Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday's Therapy - 11 Tips for Improving Much-Needed Sleep

Thursday's Therapy

11 Tips for Improving Much-Needed Sleep

From time to time, getting good sleep can be difficult for us all amidst our Child-Loss Grief and Trauma. Lack of sleep can lead to a loss of energy, a susceptibility to a variety of sleep deprivation ailments, and a weakened immune system. The following are helpful tips to soothing our minds, hearts and souls, as well as bodies for that needed rest:

  • As difficult as it is...try to go to bed at the same time each evening to establish your shut-eye pattern. If your regular pattern (from before-grief days) triggers you, a slight change in time might be appropriate. If unable to sleep, get up, do something, and then try going back to bed again.
  • Your daily walk will facilitate going to bed at your normal time. Plan a specific time each day to stimulate your physiology with a brisk twenty-minute walk. If you have the energy, make it longer. However, make sure your exercise plan is a good three hours before bedtime, as your body needs time to unwind.
  • It can help to meditate or do some reading an hour before bedtime to help calm down. Shut off all radios and televisions (and computers). Once in bed, make every attempt to hand all worry over to your Higher Power.
  • Stop caffeine consumption after 3:00 p.m., and avoid snacks, especially sugary foods and grains before bedtime.
  • Be sure your room is completely dark and all light from the outside is kept out with drapes or blinds. Light can block needed melatonin production. When you have to get up to go to the bathroom, use a penlight or book-light to find your way to the bathroom door. Or put a nightlight in the bathroom and leave the door partially open.
  • Do not watch TV or use your computer while lying in bed. Make your bedroom for sleep only. Remove your computer from the bedroom, if that's where you have it.
  • It will help to have a sleep mask available to you if you are awake at the crack of dawn, especially if you do not have blackout curtains or drapes in your bedroom. Use it and try to go back off to sleep. Try to think of gratitude memories.
  • It is worth trying herbal sleep remedies such as valerian, hops, lemon balm, and passionflower. There are also preparations of melatonin (produced by the pineal gland to regulate sleep patterns) and 5-HTP (a byproduct of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce the feel-good molecule serotonin for relaxation) that have proven helpful. Tart cherries or cherry juice (no sugar) are also rich in melatonin and may help your insomnia. 
  • As unusual as it may seem, try wearing socks to bed. Increased blood flow from warmth in the extremities induces sleep for many. 
  • If you are always worrying or thinking about what you must do tomorrow, place a pen and paper on your nightstand. Thoroughly write up each item, then let them go, so you can go off to sleep knowing you can tackle them tomorrow.
  • Once in bed, take some deep abdominal breaths where you breathe in slowly through your nose, using a four-count (one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.). Fully inflate the lungs (we are all shallow breathers), and let the inhalation push your stomach out slightly, as the diaphragm drops down. Stretch your lungs. Hold for a three-count. Then release the air naturally through your mouth on a four-count (later, increase exhalation to a six-count). Visualize breathing in healing energy and tension going out of your body with the exhalation. Start with these four-three-four counts, and then adjust the counts to what feels most comfortable.

One of the most recommended and consistently effective ways to deal with the grief and anxiety of a major loss is getting your mind and body to slow down through conscious deep abdominal breathing. Specifically, deep breathing moves oxygen and lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Dr. James Gordon, clinical professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine says, 

"Slow deep breathing is probably the best anti-stress medicine we have."

~ from Healing Grief, Finding Peace: 101 Ways to Cope With the Death of Your Loved One 
by Dr. Louis E. LaGrand

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