I once owned a business in which we had a sign that read: “Drink more coffee, you can sleep when you’re dead.” While it’s a humorous quote, it doesn’t give much relief to people who suffer sleep disorders. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for the best health and wellbeing. Sleep has become a serious health problem; at least 35 percent of the general population reports sleeping problems.
The CDC claims a short sleep duration is defined as less than 7 hours of sleep per 24-hour period, though it does not have to be continuous.
Types of Dream-Thiefs
There are four different sleeping disorders. Insomnia is the inability to get to sleep or stay asleep. Narcolepsy is the inability to stay awake during the day. Sleep Apnea occurs when sleep is interrupted by snoring or snorting. Pain, tingling, or uncomfortable feelings in the legs, known as Restless Leg Syndrome, is also a primary cause of sleep disruption.
Many sleep disorders are caused by substance use. For cigarette smokers, nicotine withdrawal signals the need to smoke. While alcohol acts as a sedative, it also causes a spike in blood sugar levels, causing a person to awaken prematurely. Caffeine, a stimulant, prevents sleep. Certain foods can affect sleep patterns.
Stress is probably the biggest culprit of all sleep disorders. Patients who are worried when they go to bed at night are forced to watch a non-stop horror show of their worst imaginings. The more they fight against the intrusive thoughts, the greater the anxiety.
Most people who consult their physicians have then been prescribed medication. The medication overrides the brain’s signals and induces prolonged sleep. Some of these medications form dependency and addiction. There is also the danger of sleeping through a crisis that needs immediate attention.
A healthy diet, exercise regime, and abstinence from substances are the best ways to achieve a good night’s sleep. However, there are times when the stress is so great, sleep is impossible. Here are a few suggestions to get through those difficult nights.
1. Don’t fight it. Trying to force sleep will never work because you are adding stress on top of stress. The best thing is to stay calm. Reassure yourself, “It’s okay I’m wide awake.”
2. Journal — Keep a journal on your nightstand and when you can’t sleep, write down every thought that is keeping you awake. Once those thoughts are out of your head and on paper, your mind can relax. Though it seems counter-intuitive, this is the most healing solution, and if you’re in counseling, you can take your journal to your session.
3. Meditation & Relaxation Tapes — There are plenty of free online downloads that facilitate relaxation and sleep. We offer a couple of free meditations on our website (see below).
4. Do The Thing That’s Keeping You Awake — If you have something to take care of, it might be better to get out of bed and tend to the matter than have your mind obsess about it.
5. Stay Positive — Beating up on yourself when you can’t sleep will not make you tired. If all of the above fails, try surrendering to insomnia. Focus on the gift of silence and your breathing. Listen to what your mind might be trying to tell you — exercise spiritual communion. Allow your mind to travel. Plan a nap in your next day’s schedule.
If you try the above, you will find out something very important. When you try to get your mind to work, it wants to go to sleep.
People suffer from a lack of sleep, but they do not die. It’s always best to allow your body to operate in a natural state rather than the alternatives that do not address the underlying causes. The above techniques are tried and true, but you must be willing to replace tossing and turning or sleeping aids with other solutions.
If you miss a couple of nights of good sleep, one thing is sure. On the third night, you will sleep like a baby.
Join the Movement
To find out more about Dr. Marks’ unique approach to draining the value out of any addiction, visit https://drdonnamarks.com/etm/ and receive a FREE copy of her award-winning book “Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure.” (You just cover shipping and handling).
Donna Marks is an educator and licensed psychotherapist and addictions counselor in Palm Beach, Florida. She has worked with over 6,000 clients. Donna’s struggle with addiction brought her to a worldwide search for healing. She became licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in 1987. In 1989, she earned a Doctorate Degree in Adult Education, then became Certified in Addictions, Gestalt Therapy, Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, and Sex Therapy. Donna developed an award-winning addiction training program at Palm Beach Community College. She co-owned an outpatient treatment program and is a consultant to treatment centers. Donna is the author of the multi-award-winning, Exit the Maze: One Addiction, One Cause, One Cure, and created an online course for people who want to be cured of addiction. For 30 years, she has taught A Course in Miracles.