Insomnia is a more and more common condition in modern times. Sadly, a huge percentage
of us are sleep-deprived or sleep-impaired, and this leads to irritability, sub-par
functioning, muddy thinking, poor judgment, inefficient use of time, dangerous driving,
tanking relationships and decreased enjoyment of life.
There are two kinds of sleeplessness or insomnia – the kind where you have
trouble falling asleep, and the kind where you wake up in the wee hours and can’t
fall back to sleep – or both. Here are a few simple but effective behavioral
suggestions to help with insomnia.
Try to make a habit of writing down, before bedtime, all the things you need to
take care of for the next day, so that you are, in essence, getting it out of your
head and onto a sheet of paper. Journaling thoughts and feelings also serves the
same purpose in a more wide-ranging way.
If you work out or exercise at night, it would be better to switch to the morning
or afternoon – not just before bedtime. Evening exercise too close to bedtime
If you drink alcohol at dinner or after, this might help you fall asleep in the
short term, but it’s also likely to be what’s waking you up at 2 or
3 a.m.. Booze is a terrible intervention for insomnia.
If you wake up in the middle of the night and your mind revs up with worries, plans,
problems, solutions, whatever, you will either need to distract your mind –
with reading, or music or one of the resources I’ll suggest later on in this
list; or else get out of bed and try to address some of these things in a more proactive
way. The worst thing you can do is just lie there thinking “I have to get
some sleep!!! I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!!! I MUST sleep!! This insomnia
is going to wreck my ability to function!!” because, of course, once
you’re having that conversation with yourself, you’ll never fall asleep!
If you’re in the middle of one of these dreadful insomnia cycles, you would
do well to consider getting a prescription for a mild sleeping pill – not
as a permanent solution, but to break the cycle of sleeplessness. Work with your
doc to find a good medication that works well for you, without producing a “hangover”
the next day. It’s best to experiment over the weekend or on a week night
when you don’t have to be terribly sharp the next morning.
As for resources, you can condition yourself to fall asleep to guided imagery –
so much so that in a short while you’ll just hear the first paragraph or two
and you’ll be getting your zzzz’s. This is because imagery has just
enough content to distract your mind – it’s called “cognitive
recruitment” – while, at the same time, offering soothing voice tones
and music that can seduce your agitated mind away from its worries and drop straight
into sleep. I know this sounds self-serving, but the truth is, we’ve been
getting terrific results with our
Healthful Sleep imagery. Even people who are pretty much addicted to sleeping
pills report that this imagery served as a substitute that actually worked better
than their meds. Another great guided meditation is Gael Chiarella’sP.M.Meditations: Guided
Meditations for an Evening of Relaxation & Restful Sleep and yet another,
related technique is Michael Reed Gach’s guided self-acupressure
system for insomnia, called
Sleep Better. And finally, don’t forget Steve Kohn’s
Music for Meditation which works wonderfully well for sleeplessness, and
especially his lovely, sleep-inducing Dreamwaves piece on the Inward Journey