Insomnia is America’s number one sleep complaint and many people will go to great lengths to fall asleep easy and stay asleep throughout the night. One women’s quest for a good night’s sleep ended up in a new book, Wide Awake, A Memoir of Insomnia that describes her three year journey to conquer her sleeplessness. She tried sleeping pills, psychotherapy, prayer, sleep music, ear plugs and even had her sleep evaluated in a sleep lab.
When she was young anxiety was the main reason she couldn’t sleep, but as she aged she developed sleep-maintenance insomnia, that’s when you wake up during the night and can’t get back to sleep. Her grandfather had the same sleep pattern. Researchers haven’t found a genetic link between families with insomnia, but light sleepers tend to run in families. Light sleepers are those that wake up to the slightest sound.
Since anxiety was her main issue she tried Ativan that worked for a while, and after she went to a sleep clinic they prescribed doxepin but she had hallucinations. Her low tolerance for sleep aides prompted her to stop taking them. When the news came out how Ambien side effects caused sleepwalking or other engaging activities without a person’s knowledge she knew there was a better way to combat this sleep disorder.
She tried cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which teaches a person to develop positive thoughts and beliefs about sleep while sticking to a sleep routine. A sleep routine can be very strict as you are supposed to adhere to many behavioral and environmental lifestyle changes to improve your sleep. It can work, but not for her as she liked watching and falling asleep with the TV on and one of the to-do’s for CBT is to take all electronics out of the bedroom.
What other sleep techniques did she try? Praying to Nidra, the goddess of sleep.
Even going to Lapland (north of the Arctic Circle) to see a reindeer on Christmas to wish for the gift of sleep. A reindeer herder told her sleep comes with the rhythm of nature. When the sun shines it gives you energy to stay awake and when it doesn’t you go to bed. Sleep gadgets like sound machines and ear plugs could muffle the outside noises that seemed to help, but in the end she found that meditation finally calmed her down enough to fall asleep easy at the end of the day.
What was her meditation routine? 20 minutes in the morning, sitting in the corner of her room she would do a mantra at the beginning and just let her mind wander off. Keeping thoughts at bay she learned to be easier on herself, easier on her sleep. She believes that everyone is an individual and shouldn’t have to stick to an eight hour a night sleep standard. Fighting to sleep 7-8 hours only causes you to stay awake watching the clock. Fear of not falling asleep leads only to not sleeping.
Yes, insomnia can be the result of an underlying medical or mental disorder and you should seek a doctor’s advice if you are having trouble sleeping over a two week period. Insomnia can be caused by sleep apnea, depression and/or restless leg syndrome. If you find there are no underlying causes trying exercising in the morning during the hours of 6am and 10am outside in the sunlight. This is the best time to get some sun as it keeps your internal clock regulated. Meditate in the morning helps keep anxiety levels down and at night before bedtime it trains your body and mind to relax enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.
What meditation techniques you can do yourself? Abdominal breathing: while sitting or laying in bed place your hands on your stomach. Focus on the movements of your stomach while you breathe in and out. Imagine a calm scene; ocean, clouds, a warm breeze on a summer’s day. And just let go. Focusing on breathing or calming imagery helps you to keep your mind off of your to-do list that distracts you and prevents you from falling asleep. Many people find a self-hypnotic CD with an instructor to guide them to a comfortable place while using breathing techniques and progressive relaxation. Like: End Insomnia & Sleep Deeply Self Hypnosis Sleep Trainer CD
If you lay in bed more than 20 minutes get up and write down what is bothering you. Keeping a sleep journal can get your issues out of your head so you can stop tossing and turning.
Go back to bed and gaze upwards as a little eye strain relaxes you and you want to close your eyes. Take a deep breath and hold it as you exhale count from 8 to 1 and tell yourself to relax. Repeat two or three times. Let your mind drift, after a bit you might find that you are telling yourself a story as your mind prepares itself for dreaming…your body jerks as your muscles relax…finally la, la land.
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