Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tips for Insomniacs

For those who are experiencing sleep disorders like me, here’s a forwarded article I’d like to share you. This is a published one from Philstar.

Little-known solutions to sleep problems
Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I have difficulty falling asleep. When I’m stressed, I can’t seem to keep my mind from thinking about things that happened in the day. What should I do? — James from Iloilo City

Yes, James, many people can’t sleep. There have been countless articles and books on the topic, and I don’t want to repeat them. So I’m listing 17 lesser-known sleep aids, plus I’ll reiterate a few you already know about.

Tips You’ve Heard Of

These conventional tips come from Dr. Helena Schotland, a specialist in sleep medicine:

• Maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night.

• Maintain a healthy diet.

• Have a regular exercise schedule

• Avoid or minimize the use of caffeine, especially in the afternoon.

• Avoid alcohol, which may help you doze off but increases early morning awakenings.

• Avoid smoking.

These tips are effective but not for hardened insomniacs out there.

Tips You May Not Have Heard Of

Sleep is a natural physiological process, but it can also be a learned behavior. Thus, you can train yourself to sleep better by trying a few of these sleep aids.

• No mental work after 6 p.m. If you find yourself rummaging the day’s garbage and stressed at night, then avoid any heated meetings, excitable conversations, and long-term planning at night.

• Turn off your mind. Now, this differs for every person. Some individuals watch TV to relax their minds. Some exercise. Others play with their kids. Some read entertainment magazines or comics. Whatever relaxes you, just do it.

• Turn around the clocks. Lessen the pressure of sleeping by not looking at or knowing the time. Replace noisy clocks or those that say cuckoo every 30 minutes. You don’t want to get reminded that you aren’t sleeping yet.

• Don’t schedule an early morning meeting. Knowing and anticipating an early meeting can make it hard for you to sleep. That’s called anticipation anxiety and it’s normal behavior.

• Make your bedroom a sleep haven. Is the neighbor’s dog too noisy? Can you hear the irritated bus driver blow his horn? Does the sunlight wake you up at 5 a.m.? Try to correct these “sleep botherers” by placing a darker curtain, installing air-conditioning, and making your room more soundproof.

• Invest in a good mattress and comfortable pillows and blankets. Buy adjuncts like a mosquito net, earplugs, eye pads, and a quiet electric fan — let it swing and not blow on you steadily.

• Your bedroom is for sleep and sex only. According to Dr. Christine Rhea S. Igna, your bedroom is not the place where you think of your plans, your problems and unpaid bills. When you go to sleep, try not to anticipate your future events. Deliberately put them on hold.

• Take a light snack or warm drink one to two hours before bedtime. Chamomile tea is an effective relaxation drink. It calms the bowels and smells wonderful, too. For some people, milk and cookies, hot soup or a banana helps them sleep. Bananas have tryptophan, and carbohydrates induce the brain to produce serotonin. Both are sleep inducers. And you can’t sleep if you’re hungry.

• Try supplements. According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Rebecca Castillo, melatonin can not only induce sleep but also boost the immune system with its antioxidant properties. Start with melatonin 500mg at night, then slowly increase to two grams if still not effective. Vitamin B complex (so called “stress tablets”) helps you sleep, too. Studies also show that the herb valerian can enhance sleep, just like Valium. But don’t take them all at the same time. Just try which one works for you.

• Use sleeping pills only occasionally. According to Dr. Lemual Tocjayao, internist and alternative medicine specialist, sleeping pills are habit-forming and addicting. And their effect wears off if you take them daily. Try natural methods first and just use them as a safety net.

• Make your body tired. As the Bible says, the sleep of a laborer is sweet, but the rich man tosses and turns at night. I find that I sleep better when I’ve done a lot of manual work during the day (not mental work). When your body is physically tired, you’ll fall asleep sooner. Resist napping in the afternoon because it will decrease your nighttime sleep.

• Meditation, relaxation, soft music, massage and a warm bath. That sounds so great, but the problem is getting a free masseuse. For couples, try to alternately massage each other — foot massage, neck massage and back massage.

• Try sex at bedtime. According to studies, sex is a great stress reliever and sleep inducer… in men. Women, however, get irritated when guys have sex and just doze off. For some women, sex makes their minds more alert. Again, see what works for you.

• Just lie down. When all else fails, just lie down and do nothing. You can think of something unimportant and trivial. For me, two hours of lying down is equivalent to one hour of sleep. Your body muscles will still be relaxed.

• Count blessings, not sheep. Inspirational guru Norman Vincent Peale advises those who can’t sleep to pray for everyone they know. I’ve followed his tip and it’s very effective and relaxing, too. When I’m all excited and can’t sleep, I just use the time to pray for others and to ask God to send them good tidings. Start with your immediate family, your friends, your acquaintances. Leave the politicians for last lest you wake up sweating.

• Pray the rosary. An alternative to praying for others is to mentally pray the rosary. I usually doze off by the third decade. And if I finish the whole rosary, then I just start all over again.

• Give your problems to God. Offer your insomnia to Him. A man prayed as follows every night: “Lord, we’ve had a good day today, I’ve had some tough decisions, but I know that you are with me. I will sleep now, but I know you’ll be there to protect me and my loved ones. I leave all my worries and concerns to you, Lord. And when I wake up tomorrow refreshed and ready, I’ll be able to do your work for me, Lord. Amen.”

Now, are you ready for sleep? Sleep is relaxing and heavenly. Sleep will come when it comes. Just try these little tips and see your sleep improve. Good night!

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