By Dr. Willie Ong
Q. I have difficulty falling asleep. When I’m stressed, I can’t seem to keep my mind from thinking about things that happened in the day. What should I do?
A. Yes, many people can’t sleep. There have been countless articles and books on the topic and I don’t want to repeat them. I’m listing 17 lesser-known sleep aids, plus I’ll reiterate a few you know about.
Tips You’ve Heard Of:
These conventional tips come from Dr. Helena Schotland, a specialist in sleep medicine: (1) maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule (go to bed at the same time each night), (2) maintain a healthy diet, (3) have a regular exercise schedule, (4) avoid or minimize the use of caffeine, especially in the afternoon, (5) avoid alcohol which may help you doze off but increases early morning awakenings, and (6) avoid smoking. These tips are effective but not for hardened insomniacs out there.
Tips You May Not Have Heard Of:
Sleep is a natural physiological process but it can also be a learned behavior. Thus, you can train yourself to sleep better by trying a few of these sleep aids. No mental work after 6 PM. If you find yourself rummaging on the day’s garbage and stressed at night, then avoid any heated meetings, excitable conversations and long-term planning at night.
Turn off your mind
Now this differs for every person. Some individuals watch TV to relax their minds. Some exercise. Others play with the kids. Some read entertainment magazines or comics. Whatever relaxes you, just do it.
Turn around the clocks
Lessen the pressure of sleeping by not looking at or knowing the time. Replace noisy clocks or those that say cuckoo every 30 minutes. You don’t want to get reminded that you aren’t sleeping yet.
Don’t schedule an early morning meeting
Knowing and anticipating an early meeting can make it hard for you to sleep. That’s called anticipation anxiety and it’s normal behavior.
Make your bedroom a sleep haven
Is the neighbor’s dog too noisy? Can you hear the irritated bus driver blow his horn? Does the sunlight wake you up at 5 AM? Try to correct these “sleep botherers” by placing a darker curtain, installing air conditioning, and making your room more soundproof.
Invest in a good mattress and comfortable pillows and blankets. Buy adjuncts like a mosquito net, ear plugs, eye pads and a quiet electric fan (let it swing and not blow on you steadily).
Your bedroom is for sleep and sex only.
According to Dr. Christine Rhea S. Igna, your bedroom is not the place where you think of your plans, your problems and unpaid bills. When you go to sleep try not to anticipate your future events. Deliberately put them on hold.
Take a light snack or warm drink 1-2 hours before bedtime.
Camomile tea is an effective relaxation drink. It calms the bowels and smells wonderful too. For some people, milk and cookies, hot soup or a banana helps them sleep. Bananas have tryptophan and carbohydrates, which stimulate the brain to produce serotonin. And you can’t sleep if you’re hungry.
According to infectious disease specialist Dr. Rebecca Castillo, melatonin can not only induce sleep but also boost the immune system with its anti-oxidant properties. Vitamin B complex (so called “stress tablets”) helps you sleep, too. Studies also show that the herb Valerian can enhance sleep similar to Valium. But don’t take them all at the same time. Just try which one works for you.
Use sleeping pills only occasionally
According to Dr. Lemual Tocjayao, internist and alternative medicine specialist, sleeping pills are habit-forming and addicting. And their effect wears off if you take them daily. Try natural methods first and just use them as a safety net.
Make your body tired
As the Bible says, the sleep of a laborer is sweet, but the rich man tosses and turns at night. I find that I sleep better when I’ve done a lot of manual work during the day (not mental work). When your body is physically tired, you’ll fall asleep sooner. Resist napping in the afternoon because it will decrease your nighttime sleep.
Try meditation, relaxation, soft music, massage and a warm bath
That sounds so great but the problem is getting a free masseuse. For couples, try to alternately massage each other, foot massage, neck massage and back massage.
Try sex at bedtime
According to studies, sex is a great stress reliever and sleep inducer in men. Women however get irritated when guys have sex and just doze off. For some women, sex makes their minds more alert. Again, see what works for you.
Just lie down
When all else fails, just lie down and do nothing. You can think of something unimportant and trivial. For me, two hours of lying down is equivalent to one hour of sleep. Your body muscles will still be relaxed.
Count blessings, not sheep
Inspirational guru Norman Vincent Peale advises those who can’t sleep to pray for everyone they know. I’ve followed his tip and it’s very effective and relaxing. When I’m all excited and can’t sleep, I just use the time to pray for others and to ask God to send them good tidings. Start with your immediate family, your friends, your acquaintances.
Pray the rosary
An alternative to praying for others is to mentally pray the rosary. I usually doze off by the third decade. And if I finish the whole rosary, then I just start all over again.
Give your problems to God
Offer your insomnia to Him. A man prayed as follows every night: “Lord, we’ve had a good day today, I’ve had some tough decisions but I know that you are with me. I will sleep now but I know you’ll be there to protect me and my loved ones. I leave all my worries and concerns to you Lord. And when I wake up tomorrow refreshed and ready, I’ll be able to do your work for me, Lord. Amen.”
Now are you ready for sleep?
Sleep is relaxing and heavenly. Sleep will come when it comes. Just try these little tips and see your sleep improve. Good night!