Sleep Tight? Better to Sleep Deep!

Sleep Tight? Better to Sleep Deep!

Fall 2005

“Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Many of us remember these words whispered to us when we were children. But as adults, the last thing we want to feel, as we try to drift off to sleep, is tight!

If no conscious break is taken during the day, by the time a person drops his head onto the pillow at night, his mind and body may be so “cranked” up that it’s a wonder that he can get to sleep at all. Below I’ve summarized a typical day. If you visualize a “crank,” or a screwdriver, placed somewhere in your body, see how it can make things tighter in your system as the day progresses:

• Wake up to an insistent alarm (crank)

• Rush around to get ready for your day (crank)

• Drive to work and get behind slow people, the train, or too many lights (crank)

• Arrive at work to your schedule being changed and not having the time to do the tasks you had planned (crank)

• Rush around to do errands during your lunch break (crank)

• Or, like many people, skip lunch (crank, crank)

• Stay busy at work, never feeling like you can ever “do it all” (double crank)

• Leave work later than you had hoped, rush home (crank)

• Figure out what to have for dinner (crank)

• Watch the evening (bad) news (crank)

• Clean the kitchen, do some laundry, tidy up, get ready for tomorrow (crank)

• Read or watch TV to relax (this may not be a crank up, but it’s not necessarily a crank down either since the adrenalin rush of a “stimulating” TV show can result in poor sleep


Now, when you lay down to go to sleep, there’s no need to wonder why your system is so “tight” it can’t relax and go to sleep. Yet, we know the relief that sleep brings is just what we need if we want to be fresh for another busy day of life!

So, what to do? How do you relax into sleep when challenged by physical pain, or mental “busy-ness”? How do you just “turn off” the pain or the unending thoughts which prevent you from falling into much-longed-for slumber?

You will need to make a conscious choice, each day, to incorporate rests or “relaxation breaks” throughout the day. When you find a window of opportunity, use that time to YOUR benefit! You’ll find, as you learn to implement intentional relaxation breaks throughout your day, your system will be more ready to unwind at the end of the day because there will be so much less unwinding to do. This is just as helpful for people experiencing pain, because an injured body benefits from the use of intentional, relaxing breaths which bring oxygen to the muscles and improved blood flow to the areas that are healing.

What is a relaxation break? A good example is sitting in your car at a stoplight. This is a perfect opportunity to take a few deep, relaxing, unwinding breaths. While listening to music (any kind you like!) you can consciously choose to use the time to rest your body and mind from the day’s events. Just by keeping your attention focused on the music, you can dismiss intrusive thoughts, as they pop up, and feel refreshed. (A CD is better than the radio, since it has no blaring commercials, no (bad) news of the day, no stories from the DJs to distract you from using this time to unwind.)

“When?” you may ask, when your day seems so busy and overflowing with your “to do” list. Why not implement a relaxation break any time you find yourself waiting in line, going to the bathroom, filling up your water/coffee/tea cup, each time you set the phone back down on the receiver. It only takes 5 to 30 seconds!

Taking the time to care for ourselves is more of a “being” experience, than an act of doing. Although many of us are driven by the “doing” tasks that we set before ourselves each day, learning to implement small relaxation moments that will put you in a brief state of “being” will allow you to be so much more effective at whatever you are “doing.” And what better way to “be” than to “be” able to sleep well each night.

Doing these exercises isn’t as hard as remembering to do them. Changing your habits, incorporating new cues into your daily patterns, will provide a path for successful relaxation and improved sleep.

May you sleep deeply!