Help With Insomnia
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 feeds insomnia.
- 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’s P.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 deliciously soothing Music for Meditation which works wonderfully well for sleeplessness, and especially his lovely, sleep-inducing Dreamwaves piece on the Inward Journey album.