By Rachael Taylor
We've just gone through Thanksgiving and are deep into the cold season and for some of you that means an increase of pain, anxiety, fatigue, and sleepless nights. Raise your hand if you can't fall asleep at night because you're too dang uncomfortable.
Ok, it's the internet you can lower your hand now. :)
I know I went through that every fall and winter season, in the times when I was already more uncomfortable and it felt like my feet were walking on freezing (yet, burning?) needles, all I wanted was to get a good night's sleep to feel better.
But that always seemed to elude me! The minute I would lay down I became even more uncomfortable and the tossing and turning started.
Have you ever been so tired that you can't sleep?
Like you're too tired to be tired? Can we all agree that it totally sucks and you spend more energy thinking about how you want to be asleep instead of just actually falling asleep?
If I'm describing you, then I'm glad you're reading this because you've probably been told to just take a sleeping pill to fix your sleep problems. Or maybe you're already taking them. In the beginning didn't it feel amazing? Like the clouds parted and light shined down from the heavens because of how fantastic that first night's sleep was on that sleeping pill.
But one thing you'll notice, if you are new to them or thinking about taking them, is that over time that pill won't be as effective.
Here's how it usually starts. You take it once a week, maybe on Saturday or Sunday so when you're groggy in the morning it doesn't affect work or so you don't sleep through your alarm. But then you add it in for a second time during the week once you get used to it. And then a third day. And then it's every other day. And then one night when you take the sleeping pill and what happens? Well...it doesn't work. Egads. Ugh. Drat. Argh. (and all other angry words you say or think when you're frustrated). So what do you do? You go to your doctor and get a stronger sleeping pill.
Did you see what happened there? This thing that was supposed to just help you get "one good night's sleep" a week has become something that happens every night, that you're dependent on, and your body built up such a tolerance that it stopped working, and you had to get a stronger one. This is really dangerous because when you rely on medication to fall asleep, it's actually building an addiction that could lead to not only interrupting your breathing patterns but medical studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between taking a sleeping pill on a regular basis and degenerative brain diseases.
And that's why sleeping pills make your sleep worse. Because it's not actually addressing why you can't sleep in the first place.
It's actually reducing your REM sleep (the sleep you need to feel rested and restored), it's increasing your forgetfulness and giving you a "hangover" the next day, and there's a whole host of side effects like nausea, constipation, night sweats, and drowsiness to name a few. A big reason people find that can't sleep is because of stress, anxiety, and general body tension. So until that gets addressed, falling asleep and finding deep REM sleep will be a challenge. Something as simple as connecting what you're worrying about each night and then building some habits at night to release those worries will help your fall and stay asleep.
When those dots were connected for me, my mind was blown. And I honestly loved the fact that I was in control of how well I was sleeping at night. It felt empowering because I could do something about it.
That's why I don't take sleeping pills anymore. And yes I had to talk with my doctor about how to detox off of them. But once I did, I found that I could think so much clearer. And I found that changing my habits before bed provided the relief and relaxation I needed to fall asleep at night. Simple, little habits make all the difference.
Try easy things like:
1. Walking away from your TV, laptop, and phone to stop stimulating your brain 30 minutes to an hour before bed
2. Stop eating two hours before bed
3. Read a book for 30 minutes while in bed
4. If you are worried about all the things you need to do tomorrow, make a list and plan for the day so you don't feel unsure about what needs to get done
5. Take 10 minutes to stretch and do some deep breathing to relax your body and tell it it's going to go to sleep now
But remember, if you are on any medication to consult your doctor before you change your dosage and how often you use it. It's dangerous to go cold turkey off medication so always, always, always consult your doctor about how long it would take you to wean off of your sleeping pill safely.
I would love for you to share this with someone who needs it because the more awareness we can build about natural, effective ways to have deep and restful sleep, the more people we can help!
Today is the day you take back your life.