September 21, 2009

How to Get a Great Night’s Sleep

Sleep is the best meditation. — Dalai Lama

How sweet it is to sleep! And how difficult life can seem when we miss a good night’s rest or two.

Most people at some time in their lives have an encounter with insomnia. Sometimes its due to physical changes as we age. Other times its worry that bars us from Morpheus’s gate. The good news is that getting back on track is not complicated.

To that end, here is a simple set of suggestions for overcoming insomnia and getting the sleep you need. They come from first-hand experience when I had to deal with insomnia caused by injuries a couple of years ago.

  • Consult your doctor — particularly if he or she practices integrative medicine. My doctor is also an osteopath, and he helped me discover what I needed to get back to a restful night’s sleep.
  • Begin by recording your nighttime habits, your pre-bedtime rituals (if any), and your sleeping patterns. When you aren’t sleeping well, what’s going on physically? Mentally? Do you have trouble falling asleep, do you awaken suddenly in the middle of the night? Awareness is half the battle.
  • After 5pm, watch no television and read no newspapers or magazines — particularly those that tend to leave you “all worked up.” If there is a television in your room, get rid of it.
  • Before dinner, take a 15- to 30-minute walk. You’ll eat better and, chances are, sleep better, too. * Eat a light dinner low in starches and high in protein.
  • Avoid listening to “heavy” music in the evening. If you like to listen to music, try something soothing rather than rock and roll, pop, rap, or hip-hop.
  • Read a good novel or non-news magazine about an hour before bed.
  • About 15 minutes before retiring, have a plain cracker, such as a saltine. If you can tolerate it, have a small glass of at least 2% milk.
  • If you aren’t taking supplements, consider taking GABA and L-theanine before bed. Melatonin also works very well for some people. If you suffer from anxiety and/or depression also, try a 50mg dose of 5-HTP.
  • At bedtime, lie down and make yourself comfortable. Take a deep breath and let it go. Take another. Then scan your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet and back up. Notice any tension in the body. Starting at the head, consciously relax your muscles, seeing any tension flow out through your fingers and toes.
  • If you awaken in the middle of the night, and simply cannot get back to sleep, get up. Find that book you were reading, or get a pen and paper and write about the things that are on your mind. When sleepy again, return to bed and sleep.
  • Another tool that works for some people is the use of a full-spectrum lamp in the early morning. I used one to help reset my internal sleep clock — it certainly seemed to do some good in my case. My doctor had one that he loans out to his patients, and a couple of weeks’ use did wonders.

Above all, avoid getting into the trap of worrying about whether you’ll sleep or not. Practice some of the anti-anxiety techniques I’ve shared in other newsletters and get back into the moment.

Sleep well!

Sleep is the best meditation. — Dalai Lama
How sweet it is to sleep! And how difficult life can seem when we miss a good night’s rest or two.
Most people at some time in their lives have an encounter with insomnia. Sometimes its due to physical changes as we age. Other times its worry that bars us from Morpheus’s gate. The good news is that getting back on track is not complicated.
To that end, here is a simple set of suggestions for overcoming insomnia and getting the sleep you need. They come from first-hand experience when I had to deal with insomnia caused by injuries a couple of years ago.
* Consult your doctor — particularly if he or she practices integrative medicine. My doctor is also an osteopath, and he helped me discover what I needed to get back to a restful night’s sleep.

* Begin by recording your nighttime habits, your pre-bedtime rituals (if any), and your sleeping patterns. When you aren’t sleeping well, what’s going on physically? Mentally? Do you have trouble falling asleep, do you awaken suddenly in the middle of the night? Awareness is half the battle.

* After 5pm, watch no television and read no newspapers or magazines — particularly those that tend to leave you “all worked up.” If there is a television in your room, get rid of it.

* Before dinner, take a 15- to 30-minute walk. You’ll eat better and, chances are, sleep better, too. * Eat a light dinner low in starches and high in protein.

* Avoid listening to “heavy” music in the evening. If you like to listen to music, try something soothing rather than rock and roll, pop, rap, or hip-hop.

* Read a good novel or non-news magazine about an hour before bed.

* About 15 minutes before retiring, have a plain cracker, such as a saltine. If you can tolerate it, have a small glass of at least 2% milk.

* If you aren’t taking supplements, consider taking GABA and L-theanine before bed. Melatonin also works very well for some people. If you suffer from anxiety and/or depression also, try a 50mg dose of 5-HTP.

* At bedtime, lie down and make yourself comfortable. Take a deep breath and let it go. Take another. Then scan your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet and back up. Notice any tension in the body. Starting at the head, consciously relax your muscles, seeing any tension flow out through your fingers and toes.

* If you awaken in the middle of the night, and simply cannot get back to sleep, get up. Find that book you were reading, or get a pen and paper and write about the things that are on your mind. When sleepy again, return to bed and sleep.

* Another tool that works for some people is the use of a full-spectrum lamp in the early morning. I used one to help reset my internal sleep clock — it certainly seemed to do some good in my case. My doctor had one that he loans out to his patients, and a couple of weeks’ use did wonders.
Above all, avoid getting into the trap of worrying about whether you’ll sleep or not. Practice some of the anti-anxiety techniques I’ve shared in other newsletters and get back into the moment.
Sleep well!

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