First, the numbers. All those bureaucracies have different ones, but in general fall in the same range. Up to 70 percent of Americans have severe sleep problems that rob their health. That’s 225 million of us, folks. The impact of poor sleep is monumental in terms of health and productivity. It’s killing us. Heartland Healing has written on the topic before and it bears review, this time with focus on some of the causes and possible solutions.
What keeps you from sleep. If I were faced with poor sleep, there are steps I would take, some things I would examine and strongly consider changing. Here are some things that may negatively affect sound, restful, healthful sleep.
Prescription drugs. With 70 percent of Americans taking at least one prescription drug (1), that’s become the first thing I think of when I see a fellow human having problems in any area of life. (Disclaimer: I am not on any drugs, prescription or otherwise.) People, prescription drugs are powerful. Cholesterol-lowering drugs, blood pressure drugs, heart drugs, antidepressants — you name it, we’re on them. If a drug (statin) can block a major organ (your liver), from producing a necessary molecule like cholesterol, what the hell else do you think might be an unintended consequence? If a drug can halt your digestive process (Nexium), what else might it be doing? If a drug can alter the nerve signals to your heart (beta blocker), what does that do otherwise? If a drug can squeeze your kidneys to pump out unnatural amounts of piss (hypertension drugs), think that might be doing other stuff? And we haven’t even gotten into the psychotropic drugs that disrupt brain chemistry. And if you protest, that your drug label doesn’t list a side effect that includes sleeplessness, what makes you think the drug docs know all the side effects? The listed side effects are just the ones Big Pharma cops to. If I am sleeping poorly, I would take a long, hard look at those pills I’m paying top dollar for. Then have a talk with the drug dealer who got you on them and when they say, “No, that won’t interrupt your sleep. Let me write you another prescription that will help with your insomnia,” think that one over.
Alcohol. Plain and simple, alcohol is not going to help sleep. In fact, it disrupts it. First thing I would do to correct my bad sleep would be to totally forego any alcohol. No dispute. No rationalizing.
Lifestyle. This is so broad and so obvious. What kind of hours are you keeping? Do they make natural sense? If you are staying up past 10 p.m., if you are checking your iPhone laying in bed, if you are sedentary without any decent exercise… hell, you know what’s right or wrong (hopefully) that you are doing. Then don’t do it that way. Try a change.
Changes. Other things I consider when faced with poor sleep:
Cool it. Keep the bedroom cool. For me, something in the 64° range works. And, fresh air from an open window, even in winter, helps me a lot.
Dine early. If I give myself three or four hours between supper and sleep time, I find that is a goodly space of time. Heavy stomach and heavy food do not secure sleep easily. Health traditions suggest that the evening meal should be lighter fare, the midday meal the heaviest. And natural stimulants like caffeine could be avoided, too.
De-stress. Stress comes from the mind, from our thoughts. Without a practice that truly addresses the helter-skelter proclivities the untrained mind displays, of course our unbridled thoughts are going to trample our serenity. That can happen as we first recline for sleep and it can happen in a rush if we wake sometime during the night. So to gain control of that rambling thought machine, we have to slow down the herd of horses that stampede through it. One cannot know serenity without experiencing it. How do we find it when it’s needed for sleep? The practice of legitimate meditation is how we do it. I say, “legitimate” because meditation is so easily misunderstood. Meditation is not staring at a candle, listening to a recording or sitting and entertaining random thoughts. Even something called “mindfulness meditation” only skirts the issue. True meditation is an easy-to-learn skill but it must be learned. It seeks to abandon restless thought so that the mind can experience the stressless state of serenity. Train the mind and it will do your bidding when it’s time for sleep. (2), (3)
Natural adjuncts. Some non-drug alternatives may be helpful. I would stay with the primary solutions, the single preparations of herbs like valerian, hops, melatonin, etc. instead of the complex formulas that include multiples. And herbs have potency, too. In any doubt, check with a qualified herbalist or research fully. Some herbs I have used in the past are pretty powerful. Generally speaking, though, herbs are not going to overcome sleep impediments that are not addressed directly. They don’t work like a prescription sleep drug, thank goodness.
I personally have great empathy for anyone who has poor sleep. I have known it and it sucks. These changes have helped me a lot. Make it right and say good night.
Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.