According to the Centers for Disease Control, insufficient sleep is a national health epidemic. Forget the summer blockbusters: “zombies” are everywhere, “undead” and chronically exhausted, driving on the highways, operating heavy machinery, piloting oil tankers, monitoring air traffic, taking care of our children, staffing our hospitals — you get the idea. If you are one of the 50-70 million Americans who suffers from a sleep or wakefulness disorder, it is small consolation to know that you are not alone.
If you google “insomnia cures,” 2.4 million results will appear in under one second. The top article is from the Mayo Clinic, entitled “What medications are used to treat insomnia?” You can tell a lot about our culture and its expectations by what comes up in search results. People expect to take a pill to “cure” their insomnia. And yet, many are apprehensive, and do not wish to take medications.
Other authorities will recommend the long list: a cup of herbal tea before bed, a darkened room, shutting off electronic devices well before bedtime. Some will purchase a new mattress, sheets, bedding, blackout curtains, and white-noise generators, to no avail. Even the “natural remedies” are in line with the same mindset: take a pill or buy a pillow — you need something you ain’t got.
While I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to explore solutions to find what is right for them, it seems that the conventional approaches don’t address the core cause of insomnia. Most insomnia is caused by stress, pure and simple. The non-stop stress of modern life leads to a chronically over-stimulated nervous system. Your brain just won’t stop, chugging and chattering along until the wee hours. Unless you deal with the over-stimulation, you’ll be spending a lot of time watching those late-night infomercials.
I find that most folks don’t want to hear this. They tell me how their life is way too stressful, and nothing can change. They want a pill, or a trick, so that they can keep going along their merry way and not be bothered anymore. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) sleeplessness is an early warning sign of possible health problems to come. Insomnia has been linked to heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, anxiety and depression, and cognitive decline. The sooner you intervene and get a handle on your insomnia, the better. The question remains: how can you deal with the stress that is keeping you up at night?
Rather than throwing money away on pills, gadgets, and gimmicks, a simple investment of your time will pay you great dividends. If you want a good night’s sleep, be willing to practice a bit. Night-time rituals are important. However, after a stressful day, it is almost impossible to de-stress rapidly enough so that your brain and nervous system can be quiet enough to allow you to fall asleep. Here is the secret: you must take breaks during the day to be quiet. Only then can you have a hope of falling asleep.
I like the analogy of an overflowing bathtub. The tub is your life. The water is stress: job, family, finances, relationships, the news — you name it! You can’t always control the flow from the faucet. Stress keeps pouring in. In order to prevent damage beyond the bathroom, you have to drain the tub before it overflows.
A wonderful set of tools, called the Sounder Sleep System®, was developed by Michael Krugman, author of The Insomnia Solution. The system relies on a set of gentle practices, designed to work together so that you can “drain your tub” of stress every day. If you have allowed most of the daily stress to drain away before bedtime, you have a much better chance of falling asleep, and of getting back to sleep in case you wake up. The simple techniques are powerful and effective: natural breathing and small movements allow your zooming thoughts to quiet down enough so that you can get the sleep you need. It takes only a few nights to begin to put the practice into effect. Sleeplessness becomes a habit, and habits learned can be unlearned. That is very good news!
I love to teach my clients how to use the Sounder Sleep System, because the results are so dramatic, satisfying, and rewarding. Don’t lose another night’s sleep! Find a teacher at SounderSleep.com.