December 09, 2011: Sleepy Concerns

December 9, 2011

I’ve been a sporadic insomniac for just about forever. The combination of being of an extremely light sleeper (critters rummaging amongst leaves below my window will wake me up) coupled with being a very vivid dreamer makes for a rather broken sleep cycle. Any added stress doesn’t help. The tricky thing about insomnia is that you never know when it will strike, but Murphy’s Law assures that you will get a bout when you can least afford it!

A caveat here: I AM NOT A DOCTOR! These are things I have found to be generally true and certainly help ME, but if you have a sleeping condition, please see a doctor for help. I was amazed that while doing research for this article, that there are things I’ve always considered innocuous, but can be harmful to some people. For instance chamomile is part of the daisy family and can really mess you up if you have a daisy allergy!

The good news is that there are a few things that can help a regular sleep cycle. The bad news is that it may involve a change of behavior (but in a good way.) It is not a small coincidence that just about all these rules revolve around a healthy life style and a fair dose of common sense. It’s nothing you’ve haven’t heard before: exercise regularly, eat no or lean meats and more veggies, avoid excesses of: sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes, drugs of all sorts..oh…and food! Try to regulate your sleep schedule, so that you go to bed at the same time each night. Blah, blah, blah…like I said: it’s the old song and dance. Trouble is: I do ALL of these things and STILL have the occasional bout of insomnia!

So, my tweaks: first is a Zen approach to the whole event. Nothing is worse that the insomniac’s worry “If I don’t fall asleep soon, I won’t have enough sleep to function the next day.” Honestly, this is torture, but this added stress does nothing for the problem. I literally can’t count the nights I’ve gone without sleep, and while it certainly is not comfortable, you can do more than you think you are able without sleep. So first: LET GO of the problem (as best as you can) and find a way to distract yourself. Reading helps me, but I have learned to stay away from the very interesting, active plot-lines. Philosophy, for instance, puts me right out! I love movies, but they are too stimulating for purposes of rest.

I started this article with the idea of finding a food panacea for insomnia. Most authorities recommend a high-carb diet within four hours of sleeping. Carbs are said to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that reduces stress and promotes rest. So, a PB&J sandwich, pasta, oatmeal cookie and milk. Yep, generations of pre-school teachers knew what they were doing feeding kids cookies and milk before nap time! I find a warm drink helps, so my warm milk and freshly ground nutmeg is my “go-to” cure. It’s said to have tryptophan (another stress-reducer) but I believe it has more to do with the action and habit of a participating in a mundane chore. The same with making tea. Teas with herbs like chamomile, valerian, lavender, and lemon balm are said to help digestion and relax muscles.

Pets can help too: there is nothing so Zen and ready for a nap than a cat, and I have a friend who uses his two large German Shepherds like huge, cozy, hot-water bottles! Having no pets, I have to look to my inanimate buddy, pictured above, for an example. “Sleepy” was my crib-mate from my first days. He’s lost his closed lashes that earned him his name, and has had all the stuffing loved outta him a long while back, but he still has that relaxed demeanor that with one look, just as in childhood…lulls me off to the Land of Nod.

C’mon Sleepy. It’s been a long day. Off we go.



  1. You and me both, tonight, oddly enough. Something in the air, perhaps?

  2. The bed is fine. Come on in:

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