Thursday, July 21, 2011

What's keeping you up at night?

It's 2:38 am, you're tossing and turning, unable to sleep; knowing that you need your rest or you won't be any good to anyone the next morning, especially yourself.

Here's the rub - What is it, exactly, that is preventing you from enjoying your Z's?

The reason could be so many different things. That's the frustrating part, and it just makes those cogs and wheels in your head spin even more. How do you remedy the situation, whether or not you are even consciously aware of what is keeping you awake?

Oh sure, there are those times when you know exactly what is racing through your mind; and even then you can't stop thinking about it and just Go-To-Sleep (no matter how hard you try to convince yourself to just stop thinking about IT and go to sleep already!). You may have an important decision to make (i.e., new job opportunity, new relationship, or even the impending end of a current job or current relationship).

You may be excited about an upcoming move or, more likely, obsessing and stressing about a conversation you need to have and therefore worrying yourself about how it will go; replaying the conversation over and over in your head until you have thought through every possible scenario.

These are all good exercises for your brain; and truth be told, something you should be embracing instead of fighting just so you can get some sleep.

What should you do? Get up! Jot down some notes on what you're thinking. Work through what your brain is processing, write it down so you can review it the next morning with fresh eyes. Once you have allowed your mind to play out these scenarios, validated that they are more important than sleep, made notes so you can remember these (very important) thoughts the next day, chances are your mind will let you go to sleep when you put down the pen and paper and once again turn out the lights.

But what do you do when your brain isn't giving you clear signals of why you can't snooze and you have no conscious reason for not being able to fall asleep?

Exercising, meditation and yoga are all excellent remedies in this case. Don't lay there and fight it. Sit up, get up, do something, DO ANYTHING! If you take the time; be it 30 minutes, an hour, or longer, to understand that it may not be your brain, but rather your body, that is preventing you from sleeping then you could very well find that you have effectively "fed" the problem so you can once again count sheep. It is important to note here that watching TV at this point may not be the best solution. It may work for some of you, but if you truly have a bout of insomnia, turning on the TV will NOT help solve the root cause of your problem here, it will only mask it or delay it’s revelation to you (denial is not your sub-conscious’s friend).

Some physical causes of sleeplessness can be:

-          illness; if you are sick or recently injured and have spent quite a bit of time in bed recuperating, you may just be out of kilter on your normal sleep cycle. The only thing to do here is to try and stay awake as long as possible until it is time for your regular bed time that evening. And stay in bed as long as you can until morning. Then get up and start the day slowly, doing your best to stay on a normal sleep pattern for that one day. The next day you may just be back to your old sleeping patterns again!

-          lack of exercise; causing your body to be out of balance. The release of vital endorphins aid in the overall feeling of well-being and are important to good health. You don’t have to go out and run a marathon – just some light stretching or a walk around the block will do your body, and your mind, a tremendous amount of good.

-          lack of water, potassium, melatonin or a myriad of other vital nutrients and hormones; if left out of whack long enough this can cause leg cramps, insomnia or other symptoms. It is important to eat a well-balanced diet, or at least take supplements containing all of the recommended nutrients that your body needs for your age, gender, and overall health situation. And never forget that the human body is made up of about 60% water – so drink up!

-          depression; if you are clinically depressed, while you may not feel like physically doing much of anything at all, you may just not be able to fall asleep naturally without medicinal aids. Seek qualified medical assistance, if not for you then do it for those who love you.

Balance is the key!

So what are you going to do the next time you find yourself counting untold amounts of sheep until you feel like you are in a commercial for a mattress company? Recognize that there is a good reason, your brain and body are not working against you. They do know what is best and have tremendous power to educate you in the most inconvenient ways and at the most inconvenient times. Roll with it.

If your mind is whirling, appease it. Humor it. Get up. Write down what you are thinking. Eventually your brain will quit "talking" to you and then you can put down the pen, turn out the lights and let your head hit the pillow without the whirlwind of chaos and commotion.

If your mind isn’t talking to you but your body still won’t let you sleep. It is likely just out of balance or “out of sorts”. It’s time for you to recognize what is truly going on in your life and adjust accordingly. If you’ve been sick or injured, give it a day or two, work to get back into a normal sleep routine again, and you’ll be back to your old self in no time! It could be as simple as needing to get a little more exercise during the day; or maybe you need be eating healthier, taking supplements or drinking more water; but possibly you may need to reach deep within yourself and honestly assess if your body is trying to tell you that it is time for you to seek medical assistance. If so, please seek it. The long-term rewards and benefits could give you your life back, the life you want to lead!

Here’s to good dreams!


  1. Hi Lisa!

    Thankfully I don't have any sleep issues but should I ever I'll stop back for your advice!

    I use this theme for my The Everyday Mommy blog!

    So impressed that you have joined traffic school already... this is going to be fun!

  2. Hi Kathy,

    So glad to hear you don't have sleep issues. I have bouts of insomnia that run 2-3 weeks about once a year. So I guess this is a topic that is on my mind periodically! Thankfully, it doesn't happen all the time, but it can be oh so frustrating when you can't put your finger on why.

    I am loving your Bliss Habits blog - see you in traffic school.