(Sorry for the late post everyone. Maddie didn't get enough sleep last night and was a little behind schedule this morning. Luckily she's graced us with another of her brilliant posts. I'm always happy to read what's been on her mind and know that I have a kindred spirit out there!)
Sleep is a strange thing. Half of us spend our time agonizing over how we don’t get enough of it, and the other half constantly seeks ways to get around having to “waste time” sleeping.
In college I went through a phase where I experienced serious trouble getting to sleep. I would toss and turn for hours—literally, four or five hours—unable to get settled. Then I would look over at my clock and see the obnoxious red lights of the electronic contraption telling me it was 5 or 6 AM. And I had barely slept a wink! This would incite anxiety about not getting enough sleep for the night, which would further preclude my ability to fall asleep. I would usually end up falling asleep around 6 or 7 AM, only to have to rise a few hours later, exhausted and nervous about the effect insufficient sleep would have on me.
I ended up going to see a shrink about what might be causing my inability to sleep well. There was very little productive conversation that went on about the cause of the trouble. The discussion usually focused on descriptions of the problem: how often it happened; how much “sleep” I usually got on these nights. For whatever reason, this particular psychiatrist did not seem too keen on helping me get to the root of the problem, so he did what countless shrinks do: he prescribed me medicine to help with the insomnia.
He prescribed Ambien—America’s little helper. The drug is meant to effectively knock you out so you have no choice but to sleep. Upon hearing of the prescription, my mother became concerned: other family members had taken Ambien and suffered one of its all-too-common side effects: sleepwalking. I assured my mother it did not have that effect on me (it didn’t), and sparingly took the pill whenever I felt I couldn’t trust my body’s ability to sleep on its own.
I never got the prescription refilled after I had finished the 30 or so pills it contained. It took me close to two years to go through that bottle. I never trusted the drug—even before I made a commitment to “green” my life, I knew that the Ambien didn’t feel right or natural.
However, just because I stopped taking the conventional medicine for sleeping does not mean I no longer have trouble sleeping. Some nights are easier than others, although I admittedly do not have nearly the same difficulty I used to.
Here are some adjustments I have found to be extremely helpful in making my falling asleep process smoother:
-I no longer have a television in my bedroom—for months I would watch episode after episode of Law and Order: SVU trying to fall asleep, but all this did for me was keep me awake, anxious to see how the plot unfolded.
-I try and get off the computer an hour in advance of when I want to get to sleep: there’s something about being plugging into the internet that makes me wired (no pun intended!)
-I keep one light on very low when I read before going to bed. The progression of turning off the lights in my room, making it darker and darker, settles my mind to a point where I can successfully relax.
I recently listened to a webinar (seminar on the web) on the science and yoga of sleep that a friend sent my way. Dr. Rubin Naiman delivered the talk, and I found the information to be extremely useful. While I will not try and synopsize everything he touched on, I will point out a few things that resonated with me:
-We have to make our bedrooms into sanctuaries for sleep. Sleeping is a sacred act that restores and revitalizes s, and if we do not set up our sleeping area in a way that is conducive to healing, we cannot fully benefit from our sleep.
-We have to eliminate as many toxins as possible from out bedroom that might interfere with our sleep. This means buying organic cotton sheets, mattresses, and any other bed accoutrements. Also, this means keeping the air in our bedrooms clean. Having plants in our bedrooms can really help keep the air we breathe as pure as possible.
-Dreaming is an important part of the sleep cycle. If you are not dreaming when you sleep, you are not reaching all of the sleep cycles necessary for a holistically healing sleep.
Dr. Naiman’s website is below. I suggest you check it out if you have an interest in bettering your sleep. And, I suspect we could all sleep a little sounder.