Sleep Sound: One Way to Dreamland without Pills
By: J. Marlando
When I was a young kid I already had restless leg syndrome and sleep problems: By the time I was fourteen years old I had lived through four divorces and remarriages between my mom and dad so I knew what it was like to spend restless nights thinking the world was crashing down on me. I have a reason for sharing this with you but I’ll get back to my tale a little later.
I am not a doctor but a person doesn’t have to have a degree in psychology to understand that worry, stress and anxiety keeps a whole lot of people tossing and turning at night. It doesn’t matter that, in general, people who endure sleepless nights are suffering from what I term, the “Chicken Little Syndrome,” since it is usually quite true that the anticipation of some unwanted event is much worse than the actual happening. When I was a kid, for example, every time my parents divorced I believed our family life was over and I’d lie in bed at night worrying about my mom and dad. Then, about the time I was adjusting to the situation, they’d be going back together and so I had endured all that upset and done all that worrying for nothing. The Chicken Little Syndrome affects a lot of people’s sleeping habits. Short on bill money? That can keep you awake…is there something that you want a whole lot like a job or a raise? That can keep you awake…do you have something you don’t want like a dentist’s appointment or jury duty? That can also keep you awake! Well, invariably we all live through these kinds of pressures, find out they weren’t half as bad as we thought they were going to be and we might even get a few good night’s sleep until life imposes its next trauma on us.
It’s not only worry and stress that keep a lot of people tossing about on sleepless nights. Deep seated anger, raw hate, revengefulness and regret can be real robbers of sleep. All these emotional entanglements are self-damaging of course and can rob a person of especially sound sleep. I won’t lecture here except to say that loving one’s enemy, forgiveness and not judging others are all practical and positive applications. Indeed, it is probably safe to say that the hated object is sleeping like a log while you’re wide awake, wallowing about in your rage or frustrations.
While it is true all these problems would go away if we only had the will to follow the wisdom of the famous serenity prayer, God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and wisdom to know the difference, Most of us don’t! We find it much easier to curse and blame ourselves and/or others for the mishaps in our lives. The more we blame, the angrier we get and the angrier we get the more sleepless our nights become.
With all this in mind I’ll swing back into my story. First of all, you might want to know that after the forth divorce, my parents remarried and lived happily ever after for the rest of their lives. So all that upset and anxiety I felt as a kid was not only groundless but based on a situation that Icould not change. At bottom line everything is as it is in any case.
I don’t recall exactly when or how old I was but my grandmother finally found out that I was having a difficult time sleeping. As a result she gave me a glass of milk before I went to bed and advice for falling asleep that I have followed throughout my entire life. I can still feel her wonderful, old calloused hand in mine and hear the caring in her voice. “Jackie,” she began, “just as soon as you turn out the lights put happy thoughts in your mind. Put good thoughts in your head before those scary thoughts have a chance to come in. And if any of those bad thoughts get in, push ‘em out with your good thoughts and you’ll fall right to sleep.”
Well, I started doing that and sure enough, it worked. Indeed, I have been doing that for a great many years now and, trust me: I have had plenty to lose sleep over. One “trick” I’ve used is that I’ve always had a love for the mountains, so I actually go on (mental) hiking trips when something negative is keeping me awake. I see myself in this beautiful Rocky Mountain mindscape and the next thing I know I’m waking up the next morning.
Do I ever wake up in the middle of the night? Sure—when the worry or upset is a real “nag” but, when I do, I’m in the habit of getting back onto the “mountain trail” and that “trail” always leads me back into sleep.
In regard to the above, we have all heard the saying that tells us that the world is what we make it. There is more truth than fiction to this. What we deem the world to be, it becomes. Indeed, if we say to ourselves, “I can’t sleep.” I’ll promise you that you won’t be able to at least most of the time. Your brain believes what you tell it. If you say to yourself something like: I’m losing everything…I can’t face tomorrow…I just like to kick so in so in the face…what if I fail…If it weren’t for this or that I wouldn’t be in this mess…how did I make such a big mistake…I’m in over my head…I have nothing…and so forth, you are creating your own reality. Stating or in other words thinking in these kinds of negative terms
Your world changes by the thoughts you put into your mind or permit to enter your reality. While there are certainly high stress situations and truly serious problems, taking them to bed with you only magnifies their negative impact on your life. The challenge then is learning how to let loose of the “bad” thoughts by replacing them with “good” thoughts.
A common reaction to this antidote is for people to say, you don’t understand, I can’t just not think about what I’m faced with or if you had the kind of worries I do, you wouldn’t be able to put them aside any more than I can. Well, I have had some pretty terrible situations to confront—the death of a child…foreclosures…you name it, I’ve probably have been there at least once. And when I’m having some serious struggle, I always turn to that glass of milk at bedtime and escape into those beautiful Rocky Mountains in the landscapes of my mind.
I am not saying this is easy, however. It takes discipline and practice. I have been doing it for a great many years but I am first to admit that this particular remedy takes desire and determination to place and keep happy thoughts in one’s consciousness. Once you have done it a couple of times, however, even under the most dreadful situations, you’ll start getting a better night’s sleep than perhaps you ever thought that you would…or could.