Sleepy time

With a name like Sleepy Time, this blog could have been about many subjects, but for the moment you’ll have to imagine the rest.  I’m talking about sleep because it seems to me almost everyone seems to get problems with it, increasingly so as the years roll by.  We need sleep and we love it.  We feel much better when we’ve had a good night’s sleep, yet so often it seems elusive.

Seems simple and obvious, doesn’t it?  You go to bed when you feel tired, get a full 8 hours in, then awake refreshed ready for the new day.  Not only that, but there are plenty of helpful hints and tips available on how to give yourself the greatest chance of a good night’s sleep (try here, here and here for example.)

The advice may be well-intended but is not always practical and does not always fit in with modern living.  We’d all love to guarantee getting to bed by 10pm but it doesn’t work, nor necessarily getting to bed at roughly the same time each night.  Sure a routine would help but life is not always routine – and it would be stultifyingly boring if it was.

But then we’d also love our sleep to be undisturbed, but between children, noisy neighbours, creaking floorboards, bodily malfunctions, gripes and pains, plus the usual panoply of stresses and worries, working hours, jobs that have to be done, parties and social occasions, among many more  that seems almost an impossible dream – unless you are blessed with the constitution of one who can sleep on the proverbial clothes line.

Problem no 1 is that some of us are larks and others owls.  Circadian rhythms may be responsible, but there’s no doubt it makes life difficult, particularly when the do-gooders who advise about sleep suggest you fight the urge in early evening or other unorthodox times of the day (excluding those on night shifts, presumably), then go to bed at a reasonable time.

From my perspective, the “reasonable time” you are supposed to be going to bed is when I am waking up and feeling wide awake.  Not that I haven’t tried to go to bed early, but that invariably results in tossing and turning for hours.  I feel ready for sleep way too late, but then often wake early, sometimes drift off again.  Sometimes I’m woken by dreams, though not always.  Relaxation does not come easy.

My mother has been an insomniac for as long as I can remember, but refuses to get sleeping pills or change her lifestyle or diet in any way.  I can sympathise in that I did try the “natural” sleep-inducing products sold on the shelves in Boots.  They did  not help me sleep, but left me feeling drowsy and not at all good the following day.

Ah, but help is at hand.  Just don’t expect it to work for everyone.  Let’s test out the suggestions made by Buzzle:

Tips to prevent sleeplessness:

  • Avoid consumption of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before going to bed – I don’t smoke and I rarely drink
  • Try to unwind and allow your mind to relax before bedtime – any suggestions for how to switch off my brain?  It has a mind of its own…
  • Drink a glass of warm milk – I like cold milk, not warm milk.
  • Take a warm bath – this wakes me up more than sending me to sleep.
  • Remove or cover the clock in your room – and how is this supposed to help?!
  • Work out in the gym, 3 hours before bedtime – my gym is called am dram rehearsals!

Mend Your Mind

  1. Find a comfortable position in a cozy and quiet room. Keep your mind away from any wandering thoughts. Concentrate on a particular part of the room. Get up and walk around after 1 minute. Then get back to your seat and repeat the exercise.
  2. Think of something that makes you happy. Try to recollect any happy moment or a person or a thing that delights you. Imagine yourself to be a part of this thing. Do this for 5 minutes. 
  3. Be aware of the sensation around the neck muscles as it moves down to your arms and then to your leg muscles. As this sensation travels down, you will feel relaxed. Try to remain in that position for sometime. Then get up and walk around a bit and then repeat this exercise.
Mend your Body
There are certain physical relaxation techniques which can help relax the tense muscles and bring about a good night’s sleep. Do it step by step for 30 minutes.

  1. Select a comfortable place and lie down perfectly still. Tense up the muscles of your arms and legs as much as you can. Hold on to this tight feeling for a minute and then gradually release the tension, first from your legs and then from your arms. 
  2. Relax your body and rest for 5 minutes. Repeat the whole process twice.
  3. Concentrate on the feeling of your muscles and let them go limp and lifeless for the rest of the time. Try to relax by breathing slow and steady. 

I’ve done relaxation techniques before, and find they don’t always work better than other ideas.  Since switching off my mind is one of the main problems, I find it works better to focus my mind on an issue or searching my memory for a particular fact.  “Emptying” my mind is simply not an option, and reconditioning your body pretty tough – though clearly leading a more active life and being more exhausted works better than the sedentary modern lifestyle, with hours spent at a screen.

But here’s one answer: sex induces better sleep than anything.  Perhaps we should all get more!! 😀

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