November 21, 2009

Grappling with the night – insomnia and related torments

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:48 pm by Margi Macdonald

There really is nothing worse than spending wretched nights tangled in the bedclothes, thrashing, watching time tick slowly by, while all around one’s family and neighbours lie sweetly sleeping.

Similarly, nights spent interrupted by graphic, unsettling, incessant or just plain terrifying dreams are no recipe for a refreshed and quietly enlivened mind and body.

Detail from the right ("Hell") panel of Hieronymous Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" c. 1500

Afterall, such nocturnal torments will have us falling asleep at the wheel, frustratingly unproductive, snippy and snappy, fraught and frazzled.

So what’s going on here?

Quite a bit! If we consider all the information we receive in a day, the thousands of visual and auditory stimuli – many of them pernicious – the way we use our minds, life events and our reactions to them, and what we eat and drink, you can see why difficulty falling and staying asleep can become a problem.

There is an art and science to welcoming sleep into our busy lives, called sleep hygeine by those in the western medical sciences. So as well as counting sheep, you might like to see what works for you here:  Reach Out

Some things to remember:

Daytime – Yang time – is the time for most of our mental and physical activity, including eating and digesting.

Nighttime – Yin time – is for restoration and relaxation of mind, spirit and body.

Our bedrooms are for sleep and sex. They are not information super-highways, so keep your electronic geewhizzery such as TVs, computers and telephones out of them! Why anyone would want these intrusive information-overloaders interfering with two of life’s simple pleasures is a modern-day puzzle!

If alcohol is needed to help us nod off, then we’re headed for trouble, and must seek the help of an empathetic, appropriately qualified health professional.

There is an emerging body of evidence which links high blood pressure and stubborn weight gain with poor sleep. There are also some significant medical and psychological  problems associated with insomnia.

The good news is that most of us will experience transient periods of insomnia which resolve spontaneously. For those who grapple with a chronic inability to sleep well, help is available.

Fortunately Traditional Chinese Medicine provides us with a supreme framework in which to understand the relationships between consciousness – our Shen or Spirit – organ function and dysfunction, the Will and Intellect, the body’s natural rhythms and cycles, our Blood, Essence and Fluids, and our ability to sleep restoratively. Acupuncture, professionally prescribed herbal medicines and essential oils, Reiki and massage can all help us to re-establish restful, refreshing sleep.

But for now, turn on your sound, and enjoy the poetry below, accompanied by this famous old lullaby.

Serenade

by Mary Weston Fordham

Sleep, love sleep,
The night winds sigh,
In soft lullaby.
The Lark is at rest
With the dew on her breast.
So close those dear eyes,
That borrowed their hue
From the heavens so blue,
Sleep, love sleep.
Sleep, love sleep,
The pale moon looks down
On the valleys around,
The Glow Moth is flying,
The South wind is sighing,
And I am low lying,
With lute deftly strung,
To pour out my song,
Sleep, love sleep.
___________________________________________________
Staying safe
These pages and the information here are not a substitute for safe and correct health care. If you have a concern about your own physical, mental or emotional health – or that of another – you must seek the guidance of an appropriately qualified and experienced health care professional.
Acknowledgements
Insomnia graphic by ArtbyAllyson; Counting Sheep by matt_collingwood. Both available at BigStockPhoto{dot}com
Artworks available everywhere:
Hieronymous Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights detail from the panel Hell 1504
Gustave Courbet The Sleeping Spinner 1853
Serenade sourced at Poetry Foundation
Blog post content © Margi Macdonald.
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