Sleep, glorious restful healing sleep, is the foundation for longevity. It really shouldn’t be necessary to extol the beauty of a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, for many of us, sound sleep is elusive. How then to find it?
Sleep is often elusive. A busy day ending in pleasant fatigue courts a restful sleep at night. So does the knowledge that an exhilarating, anticipated activity waits for you in the morning.
A day of tranquility and enjoyment, perhaps without excitement, may be conducive to peaceful sleep. We’ve all known the deep sleep at the end of a day spent at the beach or on a picnic, without aggravation or uncontrolled excitement.
Approximately one third of every day is used for sleep. Scientifically, only 3 hours, those in which dreaming takes place – the REM or Rapid Eye Movement stage – are absolutely necessary.
Well-documented experiments have shown that without this minimal amount of sleep, hallucinations and other psychoneurotic symptoms develop. But recently, psychiatrists have concluded that 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day are required, especially for the elderly.
The REM sleeping stage, during which the eyes move back and forth in reaction to the dreaming process of the brain, is like a steam valve letting off pressure from the subconscious mind.
All your experiences and memories are buried in your subconscious mind – retrievable through the barrier by memory. Some are pushed more deeply below the barrier than others. Those near the barrier press against it and make dents which influence the conscious mind.
During sleep, the barrier is more easily penetrated. The forgotten episodes leave the subconscious and become dreams. A particularly strong, upsetting or disturbing episode crossing the barrier creates a nightmare.
Contrary to common opinion, a nightmare then may be beneficial because the dent becomes smaller, the subconscious memory of the episode is now under less pressure. As a result, psychoneurotic disturbances such as hallucinations or compulsions need not occur.
If you want a sure-fire formula for staying awake, just put your head on your pillow at night and start thinking of the problems that face you.
If you can’t avoid this state of affairs, it’s undesirable to remain in bed tossing around. But the easy alternative, the use of sedatives or hypnotic drugs, is not to be encouraged. Many are habit forming and a hangover frequently follows. But more seriously, sedatives inhibit the functioning of the brain cells. It’s better to be alert, cheerful and vigorous.
Self-hypnotism is a simple method for inducing a peaceful sleep. Depending on the ability of the subject to co-operate, to hypnotize another person is not easy. But, when you are hypnotizing yourself, you certainly have a willing subject. No difficulty should be encountered.
Deep breathing is the first step. Don’t be alarmed if this hyperventilation causes slight dizziness. Then, while breathing deeply and regularly, in and out, in and out, your mind should concentrate on one thought: “I am falling asleep, I am getting sleepier. I am falling asleep. I am getting sleepier.”
The mind cannot maintain one thought indefinitely, however, and you’ll find that yours, like everyone else’s, must go off on a tangent. Well, it’s your mind, you control it and at this point will-power must be used to bring the same thought back.
The sooner you do this, the better. You will not know when it works because you will be asleep. It’s not enough, though, just to think the words. You must feel their meaning. That works.
Keep at it. Practice makes it easier. This process, through repetition every night, develops a pathway. Slowly, forcing the onset of sleep becomes easy. A well-formed pathway can produce sleep whenever it is used.
Another adjunct to bring sleep to the troubled insomniac is a tape recorder. If there are others in the room, the earpiece that comes with most tape recorders can be used. The tape can play music or a lecture or anything that works best for you.
Your own voice may have a distinct advantage in lulling you to sleep, but every individual is different. You may prefer a friend’s voice reiterating, “I’m getting sleepier, I’m falling asleep.” Reinforce the hypnotism process and you have a powerful tool.
Unwelcome thoughts are not the only thing that can disturb your attempt to sleep. Actual pain and discomfort will interfere with it.
When lack of sleep results from pain, it is a mistake to take a sedative or any sleeping medication. In a case like this use an analgesic, a pain reliever, which will act like a sedative. The drowsy, somnolent, exhausted victim, freed of the pain, should then sleep like a baby.
Other pain-causing afflictions such as arthritis or bursitis may require a partial splinting to keep movement of a limb within pain limits, or a cradle at the bottom, of the bed to eliminate pressure of blankets on a foot.
Leg muscle cramps strike frequently and in many cases, no specific cause can be pinpointed. Diminished blood circulation or the accumulated lactic acid of fatigue may be involved. While asleep, your body normally turns and stretches without your knowledge. The leg stretches out as though accompanying yawning.
This pull on the leg triggers an uncontrollable, intensely painful spasm of muscle contraction. If this happens to you, the thing to do immediately on awakening is to bend the knee and ankle up fast. This flexing removes the pull on the muscle and the cramp can then subside more quickly.
Two medications, quinine and calcium, prevent these cramps to a great extent. Calcium is preferable but there are precautions which should be taken since the calcium must be taken daily for several years.
Bicarbonate must not be taken concurrently and the calcium level in the blood should not be above normal. Otherwise, one 10-grain tablet of calcium lactate should be taken every morning.
These cramps can also be quickly stopped by pressure on the acupuncture area, which happens to be the upper lip. Acupuncture in general has not been shown to be scientifically valid. It is supposed to work by setting up nerve impulses in each area that interfere with the impulses that would cause pain. You cannot, however, overlook the frequent relief from pain that has occurred.
So the next time you have this uncontrolled muscle cramp in your leg, squeeze your upper lip tightly. If you are among the fortunate who respond to acupuncture, the cramp will immediately subside.
If you’re a victim of stomach or intestinal lining irritation, you may require an antacid or antispasmodic. If there’s discomfort, it pays to get up from bed and take this medicine with fluid or soft food.
It has recently been determined that a barrier protects your stomach from the acid contents. Milk reduces this protective barrier. This means that if you have a tendency towards ulcers, you should not have any milk. This may surprise you. Most people consider milk the treatment for ulcers. Instead, it is very harmful.
Perhaps only small amounts of milk should be imbibed by any adult, especially at bedtime. Forget the glass of warm milk. Instead take an antacid to neutralize existing acid and medication to reduce the formation of acid, before going to sleep.
Most people have a snack late at night. There is food in the stomach. Because the stomach empties into the duodenum from left to right, lying on the right side permits food to drop down instead of going uphill.
Later, if you should awaken, you could turn on your left side when going back to sleep. This would facilitate material in the transverse colon to pass from right to left.
However, some people complain that sleeping on the left side makes their heartbeat more discernible, an uncomfortable feeling. If that is your problem, try turning halfway to the left.
Many older people complain of insomnia. Most frequently, they find that falling asleep is quite easy, but then they awaken in a few hours and sleep will not return.
With many of them, the complaint can be traced to the fact that the facial muscles relax so completely during sleep the jaw drops. The subsequent mouth breathing exposes the mucous membranes to the moving air, and dries them. This parchment-like mouth and throat can be uncomfortable enough to disturb sleep.
For this problem, it’s a good idea to wear a support around the chin and over the head. Thus the mouth remains closed during sleep.
Remember, a good sleep provides the energy, the zest, the strength for the next day. It could possibly add 10 years to your life span. So, let’s begin by assuring that we’re well rested for each following morning.