Enlivening Ourselves

Dear Dr. Norquist:
Could you give me some advice about how to improve my sleep? I’ve always been a light sleeper – but lately it’s been worse than ever. I know part of it is stress. I worry a lot and my mind seems to keep going, even when I’m tired. I toss and turn all night. My husband has started snoring in the past few months so that doesn’t help either. It’s very frustrating to have to get up and go to work after only a few hours of good sleep. I’m fatigued most of the time. I don’t want to take sleeping pills. What else can I do to help myself?

Dr. Norquist responds:
We all know that developing a certain bedtime routine or ritual is an important part of teaching our children how to move from wakefulness to peaceful sleep. We try to keep a consistency to their bedtime and waking hours. We monitor their evening activity level, so that they are not too “riled” up to go to sleep. This bedtime sleep-inducing wisdom has a biological foundation. Why is it that as adults we forget the basics of good sleep hygiene: a regular routine, consistent sleep and waking cycles, and evening activities that are calming rather than energizing? Applying our hard-earned parenting wisdom regarding sleep to ourselves will go a long way toward reducing insomnia.
I’d suggest you develop a bedtime ritual that you initiate one hour before retiring. This could include relaxing reading material, a warm bath and a warm glass of milk (which contains tryptophan, which contributes to sleep). Progressive relaxation (alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles of your body, from your toes to your head), relaxing stretches, and yoga postures are also an extremely beneficial addition to your bedtime routine. Valerian root and lemon balm are herbal supplements that have often been used to assist with insomnia. If you find yourself worrying, write your worries down and put the paper aside until morning. If you are concerned about the many tasks that the next day holds in store, make a list, and then put it aside ‘til the next day. Keep your bedroom dark and the temperature cool. Use your bed only for sleeping, resting and sexual intimacy, so that you do not associate it with wakeful activities.

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On those days when sleep still eludes you, don’t force yourself. Acceptance of this situation will provide for a more peaceful night’s rest.

(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanyacounseling.com. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2017 Chaitanya Counseling Services