Sunday, August 25, 2013


I've been fighting insomnia for a couple of decades and winning most of the time.  Last night was not a win but it wasn't my fault.

1.  Cut caffeine.  Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, you have to read the package to see if it has caffeine in it.  Just go to the natural stuff -- zero calorie water, 2% milk, fruit juice (not fruit juice cocktail).

2.  Cut alcohol.  Just 5 oz of wine or 12 oz beer or 2 oz hard liquor, nothing more. 

3.  Exercise.  Half an hour of moving around besides whatever you have to do at work.

4.  Eat at the right time.  Eat breakfast.  You won't binge at night and it won't all go straight to fat.

5.  Eat your carbs.  Ignore the people who tell you not to.  Carbs open the channel for the natural sleep drug tryptophan to get into your brain.  If you don't eat your carbs, all the turkey in the world won't help you sleep.  One slice of bread will do it.  Make it whole grain bread.  With 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon sugar.

6.  Move all the technology out of the bedroom.  Except whatever you use for an alarm clock.  No TV no video games no computer no tablet.  Your bedroom is for sleeping, not for gaming.

7.  Turn all the technology off for half an hour before you go to bed.  It generates blue light that wakes your brain up.  The red light of sunset is there for a reason.  No, I know.  It's the other way around.  Our brains evolved to think "red light -- time to sleep."  Computers and TVs give us blue light.

8.  Do something else for that half hour.  Tidy the living room, do the dishes, read -- what a shocking idea!  -- but DON'T use the computer.

9.  ALWAYS go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, even on weekends and holidays.  This is for hard-core insomniacs.  You need to train your brain -- oh, there are the dishes done, must be near bedtime, now it's 9:30, must be bedtime.

10.  NO NAPS unless you have flu or some other serious illness that's exhausting.  Like, I've been through cancer so I know you get exhausted, so nap!  But when you're well again, stop napping.  If you've had a bout of insomnia the previous night, do a spell of meditation.  I've done it; it works.  You only need 20 minutes and you'll feel fresher.  But a 20 minute nap won't get you the REM sleep which is what you're missing with insomnia.

11.  Develop a routine you go through when you have trouble getting to sleep.  I tell myself stories.  I have one story that puts me to sleep before chapter 2.  Or I count to four over and over.  Or I self-hypnotize by imagine my feet, my shins, my knees, and so on falling asleep.

12.  Coddle your problems.  I like my feet and head cool but I need to keep my arthritis locations warm.  So even on hot summer nights I will sometimes put the sheets or even the blankets over my hips.  But I never put the pillows over my head.  If the night insects are too noisy, I crowd the pillows against my ears.

There are things you can't do anything about.  Like the Porsche owner in my neighborhood where the speed limit is 25 who takes the car out for a walk at 2:30 a.m., round and round and round...  Or the bikers who go past my house on their way to the highway -- no, not Schwins, Harleys.  Or the volunteer fire department going past on their way to a wreck of which we have oh, maybe 50 a day.  Or it seems that way.  Last night?  All of the above.

Control what you can, learn to ignore what you can't.

© Patricia Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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