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Catching Good Zzzz

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The secret for a good night's sleep is a complete digestion of all the day's dietary, mental and emotional experiences. Over 40 million sleeping pill prescriptions are handed out in America each year.

The secret for a good night's sleep is a complete digestion of all the day's dietary, mental and emotional experiences.

Over 40 million sleeping pill prescriptions are handed out in America each year. When one category of drugs loses its efficacy, patients switch to a newer and stronger knock-out prescription. Drug dependence continues for years.

Physicians actively encourage the use of sleeping pills because it seems to be the easy way out. Clearly there is something wrong! More so when insomnia is one of the most easily treated conditions through natural and common-sense means. To overcome the problem it's important to develop an attitude whereby you continually remind yourself that if you are not getting any sleep you can easily make it up tomorrow (you can take a nap in the afternoon if you're really tired). It is also important to adhere to a regular, scheduled routine of diet and sleep.

Supplement Your Way To Sleep

New research shows that chronic insomniacs invariably have marked deficiencies of key nutrients such as vitamin B-complex, vitamin C, vitamin D and also calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It makes great sense for insomniacs to plan their diet so as to include foods rich in these nutrients.

A glass of mixed carrot and spinach juice every morning helps balance the nervous system. Lettuce juice in the evening is also of tremendous help in insomnia. Lettuce contains a sleep-inducing substance called lectucarium, which effectively likens lettuce juice to the sedative action of opium without the accompanying excitement.

Important herbs for curing insomnia are gotu kola, nutmeg, jatamansi, valerian and St John's Wort. A good medicine can be made at home by mixing two parts St John's Wort, two parts valerian, one part nutmeg and one part licorice. For chronic insomnia, take five grams of this powder with a little warm water just before going to bed.

Hydrotherapy is excellent. Application of hot packs to the spine or an alternate hot/cold foot bath at bedtime relaxes the stressed body. A simple hot bath 15 minutes before bedtime also produces a feeling of blissful lethargy.

Exercise daily. If we get tired by a long walk after dinner nature will force us to sleep. Regular active exercise during the day also helps. Exercise produces hormonal changes which are beneficial to the body and which fortify the sleep pattern. Vigorous exercise should, however, be eschewed since this can stimulate the system instead of relaxing it.

Out With The Bad Air

Make a rhythmic pattern of breathing as you lie in bed. This gets your mind off the problem of insomnia itself and coaxes the body into the subdued rhythm of good sleep. In a stressed condition, the temperature of the sleeper stays high, there is more skin resistance and more vasoconstrictions symptoms that imply that the insomniac's stress-affected autonomic nervous system (which controls involuntary body functions), is actually preparing him for a "fight or flight" response but not for sleep.

Eat a small amount of protein or calcium-rich food shortly before bedtime. Skim milk yogurt is an excellent natural soporific (sleep-inducing) food. Don't eat a heavy dinner, especially after eight in the evening. Indigestion or being overfull can affect your sleep. Avoid what in your experience are gas-forming and stimulating spice-laden foods. Exclude white flour products, sugar, tea, coffee, chocolate, colas, alcohol, fried and fatty foods and the excessive use of salt.

Light therapy entails placing insomniacs for two hours in front of a high intensity full spectrum fluorescent light source (an artificial sun) after they awaken. This tells the body in no uncertain terms that it's morning, especially on darker winter mornings. In the evening, dark glasses are used before sunset so that the body knows that it's time to begin to wind down. This puts extra evidence before the insomniac's misinformed pineal gland so that suitable sleep-inducing hormones may be correctly secreted.

Common-sense Solutions

People who worry about insomnia usually sleep for far more time than they either realize or care to admit. The man who swears, "I didn't sleep a wink last night" may have slept for hours without knowing it. All he has really done is talked himself into a case of insomnia. The way to undo the damage by such an attitude is to indulge in a reverse form of auto-suggestion. You can do this by saying to your muscles and nerves "let go, let go, loosen up, relax." So if you want to go to sleep quickly, start with the muscles. Get them into a relaxed, limp state. If that approach doesn't work, try some of these other common-sense approaches.

  • Cultivate the art of doing things slowly, enjoying the process itself. Merely worrying about insomnia is one of the guaranteed ways not to get sleep and the worry will hurt you far more than the insomnia itself.
  • Drink moderately.

  • Never oversleep in the morning trying to catch up on "lost" sleep.

  • Don't sleep late on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Your natural physical self does not understand the artificial construct of the sabbatical. You will mess up your Monday mornings by upsetting your sleep pattern over the weekend. And that's no way to start off a new week.

  • Don't have a lit clock in your room when you sleep. You will go nuts.

  • Keep your bed quiet. Don't use it to watch television, don't make it a playground for the kids and don't turn it into an office.

  • Set aside some quiet time before bed when you will not be disturbed. Indulge in any activity you find relaxing, such as reading a book.

  • Go to bed early. This way there will be little pressure on you to fall asleep quickly.

  • Skip late night TV. Too much television can be emotionally and physically burdening.

  • Get up as soon as you wake up. Don't dawdle in bed.

  • Heed your natural signs of fatigue. Sleep when you are sleepy, even if it is an hour or two before your scheduled sleep time.

  • Eighty per cent of people who take long naps during the day don't sleep well that night. Restrict your afternoon nap to a maximum of half an hour.

These remedies are guaranteed to have you drifting gently off to sleep.

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