Thomas D. Yarnell, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist.
Marilyn tossed and turned as the hour hand moved silently to the next number.  Two hours had gone by and she was no closer to falling asleep then she was when she first lay down.  Marilyn is not alone.  Twenty-five percent of all adults have one form of insomnia or another.  You do not have to be one of them.  Here are 20 things you can do to sleep well, wake rested, and be alert all day.

There are many causes of insomnia.  Stress and depression are two causes that head the list.  In Marilyn's case it was stress.  When she laid down to go to sleep, her mind started racing.  She was thinking about everything that she had to do the next day.

Insomnia generally comes in one of three varieties:

  * Type 1 is where you have difficulty falling asleep when you go to bed.  This is what Marilyn was                        experiencing.

  * Type 2 is where you fall asleep easily but wake up to early.

  * Type 3 is a blend.  You may fall asleep easily or with difficulty and then wake up frequently during                    the night.

The end result is that you receive far less healthy sleep than your body requires.  Being deprived of sleep interferes with your ability to think clearly, process information and find solutions for the problems that confront all of us on a daily basis.

Lack of sleep impairs your immune system as well as your body's ability to process blood sugar which may help lead to weight gain.  Sleep deprivation also leads to an elevation of stress hormones in the body.  Of course, this is circular.  Stress causes us to have insomnia and the insomnia then causes greater stress. Depression can also be a cause of insomnia as well has the result of not getting enough sleep.  How much sleep is enough to interfere with this negative cycle?

There is no one set amount of sleep that is right for everyone.  Surveys by the National Sleep Foundation report that most adults get less sleep then they need.  Most people need 60 to 90 minutes more sleep then they are currently getting.  Many others need even more than that depending on which styles of insomnia they suffer from.

The first step toward curing your sleep problem is to identify how much sleep you need to stay awake and alert all day so that you can get that amount every night.  Here are 20 techniques and ideas you can use to help you get all the sleep you need.  You may be familiar with some but some may be new to you.  Try them all until you find the ones that work best for you.

1. Try to go to bed at the same time every night.  This helps condition your body to sleep during the sleep phase of your biological clock.  Once this happens, your emotional disposition will greatly improve.

2. Cut back on coffee, tea and soft drinks that contain caffeine.  Most colored soft drinks contain enough caffeine to keep you awake.  Clear soft drinks such as 7-Up and Sprite contain no caffeine.

3. Avoid eating large, heavy meals before going to bed.

4. Deep physical relaxation can greatly enhance your ability to fall asleep when you want and to stay asleep once you are there.  Follow these directions and you will become deeply relaxed. Lie down and get comfortable.  Close your eyes and do some deep breathing to get rid of your surface tension.  Next, visualize or imagine that you have tiny faucets at the end of each finger and at the end of each toe.  The faucets are all turned on and all the stress and tension in your body is draining out through these faucets.  Feel it happening as you watch the stress and tension running out of the faucets.  Now, concentrate on your feet and imagine that the muscles of your feet are becoming as loose and limp as a cooked piece of spaghetti.  Spend a few minutes focusing on your feet and let them relax.  Don't try to make it happen.  Focus on that cooked piece of spaghetti and just let your muscles go.  They will relax.  Next, concentrate on the muscles of your calves.  Spend a few minutes there and let them relax.  Then focus on your thighs and let them relax.  Work up your body letting each part relax.  Relax your buttocks, stomach, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, head and face.  As you relax each successive part of your body, the next part will become easier to relax.  Don't rush yourself.  Focus on your muscles becoming just as loose and limp as that cooked piece of spaghetti.  As you do, your body will drift into a deep state of physical relaxation. If you are not already asleep, you will be able to drift asleep at this point.

5. Have a glass of warm milk about 30 minutes before bed-time.  Milk contains L-tryptophan and that boosts the serotonin in your brain.  The serotonin causes you to become sleepy and to fall asleep easily. L-tryptophan is also abundant in turkey and it's believed to be the culprit responsible for that post-Thanksgiving dinner drowsiness.

6. Don't use your bedroom as a place to work.  It conditions your body to become alert and stressed instead of relaxed.

7. Avoid alcoholic drinks in the evening.  Alcohol may help you fall asleep easily but it leads to erratic sleep that is not restful and may also lead to early morning wakefulness.

8. Listen to calm, soothing music that will transform your mind and body into a deeply relaxed state.  There are all kinds of cassette tapes and CDs geared to help you relax and sleep.  Try some and find the ones that work for you.

9. Take a warm bath before bedtime.  It will relax your body and prepare it for sleep. Research indicates that cold or very hot baths tend to energize and wake you.

10. Buy a comfortable mattress and pillow.  Being physically uncomfortable can lead to serious wakefulness.

11. Practice deep breathing exercises.  It will help you be calm and stay relaxed all day and will help you fall asleep and stay asleep at night.  Try this exercise.  Lie down on your back and close your eyes.  Lay your hands on your stomach -- between your ribs and naval.  Now inhale deeply so it feels like your stomach is filling with air.  As you inhale, your stomach and hands should rise.  This is breathing from or through your diaphragm.  Once you have filled your body with clean, fresh air, exhale and let the air flow out naturally.  Don't try to force it out.  Now get into the rhythm of inhaling and exhaling at a relaxed pace.  Continue for five or ten minutes.  Your whole body should relax and sleep should come more easily.  There are some people that recommend you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.  It doesn't appear to really matter so do whatever feels most comfortable for you.

12. Avoid naps if they interfere with your normal sleeping.

13. Moderate exercise on a daily basis appears to help with normal sleep patterns.  Just don't exercise within an hour before going to bed.  The exercise will stimulate your adrenaline and will wake you up.

14. If you are still awake after 30 minutes, get up and do something until you feel sleepy and then try again.  Staying in bed while you feel awake conditions your body as well as your mind to associate your bed with wakefulness and/or anxiety.

15. Once you are in bed and comfortable, visualize that you are someplace very peaceful and safe.  You can go to what I call your inner sanctuary.  To do this, you visualize or see in your mind's eye, someplace you consider safe and relaxing.  It can be someplace real or someplace you just imagine.  It can look anyway you want because it's your fantasy place.  Now visualize that you are there and allow yourself to let go and relax.  As you do, you can allow yourself to feel relaxed, to feel safe and you can visualize or imagine yourself drifting into a deeply relaxing sleep.

16. Establish a bedtime ritual before going to sleep in order to key your body to relax.  Follow the ritual every night.  This helps to condition your brain to sleep at a specified time.

17. Sleep in a well-ventilated room with the temperature cool enough to cool your body (60 -- 65 degrees is considered best for restful sleeping).  Temperatures that are too warm interfere with normal, restful sleep.

18. Keep your bedroom dark.  Light coming through our eyelids interferes with our normal sleep cycle by sending signals to our brain that its daylight and time to wake up.  If you can't keep your bedroom dark, you can accomplish the same thing by wearing a mask over your eyes.

19. Don't watch TV, read or do any other mentally stimulating activities before going to bed.  Anything that stimulates your mind should be avoided prior to going to bed unless you want to lay their thinking about what you saw or read.

20. Research indicates that sleeping on your back is the best position for relaxing.  It allows for the deepest, restful breathing.  At the same time, avoid sleeping on your stomach.  It causes pressure on your lungs and results in shallow breathing.  The deeper you breathe, the greater the relaxation.

These 20 techniques can be used to cure your insomnia. Sleep and let your body and mind repair itself. With more sleep you will wake rested, refreshed and more alert.  You will get more done in less time and will still have the energy to do more of what you want to do.  Being in control, you will now experience greater success in your life.

Copyright   2002 - 2008   Dr. Thomas Yarnell    All Rights Reserved.

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