To Sleep, To Sleep…
“Perchance to dream,” wrote Shakespeare in one of his most favored plays, Hamlet, because even in Elizabethan times sleep was, for some people, as elusive as justice.
In fact, things aren’t a great deal better nowadays. Yes, you can submit to a sleep study, be provided a PAP (positive airway pressure) machine, or even get a prescription for a sleeping pill (but only for a few weeks because many are severely addictive).
You can even have a therapist block out a day’s worth of activities and put you through your paces, in an effort to identify the cause of your sleeplessness. This is a surprisingly effective therapy, if only because changing your routine “rewires” your brain. At least for a little while, and then you lapse back into insomnia.
You can even do what they did in Queen Elizabeth’s time; quaff beer or mulled wine until that busy little voice inside your head stops talking. But the ultimate solution is simply to get out of bed on sleepless nights, which doesn’t promote sleep but does keep your brain/body interface from confusing being in bed with sleeping.
There are also a few 21st century cures. Combining technology with mind or brain science, researchers have shown that “pink noise” can help sleepers stay in Stage 4 sleep for longer than normal. This Stage 4 sleep is sometimes called “delta sleep” and lasts for about 30 minutes. Children (or adults) prone to bedwetting and sleep walking will do so during this phase of sleep, which has also been identified as the period during which the two-to-six year-old population will experience night terrors.
Pink noise is comprised of sounds synchronized to an individual’s brain rhythms. These noises and the application of a mild electric current via electrodes stuck to the skull also help test subjects learn and remember.
Researchers are quick to remind us that pink noise will not put us to sleep, or help us achieve Stage 4 sleep. But once we get there – to that virtual world of the unconscious mind – our electronically assisted brain waves increase in size, according to EEGs simultaneously administered.
Sound simulation is nothing new. Scientists have tried it before, with little success. But that was before some brainiac decided to make the sound frequencies correspond with an individual’s brain waves. And this technique – distinct from electric brain stimulation – holds the hope that, in time and with a little luck, the method can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, and even depression. At some future time, it might even be used for amplifying creativity.
Some self-proclaimed insomniacs fail to accurately evaluate the amount of sleep they are getting. Because they are light sleepers, prone to wake at the smallest noises, they imagine they are not sleeping at night. A sleep study can confirm, from brain waves, that they are sleeping, but getting no deeper than the first three stages of sleep. In fact, they may be getting too much sleep, but – like the overweight individual who complains he (or she) isn’t eating enough to get fat, but drinks almost a gallon of milk a day – it isn’t a question of quantity but quality. Drinking a gallon of water or sugar-free beverages a day may actually cause some people to lose weight.
How much sleep is too much? For healthy adults, the correct balance of sleep (as compared to conscious activity) is between seven and eight hours. Babies need more, as do growing teens, and your 17-year-old who sleeps until noon on weekends isn’t a slacker but a self-starter running on empty after a hectic week at school, doing homework and chores, participating in sports and perhaps even holding down a part-time job.
Older people (over 65 but still shy of 80) may need more sleep to cope with increasing immobility and lack of stamina. This age transitions between hearty middle age and old age, the latter needing less and less sleep as time goes on. But this 65-to-80 age is also one in which friends and family members need to keep an eye open for depression, one of the major reasons for insomnia among these newly retired individuals trying to cope with unlimited free time on the typical “shoestring” budget.
Sleep may be elusive for any number of reasons ranging from bad sleeping habits (afternoon naps revising circadian cycles, and staying up too late) to poor health habits. Everyone needs daily exercise, but do it in the morning. When done in the evening, the added adrenaline and endorphins tend to keep a person awake.
Drinking too much coffee during the day, or in the evening, robs some people of sleep. Interestingly enough, some grownups with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) find an evening coffee helps them sleep. This is probably because, as one neurologist explained to me, everyone is wired differently.
Like me, you probably already know that prescription sleeping pills like Seroquel are too toxic, causing hallucinations and muscle cramps, and ones like Ambien too mild. Couple that with your doctor’s caution about taking the latter only two or three times a week (like you only have insomnia on Ambien’s schedule!), and you can see the problem.
Better to experiment with OTC (over-the-counter) herbal formulations. Most of the major pain killers have a sleep version, which is just the NSAID combined with diphenhydramine, or benedryl. You can also try the supplement melatonin, or chamomile, either in a tablet or a teabag. You can also try valerian, which smells like dirty socks but works even better than melatonin. And where Ambien has failed – as it often does – doctors recommend Trazodone.
Where sleeplessness is the result of pain, or an inability to get comfortable in bed in any position, try a body pillow, also called a sleeping bean. Or consider a memory foam mattress, made from green tea or Keetsa tea leaf. The first time you use them and fall asleep almost instantly, you will want to upgrade even more, with a contour pillow for the head and neck, organic sheets, and an organic merino wool comforter for those nippy mornings in spring.
If the sheets and pillows are scented with a sachet of chamomile or lavender, and an oil pot simmers sandalwood into the bedroom air, you can be fairly certain you will sleep. Or, if sleep remains elusive, you could certainly have some fun, which might be all you need to drift off into dreamland!
This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Health and Safety, Sleep Well and was tagged with contour pillow, green living, green tea, HEALTH SENSITIVE, memory foam, NON-TOXIC, organic sheets, sleeping bean, SUSTAINABLE