I can’t sleep, I just toss and turn for hours” is such a common complaint in my office these days. Thirty five years ago, when I began my private practice, I was working in New York City, and seeing a lot of people in high stress jobs. But curiously, people slept OK. Now I work in a peaceful rural setting in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, and insomnia or other sleep disturbances are disturbingly common. What’s happening?
STRESS! That’s what’s happening. We live with a level of chronic, unremitting stress that our bodies were never designed for, and we are paying the price with stressed adrenals and elevated cortisol levels that keep us wakeful when we should be sleepy. Stress hormones were supposed to be released when the proverbial tiger was jumping out of the tree to eat us, not when we sit in traffic, worry about the economy or stress about our work, relationships or the state of the environment. Now, so many of us have constantly elevated stress hormones, and that is a real problem (for many reasons!) but especially when it’s time to wind down and relax for sleep.
In deep, natural sleep, your body restores itself; your cells rejuvenate, your immune system re-charges and your brain and nervous system re-balance. With elevated stress hormones, it is harder to move into the deep levels of sleep where your body can heal. There are many ways to address this problem, and I’ll be talking more about stress and stress hormones later, but one of the techniques I have found most helpful is the guided imagery meditation that I use with my clients and in my mp3 “Restful Sleep, Healing Sleep.”
I created a guided imagery meditation mp3 for insomnia at the request of a woman I treat, who has lived for many years with ovarian cancer. Her attitude is upbeat and phenomenally courageous, but there are many nights when – either from stress, worry or the effects of medication – she has great difficulty falling asleep. She has used many meditation and imagery CDs over the years, and said to me one day, “they are great for relaxing me, but just when I’m really relaxed, they tell you to open your eyes. I wish they would just shut up and let me drift off to sleep!” I said, “I think I can do that!” and “Restful Sleep, Healing Sleep” was born…
I worked with a wonderful composer and musician, Ralph Legnini. His lush, soporific music created the perfect background to a Four Steps to Center™ guided meditation that guides you on a journey into relaxation, peacefulness, and deep, healing sleep. Sleep as healing and rejuvenation the way it should be. So far, no one has stayed awake to hear the end of the CD!
With daily deep, restful sleep, your mind is clearer, your body is stronger and healthier and your heart is more peaceful. Sleeping pills are a short term solution, they are potentially harmful, addictive medications that leave you with a poor quality of sleep, morning grogginess and potentially dangerous side effects. The quality of your sleep is as important to your health and healing as the foods you eat.
There are lots of factors besides stress that interfere with sleep, such as nutritional deficiencies, medication side effects, overuse of caffeine and other stimulants, blood sugar imbalances, menopausal changes, respiratory problems, sleep apnea and other illnesses. The body’s daily need for restful, healing sleep does not care about our schedules, pressures, problems or concerns. Routinely interrupting or limiting your sleep can lead to chronic sleep deprivation. This is a serious and very common problem contributing to auto accidents, health problems such as chronic inflammation and diabetes, decreased quality of life and decreased productivity.
Be sure to consult a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner to determine whether any of these are factors in your sleep problems. In the meantime, look at your stress levels, consider reducing stress with my mp3’s “Releasing Stress, Finding Peace, or Completing Your Day“and find a bedtime ritual to help you relax, let go of the stresses of the day, and drift off into peaceful, healing, rejuvenating sleep.
Here’s to restful, healing sleep, Carol