It's 3 a.m. and you have the bedtime blues. You're scheduled to give a big presentation at eleven, only eight hours away. You desperately need to sleep so you will be rested and alert when your big moment comes, but here you are staring wide eyed at the bedroom ceiling. Your mind is agitated and your body won't relax.
The harder you work at getting to sleep, the wider awake you are. You've already tried counting sheep, watching the late show, and making yourself a snack-all to no avail.
We've all experienced some form of insomnia at particularly stressful times in our lives. It's normal to have trouble sleeping at these times, and it usually passes after a night or two. Insomnia is a problem only when it becomes chronic.
Although it is associated with certain physical illnesses-arthritis, heart failure, and chronic lung disease, for example-most experts agree that insomnia is a symptom, not an illness in itself.
So what is it a symptom of? There are two answers - the ancient and the modern. At first glance they seem completely different, but a closer look reveals some remarkable similarities.
An Ancient Angle on a Modern Malady - The Bedtime Blues
Ayurveda, the healing science associated with yoga, tells us that all disease is caused by indigestion. That is, at some level-either physical, mental, or emotional-we haven't completed extracting what is helpful and eliminating what is indigestible. This is one of the keys to understanding insomnia.
On the physical level, indigestion is caused either by bad food or by weak digestion and leads to conditions like heartburn (a contributor to insomnia), flatulence, and diarrhea. Mental indigestion is the inability to let go of a certain incident or thought-usually an unpleasant experience.
This can be a distant tragedy like the earthquake in Kobe, Japan, criticism from someone whose opinion we value, or a work-related problem we're trying to solve. Emotional indigestion is the recurrence of a feeling, often sadness or anger, long after the precipitating event. The emotion has not been sufficiently digested and remains just under the surface, springing up for no apparent reason.
Mental and emotional indigestion are the most common causes of insomnia. Some of us even grind our teeth while we sleep in an attempt to chew and digest recurring thoughts and emotions.
The Contemporary Angle for the Bedtime Blues
To Much Coffee
Modern explanations for insomnia range from over stimulation and stress to mucking up your sleeping cycle. Stimulants include caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, and some sodas), and sugar, as well as activities such as aerobic exercise, arguing, and watching violent TV shows (or the evening news, for that matter).
All these taken (or experienced) too close to bedtime can rev us up so much that it is difficult to fall asleep. This is only another way of saying we are still attempting to digest these substances or events at the same time we are courting sheep.
Stress is another form of indigestion. Most people who suffer from insomnia say, "My worries keep me awake," or "My mind won't stop. I don't know how to turn it off."
Anxiety, worry, depression, unpleasant memories, and fears are the most common causes of the bedtime blues. It seems to take on a life of it's own and makes you determined to stay awake, even though it's way past bedtime.
Another common cause of insomnia, one which has become prevalent only in modern times, is tampering with the normal cycle of sleeping and waking. This is a mechanical problem of sorts. Human beings have a normal sleep rhythm; in general, we are designed to be awake in daylight and asleep at night.
People who work the night shift, or travelers who have recently crossed several time zones, may experience insomnia simply because they are trying to sleep when their internal clock is telling their body to be awake.
Our bodies are designed for sleep to come effortlessly. When it doesn't, when we're holding on to the day's stresses, and reaching out for tomorrow's too, we are experiencing the bedtime blues. There are a number of ways of inducing the body and mind to let go and slip gently into a restful sleep. Somewhere on this site you are sure to fine one that works for you.
Other related pages at Relax and Sleep