Manage Your Sleep Disorder Without Exhausting Yourself Or Turning Your Life Upside Down
Sleep deprivation and insomnia are widespread issues in developed countries, where people can stay connected to work or even their support group for sleep disorders at any time of the day or night. While innovative treatments offer relief to insomnia sufferers, sleep science has increasingly revealed that sleep is complex process, involving many stages, cycles and types of brain wave activity.
Some people don’t understand this because, for them, sleep is simple. For others, falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night are the most challenging tasks they’ll attempt in a 24-hour period.
People suffering from sleep disorders have cause to complain that the solutions presented in books are difficult to implement in life. A father, for example, may forego family events or helping his children with homework because his sleep disorder treatment prescribes that he go to bed at a certain time. Furthermore, when he can’t sleep despite following his doctor’s advice, the rigidity of his schedule won’t permit him to ‘catch up’ on weekends or days when he doesn’t work.
Sleep disorders are conundrums that seldom respond to the straightforward methods we use to solve work and life problems. In fact, the direct approach, which involves making an effort and applying force to the issue at hand, almost always causes stress leading to increased frustration that ends in an insomniac’s nightmare of sleeplessness.
If you find the standard strategies for managing sleep disorders to be inflexible and unrealistic, perhaps you should consider an indirect approach that won’t involve pounding a square peg into a proverbially round hole. The following all-natural solutions—and ‘natural’ here means designed to work with your body’s cycles and automatic responses—can be implemented with minimal disruption to schedules and family commitments.
Turn The Lights Down In The Last Half-Hour Before Bed
According to Harvard Medical School’s Healthy Sleep resource, artificial light (a relatively new development in human history) can signal the brain to remain alert, thereby delaying the onset of sleep.
In addition to cueing the brain to stay awake or wind down, light and darkness influence the circadian system that regulates sleep/wake cycles over longer periods of time. This means that the habitual timing of your exposures to light and darkness programs your body to sleep at certain times.
If you’ve ever tried to nod off when your brain has other plans, you understand how powerful these cycles can be. Working with them rather than against them greatly increases your chances of success in managing a chronic sleep disorder.
Expose Yourself To Sunlight In The Early Morning
Researchers have had encouraging results in light therapy trials with sleep disorder sufferers. Getting some sunlight in the morning resets your body clock, predisposing you to rise at the same time the next day.
If you work in an office or start work before sunrise, use your morning break to get some sun outside. Remember, habitual exposure to darkness when you want to sleep and light when you need to wake up programs your body to maintain the same schedule over longer periods of time.
Cover The Windows In Your Bedroom With Heavy Construction Paper
Some sleep disorder sufferers are so sensitive to cues that illumination from street lights and even a full moon on a clear night will disrupt the natural processes that enable them to fall asleep.
Similarly, if you struggle with sleep maintenance insomnia, the early dawn of the summer months will rouse you long before your alarm. If papering your windows makes you worry the neighbors will think something illicit is going on in your bedroom, consider wearing an eye-shade or installing blackout blinds made of material designed to block UV rays.
Sleep In A Different Location
Those who suffer from sleep disorders are usually well-versed in sleep hygiene lore and wouldn’t dream of staying in bed for longer than twenty minutes if slumber hasn’t arrived by then. This sensible practice helps insomnia sufferers to avoid creating associations between the sleep environment and the frustrations of sleeplessness.
Changing your sleep environment takes this reasoning one step further, by redirecting the intention to sleep to a place that’s associated with any activity other than sleep. People struggling with sleep disorders report that the new location’s sounds and smells help to make a clean break with established patterns and reactions. In other words, by changing the environment, you alleviate frustration and remove the sense of urgency to fall asleep.
To implement this approach, you’ll need a camper’s bedroll or a 2” inch thick piece of foam. If your living area is small, you may have to get creative, but who said that you shouldn’t sleep in the kitchen or front hall? Remember that this strategy works precisely because it disrupts patterns and overturns accepted notions about where and how you should sleep.
Finally, if you’re concerned about making your kitchen floor into a permanent bed, you’ll probably wake up naturally in about 90 minutes, stagger back to your real bed and sleep for the rest of the night.
Work Hard And Play Harder
Although most people have heard that exercise regulates sleep, some insomniacs respond strongly to the mental fatigue brought on by a good day’s labor. Unfortunately, those who struggle with sleep disorders find that fatigue affects all areas of their lives.
Some get in the habit of doing the minimum at work or going through the motions in their relationships and social activities. While these behaviors are understandable, they tend to align in a continuous feedback loop of sleeplessness, fatigue and low energy expenditure. At least once in their lives, everyone has fallen into bed and slept effortlessly after a long day’s exertion.
That’s the experience you want to recreate, and work and exercise will help you to get there. However tired you feel, put a little more effort into every task. Experiment with different types of exercise. Decide that for just one week you’re going to work like it’s your last. Work like you’ll never have another chance to earn a paycheck. It may take more fortitude than you think you can muster, but you’ll be surprised at the results after a single week’s trial.
The language used to describe the nightly break with consciousness provides a clue about the enigma of sleep. No one says that they ‘create’ or ‘make’ or ‘do’ sleep. You can only get it indirectly and by mysterious means. You fall asleep like you fall in love or fall for a trick someone’s playing. Will and intention are just bit players in the process. That falling asleep is less of an act than an absence of action has frustrated generations of insomniacs.
Surrendering or succumbing to sleep or anything else is often more difficult than doing. It presents a special challenge for a nation of doers whose actions solve perplexing problems every day.