Are sleeping pills the answer?
After giving a lecture on sleeping disorders an elderly doctor told us how he prescribes sleeping pills. Very powerful sleeping pills were prescribed for his patients who said they could not sleep through the night or even fall asleep. He told them to place one of the pills next to a glass of water before going to bed and then just go to sleep. They slept pretty well but somehow his treatment did not depend on swallowing the pill. The next morning they had to put the pill back in the bottle and close the lid! Every night they took out the pill and placed it next to the jar. They slept very well and no longer complained to him about their sleeping problems.
This is crazy, but it worked because he dealt with the cause of the anxiety in his patients. He spent a lot of time correcting problems and considerations they had. Then he gave them lots of “white jacket” reassurance that his advice always works. He also helped to instil a few good bedtime habits such as hot baths, reading, listening to music or drinking hot milk and honey. These reinforced the belief system that centered around the magic pill. This is a good example of how the placebo effect can be creatively put to use.
Does a daytime nap suit you?
Cats are cats and can sleep for 20 hours a day. They are different to us and use very little of their day being active for short periods to eat, hunt or play. Then they settle down and go to sleep -"pechance to dream". A sleeping cat is a relaxing sight and stroking a cat helps us to calm down, relax and even reduce our blood pressure. Snuggling up next to a cat on a warm sunny bed for a nap is one of the most pleasant ways to wind down for a short break. But many people are worried that daytime napping and especially falling asleep will disturb their main sleep during the night. Have they have programmed themselves that way or do they know what suits them best.
Many professionals who work and live in the fast lane take off a few minutes during the day for what we call a power nap. These people have programmed their sleeping patterns in a different way. They take advantage of some time to cut down on stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The mind calms down, comes to rest and emerges refreshed after a break from internal chatter. Not all of them actually sleep but it is said that a few minutes of power napping is the equivalent of a few hours of sleep in terms of efficacy. Some people use breathing techniques, visualisation, biofeedback and meditation for daily stress reduction as an alternative to taking a nap.
We can learn to control our ability to sleep at odd times to take advantage of what we call a cat nap. Mothers of newborn babies have the ability to cat nap so they can get all the sleep they can. Even coffee drinkers can manipulate their caffeine habits to suit their states of mind-induced slumber or wakefulness. No coffee during the afternoon, otherwise “I won’t be able to sleep” some people tell themselves. Others drink coffee after dinner when they want a good night’s sleep; so it can work both ways!
"Help! I can’t sleep; therefore I don’t sleep and will suffer the next day"
Are we the victims of self-hypnosis when it comes to our sleeping habits? Some people believe they can snooze all afternoon and it does not affect their night’s sleep. When we try to conform to a prescribed amount of sleep at set times because the textbook lays it out as the law we are going to have sleep issues - lots of them. Some of us can cruise through two 4 hour cycles without waking up. Others wake up after a few hours and then fall asleep again. Not everybody can sleep in a prescribed way. It is fine to wake up during the night. You are not a freak in need of complicated and convoluted therapy because you do not conform. Perhaps your inner sleep computer can suggest sleeping habits that are better suited to you and your lifestyle.
When we wake up in the middle of the night we panic because the textbook says that we shouldn’t. But the habit becomes reinforced based on: “what you resist will persist.” We take sleeping pills and force ourselves to sleep. We are our own enemies when it comes to telling ourselves all the reasons why we can’t sleep and then resisting them instead of treating them. In turn resistance and stress or force raises cortisol levels and cortisol is the enemy of sleep.
Believing that you are a victim of disrupted sleep will lure you into the trap of falling for all the factors that are to blame. You are responsible enough to find out a few ways to make your sleeping habits work for you and kick the ones that don’t. Get as comfortable as you can. Believe that natural sleep is possible and close your eyes. Don't worry about when or even if you fall asleep. Just rest and relax and sleep may come to you, sooner than you think. Even if you lie down and close your eyes you will be getting some rest.
Be more like a cat and chill out
Somehow we need to be more like a cat and just switch off. We control our own mind. It is your mind and you can make it up, so to speak. We don’t have to always sleep in a special room with a special bed in a controlled environment. There are times when all the sleep you are going to get is on an aeroplane or in a crowded room. Could you? Most people will say this is impossible and then roll off a list of reasons why they can’t rest under these circumstances. Take another look at cats. Sleep is sleep, in any place they can relax and let go. Why tell yourself that you can’t?
Good sleep management helps us to tailor make a good sleeping space in our heads so we can reap the benefits from however much sleep we get. If we wake up during the night there are plenty of wonderful things to experience and observe within our inner silence. We seldom give our higher consciousness a chance to communicate with us because of all the chattering we do in a wakeful state. Lying in a comfortable bed with a mind in limbo is an open invitation to becoming more spiritually aware. No effort is required to rest, relax, appreciate and mellow out.
Sleep creatively - become a slumbering genius
Many great artists and inventors work and learn during and in between their sleep cycles when they cruise around on the internal snooze internet. How else would one “dream up” an idea that is a true work of genius? Charles Dickens used to dream about his stories and then write them down, a chapter a day when he was awake. That is good sleep management! Salvador Dali, the great surrealist painted weird-looking pictures. He received his sleep input by dozing off on a couch during the day. In the phase between wakefulness and sleep he entered his surrealistic zone. He woke himself up before the sleep button engaged by holding a spoon over a china plate before taking his nap. As soon as his grip from the spoon weakened the clang on the plate woke him into a fully conscious state and he was able to retrieve the dreamlike images and paint pictures of them.
Narcoleptics like me are unique and dream after 10 minutes
The medical profession take a dim view of what they call narcoleptics. They say we doze off during the day and can’t sleep at night. For me as a neuroleptic that does not happen every day and every night. I was horrified to find that Ritalin and other powerful amphetamines are prescribed to keep “patients” awake during the day so they can sleep at night. I have never fallen for upper / downer drugs to control what is for me, an interesting situation. I do not regard it as an illness or a problem. It's just different - and very exciting at times.
It takes us about 10 minutes to enter the dream state called REM or rapid eye movement during both daytime snoozes and at night. I use the dream input to full advantage and have trained myself to recall the experiences in lucid detail. Medically speaking, some of these experiences are regarded as hallucinations and occur just before or after the mini sleep cycle. For me they are fascinating, cutting edge insights into the filing cabinet of my mind.
People with narcolepsy are outside the sleep box and cannot be dictated to by textbook protocols. It requires a unique form of management and often a lot of explanations for some of the more peculiar aspects. For instance, narcoleptics are not being rude when they fall asleep during a meal or a conversation. They cut out when certain people with a soft soothing voice go on and on (and on) about boring subjects. Pilots with narcolepsy can fly aeroplanes but are not allowed on the airport landing strip where the dotted lines are painted on the tarmack. They fall asleep because of the flashing this causes on the retina. The same goes for driving cars, or watching television as I know. Who needs sedatives!
Your partner is fast asleep and you are not, so what?
It does not matter if you are comfortably lying in bed and drift off to sleep or not. Being aware and awake can add more meaning to your sacred space. 3:30 am is the best time to meditate so if you find yourself awake at this time on a regular basis then perhaps it is your calling. It is a legacy of earlier times when the village elders used to keep the night watch. This is the space where the membrane between you and your maker is stretched out to the thinnest. It is easier to be receptive; to listen to the small still inner voice. Dreams and visions drift by, often solutions to problems you have had during the day.
How sleeping or waking up in the night can make you obese
Some of the issues we grapple with during the day are still whirling around our heads at bedtime. Try as hard as we like they stay as a bold image on the screen of your mind as you close your eyes and pray for the Sandman. Cortisol levels are high, the heart is thumping, blood sugar is boiling and soon you feel hunger pangs. Next is the trip to the refrigerator when the blood sugar drops down to the level of desperation. Hormones are cruel and a clash between cortisol and insulin combined with a looping monster in your mind will stimulate the appetite.
Nocturnal eating is both for comfort food and an urgent need to top up on blood sugar. After all, the brain requires a constant supply of glucose. This dark and dirty eating binge will easily be accommodated by a mind that is receptive to a reward-based feedback loop. Then the next night the same scenario will set itself up and the urge to eat during the night will soon become a compulsion. This violation of the human circadian rhythm takes its toll on the human body clock. During the night metabolic processes are activated to break down and combust the meal you last had a few hours ago. It does not need more rich, sweet food in the dead of night, regardless of how you sleep. The extra load turns to more blubber on the belly.
Put your wakeful hours to good use and capitalize on however much sleep you get
So when you go to bed with a problem you can’t solve or a torn relationship or churning resentment then first remember the old proverb: “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” This is sound medical advice because cortisol activity subsides in the evening after a day of using it for stressful activity. Many of us are perfectionists and like to solve problems and finish off the day’s demands before we head for the bedroom. We just can’t let go in the middle of something. We can’t turn off the cortisol and adrenaline. We then fail to switch on the sleep hormones like melatonin that are released after dark.
Don’t think that sleeping pills can solve daily business problems but they can enforce a little slumber as a temporary bypass! Herbal alternatives like passiflora, hops or valerian are said to be a good standby for people who may temporarily need them to set up better sleeping cycles. What also really works is to imagine yourself handing over your problems. Before going to sleep mentally pack up a bundle of unresolved issues and hand them over to God. In good faith let go. Detach yourself from unresolved issues and leave the puzzle to be solved by the grand God-computer overnight. Trust that the answers will be ready for you. No more effort is required, other than to wait, so you may as well relax, close your eyes and rest. "Let go, let God”.
Problems are solved while you sleep
In the morning (or at 3:30am) people used to wake up to meditate as this was a special time for connecting to the higher self. This is often the time when the solutions to problems you handed over to the God-computer will come to you. They may appear as concepts as dreams, feelings, ideas or images. If you are awake, drink some water then slowly browse through the package that is opening up in your mind's eye. Sometimes none of it makes any sense until later during the day when a link-up takes place and the penny drops. It is a simple and easy process but you need a will of iron it seems, to “stand back and see the glory of God.” It is also a question of faith to hand over your responsibility to another party and trust that they can handle it.
It is like the elderly doctor who gave his patients the jar of sleeping pills. They went to sleep in good faith and didn’t need the pills. We want to grapple and interfere 24/7 and lose sleep over whatever it is that takes a turn to stress us out. We become stress junkies and stress is an enemy of sleep. Stress is not wrong and man is a problem solving machine. But enough is enough. With sleep management we need to learn that there is a time for everything. There is a time to run from tigers and there is a time to retreat into the cave and sleep. Tigers also sleep during the night, so we can all take a break until daylight.
Meditation techniques are the best for reducing cortisol levels and letting go of stress. Even if you think you are too busy and don’t have time to retreat into a cave and eat yoghurt all day, just make a start. Right now you can learn how to enter a calm, relaxed state. Take a few minutes to find out what to do. This will help towards giving you a few more precious hours of shut-eye tonight. Sweet dreams!