relaxed them; tightened my calves, relaxed them; and so on until I reached the very crown of my head.
On occasion I would have to start over again, but soon I could put myself to sleep by the time I reached the top of my head. Having been through that difficult time in my life, when my child was ill, my ex was a pain, and I had financial difficulties because I was so stressed I couldn’t work, meant that I learned to handle a lot of stress fairly well. Today, I go to sleep within minutes of hitting the pillow. As the sleep study doctor said, “it’s remarkable how quickly (I) go to sleep!”
If you want better sleep, try writing down those things that keep you up at night. Put them on a sheet of paper at 8 pm. Set this paper on your notepad next to your keys. Don’t look at it again until tomorrow morning. You can’t fix it till tomorrow anyway. Don’t think about it anymore tonight. Rest your body and mind. Start working that 10 item list above. Try the progressive relaxation techniques. Do this for a couple of weeks. If you don’t improve, I suggest a visit for some talk therapy in addition to these actions.