Insomnia, for me, began in the 1980’s. I had been working for a major oil and gas company and work was stressful and the hours were long and irregular. An average working day would be approximately 14 hours long, sometimes even longer during the
summer months. I was young and fit and able to run all day without getting tired. In fact, after work I would always go for a 4-5 mile run to help clear my mind of the days occurrences. All in all I felt good about my life, 20 years old and strong as an ox. It would come as a shock then to find out that within one month I was unable to stay awake at work and unable to sleep at home. Insomnia had, out of the blue rendered me inoperative.
The stresses at work in those days were far more than I would ever attempt to handle today and I guess that without my knowledge the rigours of a busy life had began to take its toll on my health. My Insomnia started with my restless mind. I found that the moment that I laid my head on my pillow at night I could hear my pulse thumping, deep and regular in my ears. This then led to me struggling to find a comfortable position to sleep in, some way of breathing quietly, some manner of
angle that allow my jaw to hang comfortably and not click and clunk as I ran my tongue across my teeth in those moments before dozing off. Then, of course, after a few nights of this rigmarole I started to fret about not getting enough sleep, and this is where insomnia becomes interesting. Insomnia, in my case, was self perpetuating. I couldn’t sleep for worrying about not sleeping.
The signs that I was not sleeping were there for everyone to see. My eyes were bloodshot and had dark bags under them. My usual happy chatter had been replaced with grunted replies and lengthy sighs. Because I lacked energy I was no longer keeping fit, my shoulders drooped from slumping at my desk. I began to try to feed my lack of energy with sweet foods and soft drinks, which continued to lower my immune system and this then led to a string of colds which in turn led to more uncomfortable nights and so the ever decreasing story goes on.
After about 2 months of broken nights and drowsy days I went to my GP. In the 80’s sleeping tablets were beginning to be phased out on the NHS, especially where stress was suspected to be the culprit. There had been some cases of patients becoming hooked on their meds in the late 70’s to early 80’s and I guess the government had seen some nasty statistics and decreed that this should be addressed. To be quite honest I had only visited my GP in the hope of being prescribed sleeping tablets and I was quite disturbed when I was offered a photocopy of ‘How to reduce your stress’ and given the address of some local ‘groups’ that may be of help. I distinctly remember the anger boiling up inside me, while also experiencing the need to cry … a deeply uncomfortable moment.
I’m not a great joiner of groups, even today. So the thought of sitting and spilling my fears with a whole room full of fellow whingers was not my idea of a cure. Instead I began to read about holistic medicines, herbal remedies and spiritual training (meditation, tai-chi and the power of positive thought). I was surprised to find that there were dozens of books which described my situation and provided methods that could help me. I read insatiably and started to practice with herbal teas. I also bought a video tutorial on the 18 Form Tai Chi Qigong called shi-ba-shi (This is an introductory form that I still perform today 20 years on) and set about learning the forms. I soon found that my mind was beginning to focus on the positive things in life and spending less time dwelling upon my problems. Within one week of beginning the course of treatment that I have listed below I was sleeping again. It took a full week to physically break the cycle of getting out of bed during the night, but once this was broken I was on the path to recovery.
So here is what I did, it’s not difficult and it sure did the trick for me. I don’t expect anyone to follow my program, except in attempting to change their mindset and focus again on health, happiness and enjoying sleep.
My cure for insomnia
1. I do not attempt to nap during the day.
2. I always make sure I have finished my evening meal by 6.30pm. This meal must not include anything spicy or greasy.
3. I perform my 18 Form Tai Chi Qigong as perfectly as I possibly can, making sure that I concentrate fully on every breath.
4. At 9pm I drink a large cup of Marjoram Tea. I make this myself in a decaffetier by adding a regular breakfast tea bag and 2 tablespoons of dried marjoram to 1/2 pint of boiling water and let it infuse for 5 minutes. I add a teaspoon of honey to the poured tea and sip gently. Marjoram tea is excellent for calming the mind, clearing the sinuses and relaxing the bowels.
5. At 10pm, having watched a mindless drama on the TV, I set about my pre-bedtime self-massage. This specifically targets my shoulders, neck and scalp areas, which I had found were the reason for my clunky jaw and tension headaches. I make sure that I do a deep and sometimes painfully good job of my massage, not stopping until my shoulders feel fully worked and have that relaxed tingle in them.
6. 10.30pm – Toilet & Teeth, the marjoram will hopefully have relaxed everything by now.
7. 11pm – I take a recorded radio play to bed every night, not a different one every night … the same one … EVERY NIGHT. This has the unusual effect of preparing my brain for sleep. In fact, after a few weeks I was falling asleep within 5 minutes of starting the 45 minute play. It just acts like a trigger for sleep. A note here: Don’t attempt to use headphones, they will make you uncomfortable and you will wake up. Use speakers and set the volume to a level that you can hear, but it isn’t too loud.
This process worked for me, in fact I still use it even today. Why not, it works and I feel great !
By: Spencer Jackson
About the Author:
Spencer Jackson works as an shop manager and customer adviser for
Heroes Fitness Store. Please contact him through the website for more fitness information, including fitness equipment, core stability training and supplements.
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