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Turning Your Brain Off & Sending Insomnia Packing

Sleep Like A Baby

Collage of 4 pics of my grandson Orion in different sleep positions
Orion (my grandson)

I’ll tell you what, if I were a sleeping princess and Prince Charming planted a kiss on me to wake me up, I’d knock him on his keister. Thank goodness I’m not a princess huh?

When I look at the many pictures of my grandson I can’t help but notice that this little boy loves to sleep. He looks so sweet, angelic, and peaceful when I’m looking over him as he’s sleeping.

Unfortunately for me these days a peaceful slumber is in short supply and my brain is turning to mush. Why just the other day as I was preparing to say grace before eating, something quite strange happened.

I didn’t realize it until I was at the halfway mark, then it came to me, “oh my goodness, why am I counting?” I seriously started from one through about seven before I recognized that this was not my prayer.

My only saving ‘grace’ – I was not blessing the food for a group of people. That would have been the ultimate embarrassment.

Orion in a collage of 4 additional different sleep positions
Orion

A Growing Problem

You’ve probably heard that here in the U.S. we are in the midst of a national sleep epidemic. It’s so serious that we even have (I didn’t find this out until I began writing this article), an awareness week dedicated to bringing attention to this issue. The National Sleep Foundation at sleepfoundation.org, has a boatload of information to improve public “health and well-being through sleep education and advocacy.”

Examples of Sleep Disorders

  • Insomnia – inability to obtain sufficient sleep, especially when chronic; difficulty in falling or staying asleep; sleeplessness.
  • Sleep Apnea – occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep.
  • Circadian Rhythm Disorders – some examples are jet lag, narcolepsy, Shift Work Disorder, and Non-24
    (Non-24 is a serious, chronic circadian rhythm disorder that’s very common in people who are totally blind. It causes nighttime sleep problems and a wide range of daytime difficulties, including an overwhelming urge to nap that may lead to decreased function at work and school, as well as complications in one’s social life.)

Contributing factors that lead to sleep disorders are as varied as the disorders themselves so for the purposes of this post the focus will be on insomnia. Insomnia is so much more than not being able to sleep. It’s frustrating because no matter how tired I may be when I try to go to sleep I cannot shut down internally.

Tossing and turning, waking up multiple times during the night, to the point of going into my living room and listening to a book is nerve-wracking because all I can focus on is the fact that I can’t sleep which causes additional stress. Additionally, In the morning and throughout the day I’m exhausted which leads to napping and subsequent issues trying to get to sleep at bedtime.

What are some of the causes of insomnia?

  • Some medications (antidepressants for example)
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Depression (yeah my antidepressant fixed my depression but now I have insomnia, and I’m depressed over the insomnia which is causing me stress, it’s a vicious cycle I’ll tell ya)
  • Disruption of the sleep cycle

What are some of the effects of insomnia?

  • Sleepiness, fatigue, irritability
  • Decreased mental faculties (I think substituting counting numbers for a blessing ‘counts’ here)
  • Can lead to health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems
  • Weight gain

How can the effects of insomnia be decreased?

  • Exercise several times weekly
  • Going to bed and waking the same time on a daily basis even on weekends
  • Minimizing exposure to blue light i.e., tablets, computer screens, cell phones, and tvs prior to going to bed
  • Darkening the room by eliminating all light sources and/or using a sleep mask

I remember reading an article years ago that basically said tvs in the bedroom are a bad idea because they can lead to sleep disturbances. The bedroom should be a calm, inviting haven. With this in mind it’s been about 6 years or so since I’ve had a tv in my bedroom and while I don’t miss it at least I know the lack of a tv in my bedroom doesn’t contribute to my insomnia.

A while back I came across a breathing exercise that claims to cure sleeplessness and can be used in other stress related situations. The 4-7-8 sleep technique believed to have originated in Ancient India has been embraced by Dr. Andrew Weil who instructs on this method (video of the technique is included in this post). Dr. Weil stands by this approach but he clearly states that it takes consistent practice until it works.

Following are the 4 steps:  

  • Exhale through the mouth with a whoosh
  • Inhale through the nose for a count of 4 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds
  • Then exhale for 8 seconds
  • Do this 4 times to clear the brain

Sleep disorders are a major health concern in the U.S. as evidenced by a Google search that returned 45 million results. Below I’ve listed a few websites where you can get additional resources and information on the types, causes, and help for sleep related issues. If you are experiencing disruptive sleep issues before a self-diagnosis or more importantly, self-medicating,check with your doctor.

Resources:

Have you ever experienced issues falling or staying asleep?

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”~Thomas Dekker

 

9 thoughts on “Turning Your Brain Off & Sending Insomnia Packing

  1. Great info. Reminds me it’s time to do more regular yoga.

    1. Never tried yoga probably b/c I’m not flexible lol.

      1. If my hamstrings could talk, they would say, ‘Stephanae, after years of swimming, running, stretching, yoga…Susan is still not able to touch her toes. My fault!”

  2. Great article. I’ve had the issue on and off – seems more common as I age. I’ve used the 4, 7, 8 breathing technique for decades – so long that I’d forgotten it was called that (and maybe it wasn’t in those days). My twist on it is to substitute an emphasis on the exact number of seconds and simply breathe in slowly through my nose, take a nice rest in which I relax my body and then let the air out through my mouth in a slow and even stream. At this point, it’s way beyond 4, 7 & 8 seconds.Enter your comment here…

    1. Thank you Donna for this comment. I’m assuming that since you’ve been doing this technique for years that it works? I keep intending to try it and then I get distracted but I’m so tired of being tired I’m really going to have to just do it.

      1. The most use I get out of it is relaxing while getting electro-stim at the chiropractor’s. It helps me if I can’t sleep, but I usually don’t think to try it. *grin*

      2. Haven’t been to a chiropractor in ages. I miss it.

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