Cure #2: The Golden Rules of Effective, Power Sleep:
While I Was Sleeping, Life Was Going On
Of all the health problems I have conquered in my life, my sleep problem was the most difficult to overcome. I was so impaired by sleeping problems that - if my life had been a movie - it would have been "While You Were Sleeping".
The "quality of your life is the quality of your sleep". Of all health problems, inability to get "quality" sleep is among the most widespread and under-reported.
The number of Americans hospitalized for Sleep Apnea has nearly tripled in five years. Hospital treatment for the disorder in 1998 costed more than $2.7 billion annually, up from $60 million in 1993 (data from HCIA-Sachs).
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU HAVE A SLEEP PROBLEM: If you answer "YES" to four or more of the following seven questions about your sleep habits, then you are NOT getting quality sleep and I BEG you to seek professional help:
1> Do you wake up after a night's
sleep feeling exhausted or needing more sleep?
GOLDEN RULES OF GETTING REFRESHING, QUALITY SLEEP - These are the rules of nature when it comes to sleep. Obey them to your profit and violate them at your own risk. Consider yourself warned.
GET ADEQUATE, CONTINUOUS BLOCK OF SLEEP EVERY NIGHT
The best thing you can do for yourself is to get an ENOUGH sleep every night (at least 8 eight hours, preferably 10 hours) in a continuous BLOCK. Getting 6 hours of hours in one solid block is TWICE as good as getting 8 hours of sleep in 4 blocks of 2 hours. It is inside this continuous block that you sleep deeply (NREM sleep). NREM sleep is where you dream, where you process the events of the day, and where you make the closest daily contact with the healing and regulating currents of the God worlds that keep you sane and healthy.
BE CONSISTENT AS TO WHEN YOU GO TO SLEEP AND WAKE UP
I used to love staying up late on weekends but I grew to love how much better I felt by going to bed and getting up at the same time. Your body is on an internal clock ("Circadian Rhythm") which is what helps you to know when to eat, when to sleep, when peak energy is needed, and so on. If you are at all sensitive to time shifts (like jet lag between time zones, switching to Daylight Savings Time, etc), then doing this is a must. Consistency also helps you with getting that adequate, continuous block of sleep you need every night.
SLEEP IS A BANK: AFTER A WITHDRAWAL, MAKE A DEPOSIT
There is such a thing as "catching up" on your sleep. If circumstances require you to stay up past your normal bed-time or to get up before your normal wake-time, then you need to make up the "lost" sleep as soon as possible. Think of it this way: for every hour you are awake, you owe a debt of sleep. Sleep is like a credit card: when it is maxed out, you have no choice but to make the minimum payments. The best way to reduce your sleep debt is to pay it off as you go instead of running a balance! Running a balance means that you will go for long periods without proper sleep and are - in essence - sleep deprived! Sleep deprivation causes illness!
NO FOOD 2 HRS BEFORE BED: BIG MEALS 5 HRS BEFORE BED
The quickest way to gain weight is to eat too late in the day. Late eating means that you do not get a chance to burn off any calories before the food is turned to fat. Late eating means more fat gets stored in your body because sleep releases insulin into your system and insulin stores fat. Worse, proper digestion is meant to be performed while awake. Digestion while sleeping screws up both the sleep and the digestion. Sleep gets screwed up because the digestion keeps you from sleeping continuously which keeps you from sleeping deeply which keeps you from getting the refreshment you need from sleep. Any questions?
NO CAFFEINATED OR ALCOHOLIC DRINKS 8 HRS BEFORE BED
Most people know that caffeine tells their body to "stay awake" and obviously is not helpful when they are trying to tell their body to go to sleep. What most do not know is that it takes time for caffeine to work it's way out of the body, particularly as one gets older. Until caffeine is out of the body, it will disrupt a person's sleep. On the other hand, most believe that alcohol helps a person go to sleep because it relaxes them. The truth is that the impairment alcohol brings one while awake follows the person into sleep. Like caffeine, alcohol disrupts and reduces the refreshing (NREM) sleep. So you when you are wasted, you waste sleep too.
IF NOT FALL ASLEEP WITHIN 1 HOUR, DO A TIRING ACTIVITY
I have learned that if I do not fall asleep within an hour of going to bed, it's not happening. So I get up and do something that I know will tire me out. Usually that is cleaning my house or some other physical activity that involves a lot of moving around. When I feel finally feel exhausted, I drop whatever it is that I am doing and I go to bed immediately. The key is to act on the signal of tiredness.
IF "NAGGING WORRY" KEEPS YOU UP, THEN DEAL WITH IT
If you are very worried about something, then it becomes extremely difficult to fall asleep. The best way to deal with a "nagging worry" is robbing you of sleep is to do something about it. If it means you need to get up and write a check, do it. If that means you have to have some companionship, log onto the Internet: someone in some time zone is sure to be awake and ready to talk. Do whatever it takes.
WHEN NASAL PASSAGES ARE BLOCKED, GET THEM OPEN
You cannot get a good night's sleep if you cannot breathe. One of the commonest causes of sleep disruptions is Sleep Apnea. Sleep Apnea means that somehow your breathing is disrupted as you are sleeping. When you breathing is disrupted, you wake up just enough to take in sufficient air to keep you from suffocating. Then you fall back asleep without ever realizing that you were awake. If your breathing is disrupted in anyway, there is help available. Help ranges from inexpensive nasal dialator strips to very expensive machines (see warnings about using them below) that make sure you get a continuous flow of air as you sleep.
KEEP YOUR BEDROOM DARK, SAFE, AND "NOISE FREE"
It is hard to sleep with the lights on, in an unsafe room, where it is noisy - that's just common sense. If you are having sleep problems, the last thing you need is a sleep area that is a problem itself. So do yourself a favor: no nightlights, get curtains that block the sun, put locks on the doors, wear earplugs (the travel plugs for use on airplanes are the best, especially if you have great hearing), and QUIET please.
NAP FOR NO MORE THAN 20 MINUTES AT A TIME
Naps are a double edged sword. Naps are GOOD to help snap you out of that groggy, sleep deprived feeling. Naps are BAD when too many of them during the day cause you trouble with sleeping at night. Unless my body "requests" it, I try not to take naps. When I do take naps, I set the alarm to wake me up in 20 minutes. A 20 minute nap is enough time to refresh you. Go longer and your muscles relax too much (as if for "real" sleep) and you wake up groggy.
USE YOUR BED ONLY FOR SLEEPING OR MAKING LOVE
When you are in bed, do only activities that will put you to sleep. Ironically, making love will relax you so deeply that it will help you to get a good, refreshing sleep (especially if you are a man - I was one many times so I speak with authority). Your body is accustomed to working by "sense memory": associating certain things with certain activities. Make sure that your body only associates your bed with sleep and not watching TV or doing a million other things.
TAKE NATURAL SLEEPING AIDS ONLY WHEN NECESSARY
Sometimes no matter how "good" you have been about following the rules of sleeping, there are times that you just need some "external" help. Especially as you grow older, your body naturally produces less melatonin which is a natural sleep inducer. I will never take "hard drug type sleeping pills". When I need help, I take only natural herbal melatonin. Even then, I only take it when it is absolutely necessary. For me, under normal conditions, that is no more than once a month.
ALL ABOUT INSOMNIA
Insomnia (Type 1): Cannot FALL asleep
"Sleep is the golden chain that ties our health and our bodies together." (Thomas Dekker)* The Sleep Zone: Your bed should only be used for sleeping and sex. Your body needs to associate your bed with sleeping only (sex will make you tired!). Whatever you like to do just before sleeping - like watching TV, reading a book, or meditating - should be done outside of your bed and bedroom. Your body needs to associate your bedroom with your long, nightly sleep time (9 hours is optimal while 7 is the bare minimum and 8 is average for most people).
* Swiss Timing: When you have sleep problems, it is best for you to be precise about bedtime. So go to bed exactly at the same time each night. Circadian Rhythm is your internal sense of timing (your "body clock") which helps your body to fall asleep and wake up. As much as 15 mins before or 15 mins after that time can throw your Circadian Rhythm off (this is why some have difficulty in adjusting to Daylight Savings Time changes). This is also the cause of "Jet Lag" (your body must adjust to a new time for day and night in a different location).
* Quality Naps: Those who have trouble falling asleep at night often must nap during the day. Naps are a double edged sword. A nap is good when it is one time and lasts for no more than 20 minutes. A nap is bad when it happens multiple times during the day and it lasts for hours. Bad naps are the direct cause of trouble falling asleep because it keeps your body from being tired enough to fall asleep.
* Get Tired: If you cannot fall asleep within 1 hour, then do a physically tiring activity that you know will wear you out. Usually that is some activity that involves moving around. When you feel exhausted, drop whatever it is you are doing and go to bed immediately. The key is to act on the signal of tiredness.
* EM Free Zone: All your TVs, phones, and answering machines should be out of your bedroom. If you cannot fall asleep, do not watch TV in bed. TV keeps you in a waking (beta) state and it prevents you from going into an alpha (falling asleep) state… only those who are utterly exhausted can fall asleep in front of the TV.
"O bed! O bed! Delicious bed! That heaven upon earth to the weary head." (Thomas Hood, Miss Kilmansegg)* Eat/Drink: Your last big meal should be eaten at least 5 hours before bedtime. Your last caffeinated or alcoholic drink should be drunk at least 8 hours before bedtime. Your last snack or drink of water should be no more than 3 hours before bedtime. Visit the bathroom just before bedtime so you can stay asleep. Yet you must feel well fed or hunger will wake you up in the middle of the night.
* IF Overweight: the quickest way to gain weight is to eat too late in the day. Late eating means that you do not get a chance to burn off any calories before the food is turned to fat. Late eating means more fat gets stored in your body because sleep releases insulin into your system to reset your blood sugar level and insulin stores fat. Digestion keeps you from sleeping continuously which keeps you from staying asleep/sleeping deeply which keeps you from being refreshed.
* Sleep Sanctuary: It is hard to sleep with the lights on, in an unsafe room, where it is noisy or too hot/cold - that is just common sense. If you are having sleep problems, the last thing you need is a sleep area that is a problem itself. So do yourself a favor: no night-lights, get curtains that block the sun, put locks on the doors, have enough sheets/blankets, wear earplugs (the travel plugs for use on airplanes are the best), and QUIET please while you are sleeping.
* Eye Mask/Covers: Light will wake you up when it strikes your eyes or skin. If you live in an area of light pollution - where it never is truly dark - and you have Type 2 Insomnia, then you must have an eye mask. You must also keep under the covers to block the light from your skin (which can also see).
* Sleep Apnea/Snoring: If it is loud enough, your own snoring can wake you up. If your breathing is disrupted as you are sleeping, this is sleep apnea and this will wake up. Snoring is curable: it can be as minor as wearing strips to force open your nostrils or as major as surgery to correct internal obstructions. Sleep Apnea is harder to cure: many times past life problems are behind this problem.
"A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow." (Charlotte Brontë)* Stress: Many people have insomnia because they are in a vicious cycle. They are not getting enough sleep. So they worry about not getting enough sleep. This causes more sleeplessness. This can also cause stress related symptoms (irritable, uneasy, rapid heart rate, tense muscles, and labored breathing, etc). Mind racing stress keeps one from falling asleep, it wakes one up from a sound sleep, and it keeps one from going back to sleep. Stress is the primary cause of Type 3.
- Your brain, when stressed, will take only as the minimum amount of sleep and then it will wake you right up.* Relaxation: When you have Type 3 insomnia, stop focus on trying to sleep, instead focus on RELAXING. Focusing on sleep being disrupted ensures that is what your body creates (in other words, a focus on a bad sleeping pattern just reinforces it). Relaxation is very simple. Start at your feet and see a beam of light going through each part of your body from toe to head relaxing each part in turn. Before you get to your head, you should have fallen asleep. If you are still awake, start over from toe to head. Above all, do not worry that it will work... it will.
- When you are relaxed and tired, your brain will drift naturally into sleep without effort and strain.* Past Life Karma: If you have done your best to address the physical causes of sleep issues, then the cause of your Type 3 Insomnia is past life karma. If you have caused others to experience sleep deprivation, then in this life your insomnia is a balancing of that karma. What one sows in past lives is what they reap now.
- Ask to be shown the root cause of your past life karma and be willing to forgive yourself and heal the past.
OTHER SLEEP INFORMATION
Circadian Rhythm: Your internal body clock
Sleep Apnea: Breath disruptions wake you up
Before using any of these techniques, click here for a "Word of Caution."
Credits: from adapted from "Power Sleep" by Dr. James B. Maas and the lifelong bitter experience of Ellen A. Mogensen recovering from sleep apnea
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