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Intersection of Life and Faith

Get a Good Night's Sleep

  • Jon Robertson Guest Author
  • 2001 3 Oct
Get a Good Night's Sleep

To sleep well, you should fall asleep naturally, without the use of drugs. You should wake up rarely during the night and awaken naturally in the morning, refreshed and alert, but never groggy or anxious. A good sleep sustains you throughout the day with plenty of energy, and, unless your lunch contains a lot of sugar or alcohol, you should not find yourself dozing in midday.

We each have different needs, and not everyone requires eight hours of sleep. For example, I need seven, whereas my wife requires a full eight. Try turning in earlier or setting your alarm later, if schedules permit: You may need more sleep than you think you do.

... stress is the great enemy of our health, relationships, efficiency, and happiness. Stress and poor sleep work hand in hand to deteriorate our health: When we are stressed, we do not sleep well; when we do not sleep well, it makes us more prone to stress.

The secret to getting a good night's sleep is taking practical steps to eliminate conditions that rob you of your sleep. In order of importance, they are:

Effects of stress: ... control or eliminate the influence of stress on your sleep.

Worry: While stress can set you up for a fitful sleep, worry can keep your eyes open all night. ... leave worries outside the bedroom on a piece of paper. Approach sleep with a slogan: "Thank God for sleep! My personal license to suspend my worries until morning!"

Discomfort: Look carefully at the temperature and humidity of your room, conditions of dust, and any allergenic substances. Look at your spread, blankets, sheets, what they are made of, and how they feel against your skin.

Food: Eating too close to bedtime forces the system to be "active" in the process of digestion. A system that is digesting is not resting. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, and spicy foods.

Alcohol and other drugs: "Sleeping it off" doesn't mean quality sleep, as alcohol can stimulate nightmares. When you awaken hung over, you have not had a quality sleep. Even though you were "out like a light," you were out on the inside, too.

Babies, children: Every parent is familiar with this one, and there is little that one can do, especially in the case of an infant, whose needs take precedence over your good night's sleep. The best way to prepare yourself to get both jobs done is to give yourself a pre-sleep suggestion ... telling yourself that the child you love is part of your night life for those few years of infancy. Awaken to the child's call gratefully, take in a deep breath, and say to your baby: "I choose to stay relaxed while I take care of you, and then slip back into deep sleep, so I can be refreshed to take care of you tomorrow." Older children should be taught not to make unnecessary noise at night.

Partners: Partners have different habits, demands, and needs and can sometimes be disruptive to our sleep. Different retiring or rising times, for example, can disturb one or the other partner. There can also be snoring, nocturnal trips to the bathroom, teeth grinding (the result of the partner's stress), talking or walking in their sleep, or a sudden, urgent request for sex ... Some interruptions are more desirable than others, but they can all disturb our sleep.

Noise: The dreaming mind takes normal external stimuli and presents them in the language of dreams: a speeding motorcycle passing your window can turn into a bright, angry bird. If you live on a noisy street, try to seal or insulate your windows. You can also purchase a sleep machine, which can provide white noise, rolling surf, or rain sounds. A tabletop water fountain can also be used to drown out unwanted noise.

Pets: I have a small, striped cat named Douglas Fur. He occasionally wakes my wife and me between three and four o'clock in the morning. He does this with his paws, gently putting them on a cheek, nose, or forehead. If we turn over, he touches the nape of the neck. The solution to this sort of interruption is to keep the door closed. ...

Nightmares: We have all been awakened by nightmares. They can simply be the result of the waking mind's misinterpretation of the normal before it is fully awake, or a result of the suppression of fear and doubts, which we are either unaware of or unwilling to deal with during our waking lives. (Recurring nightmares or unusual sleep disturbances warrant professional help.)

Naturally, you will never get to sleep if you try to think of all these things as you are snapping off the light. Just being aware of them from day to day can help you regard your bedroom as you personal haven of peace and regeneration, nurturing, and safety. Once there, realize that this utmost important third of your life is vital for your health and happiness.

We have all had the experience of lying awake for hours, tossing and turning, and trying everything from commanding ourselves to sleep to begging God to allow it to happen. Not even exhaustion and fatigue are enough to drive us to sleep, if our worries are chronic and the habit of stress has been learned by the body. Of course, sleep can neither be persuaded nor coerced. This is because sleep is a result: It is the condition that remains once the thoughtful mind finally "gives it up," gives up its preoccupations, analysis, wishes, demands, and even reveries. To go to sleep, all you need to do is stop being aware of yourself. Don't allow yourself to observe yourself anymore.

Excerpted from The Sacred Bedroom, by Jon Robertson, copyright 2001. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, Ca., www.newworldlibrary.com, 1-800-972-6657.

Jon Robertson is an editor, journalist, and speaker.

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