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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Confronting and Conquering Sleeplessness

I don't know what it is, but somehow the older you get, the harder it is to get to sleep and stay asleep. I wonder if it is the layers of life which accumulate, adding a heaviness to our hearts and minds, making it harder and harder for us to shrug off the worries, stress and challenges of life. I know at my most stressed, I was sleeping only 4 to 5 hours a night on average. Bad news... bad for my weight and bad for my mind and spirit. So this is a subject I have spent time on confronting and have taken steps to conquer.

They say the 3 keys to a healthy life are eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. My personal experience confirms this. When I am scooting along on all three wheels of my Life Tricycle, things are pretty good. When one wheel is out of balance, life is not so good. And each wheel effects the other. For example, if I eat too much, I feel crummy, don't want to exercise and certainly don't sleep as well.

It is interesting to me, though, that even with my eating right and exercising as I should these days, I am still facing sleeplessness. For a while I just try to "overcome it", hanging out in bed trying to force myself to sleep or, when I can't stand it any more, I get up and go watch TV. When too many days go by without enough sleep, then I put planning and effort into helping myself fall and stay asleep. Like everything, there is no quick fix or instant cure...just persistence to improve the condition.

I hate taking pills for sleep. I will take a Tylenol PM on occasion, for a couple of nights, when I am really struggling in order to break the cycle. But I know that taking a pill every night for the rest of my life isn't the answer. It is my life and how I live it that is what will help me address my sleeplessness in the long run.

Patterns and nightly rituals seem to really help. It is my winding down time. I need time to relax and to eliminate the "Lights, Action, Camera!" that each day is filled with, the moment I open my eyes. I say good night to everyone and go to my bedroom. I turn off the TV, lower the lights in our bedroom and often take a warm bath with Epsom salts. Reading is a key part of the ritual. I have a whole stack of books by my bedside. There is fiction and non-fiction and, of course, self-help books. I pick one up, depending on my mood, and read at least 20 minutes before the lights go out. Sometimes I fix a cup of tea, one of my favorites is Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Camomile (http://www.celestialseasonings.com).

Something I have tried recently is listening to a relation mediation online. One that is not too long, free, and effective is from the Quiet Mind Cafe (http://www.quietmindcafe.com). It doesn't take too long but is a great one for taking you through the steps towards deep relaxation. I found it very helpful.

Now for a couple of nights of restful sleep....