Insomnia - Part 1

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Insomnia - Part 1

Tonight...and every night, one out of three Americans will fidget and struggle before drifting off to the nether world. One out of 5 or 6 consider their problem serious, though there is little objective measurement of insomnia, and very little time has been spent studying it.

It is important to point out at the beginning of the article that insomnia is a symptom, not a disease. That's why treating it with medication is self-defeating. Drugs don't cure it; in fact, they make it worse, according to doctors who specialize in sleep disorders.

Types of Insomnia

Transient insomnia is something we have all experienced. It's when you can't get a good night's sleep for a day or two, sometimes longer. Worry, some food you ate, a strange bed, and other factors can trigger it.

Chronic insomnia is a disturbance that goes on for months or years. It is usually caused by a combination of factors. Generally, there is no one cause you can pinpoint -- like the two cups of espresso you take before retiring -- that will eliminate it. Diet may be a factor, so may exercise, drugs, stress, light, noise, mental attitudes, and a host of other things.

It is very difficult to understand how chronic insomnia can even happen to anyone. Look, we're talking about the ability to fall asleep, something everyone in the world does everyday.

We're not talking about deciphering a braille 1040 tax form that a herd of elephants trampled rushing to an open house at a peanut farm. We're talking about saying good nite to the Teddy Bear, closing your eyes, and toddling down the yellow brick road.

The insomniacs reading this are now so furious they won't sleep for a year. Relax. I am not blaming you for your insomnia. I am pointing out that sleep is something we do naturally, like breathing or crying. Babies don't have to go to preschool to perfect a 2 a.m. howl that will rouse hibernating bears. If they later lose the ability to cry, then something must be interfering with the process.

Obviously, insomnia occurs when something interferes with the natural process of falling asleep. Eliminate the interference and normal sleep is restored. The quick-fix medical solution is a prescription; but it is the wrong prescription.

Sedation is not sleep. Tranquilization is not relaxation. Drug induced sleep does not let the body carry out its normal rejuvenation processes; it is not a natural sleep. That's why people are often groggy after taking sleep medications and why specialists in sleep disorders do not prescribe drugs.

Dr. Adornato, of the Stanford University Sleep Lab, says that sleeping pills are, "Almost never a solution. They don't give you the type of sleep you need and become one of the major dependency problems in this country."

Physical causes of insomnia

There are many possible physical causes of insomnia such as: sensitivity to certain foods, especially those with caffeine, too much light, the condition of the bed, pain, leg twitching, or the temperature in the room.

Since our body's natural rhythm follows the the cycle of the sun, shift work often causes insomnia. Sleeping in the day time and working in the wee hours is not natural. Try it. You'll agree.

Poor sleep habits are another possible cause. This includes any practice that tends to make sleep less likely. Drinking caffeine, eating a big meal, or taking alcohol or tobacco before going to bed can all trigger bouts of sleeplessness.

While alcohol is a depressant, it wears off quickly and you wake up and can't go back to sleep. Nicotine, on the other hand, is a stimulant that activates the adrenals, the last thing a sleeper needs. Actually, it's one of the last things anyone needs, but that's another story.

Some people have rhythm problems: they can't dance to Rock'n Roll. No, that's not it. They are wide awake at bed time and sleepy when the rooster is sounding the alarm. Their natural internal clocks are off and need to be reset. That's a task for a sleep lab.

The first Sleep Disorder Clinic was set up in Stanford University in 1972. Twenty years later there are well over 100 such clinics. Diagnosis and treatment at one runs around $1500. For the sleep lab nearest you write: Association of Sleep Disorder Clinics, 604 Second St, Rochester, MN 55902.

Some very interesting data comes from these sleep clinics,. For one, insomniacs sleep much more than they think. They complain of a rotten night's sleep, but the machines show they saw as much wood as the rest of us. We're happy, but they're upset.

When the insomniacs woke up at night they went back to sleep as fast as the control group. But the next morning they insisted that they woke up more often than they did and stayed awake longer than they did. Isn't that interesting? But don't lose sleep over it.

Mental Causes of Insomnia

Mental causes include stress, worry, and depression. Depressed people often have problems falling asleep and waking up. Some people make the problem worse by developing insomnia anxiety. They worry about not falling asleep and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Chronic Sleep Deficit

Have you ever been short of money to pay your bills? You probably robbed Peter to pay Pauline, but never had enough money to get out of debt. Many people have a similar problem with sleep. They just don't get enough. Our ancestors slept 8-10 hours/night and we don't. Why? There isn't enough time.

With so many activities, choices, and chores, were sleep deprived says Dr. Dement of the Stanford Sleep Disorder Clinic. He believes that 40% of people who have no trouble with sleeplessness are in the twilight zone, his name for the first stage of the sleep process.

With sleep deficit you lapse into micro sleep. You nod off for a moment which greatly increases the danger of accidents.

I asked my college students how many of them did not get enough sleep. About 70%. This is not healthy and sooner or later the piper -- in this case, the physician, must be paid.

Treatments and Remedies

If you have chronic insomnia and go to your doctors, they will do one of two things. You know the first. They'll write a prescription. The problem is your tolerance increases rapidly, or, if it is a barbituate, you become addicted to the little white Fairy tablets. If someone is monitoring you, and that's a long shot, they will have to wean you off one pill and put you on to another. Aren't chemicals wonderful?

(Note: I see nothing wrong with taking a sleeping pill for a day or two when your body can't sleep due to a nonrecurring emotional situation. It's the daily dependency that I oppose.)

The second thing your doctors might do, especially if they are really sharp, is refer you to a sleep lab. The physicians who run it specialize in one thing: sleep disorders. They focus on finding the problem and fixing it rather than saying, Don't worry, just take these little white babies and off you go.

Pill Fairy Under Attack

Halcion is the #1 prescription sleeping pill. It's a cousin of Valium. In August, Upjohn Co., the manufacturer acknowledged that it submitted incomplete data on the side effects of Halcion to the FDA because of a transcription error.

In October of 1991, Britain banned Halcion because of over 390 adverse reports from physicians. The Federal Drug Agency in the US has concluded that Halcion is no more dangerous than Valium or Librium. (And jumping out of a 50 story window is no more dangerous than jumping out of a 20 story window.)

Consumer groups said the studies indicate that Halcion causes adverse changes in mood and behavior. Upjohn said the side effects were minimal.

Would a drug company that has 8 million customers and grosses over $260,000,000 on sales from Halcion lie to us?

If you can't trust the drug companies to tell the truth, who can you trust? Saddam Hussein? The National Enquirer?

Since Europeans doctors prescribe Halcion in doses four times greater than US doctors, American doctors think the problems were caused by overdosing rather than by the drug itself -- sort of like 8 beers versus 2 beers.

I remind the reader that countless numbers of women became hooked on Valium and Librium in the 70's when they were dispensed like rice at a wedding. (O.K, brown rice for you health addicts.)

If you suffer from insomnia and don't want to pop pills or try a sleep clinic yet, what can you do? I'm glad you asked. Here are some practical suggestions.

For transient insomnia, time is the only good treatment. It will pass in a day or two. Edgar Cayce recommends taking a glass of warm milk with a teaspoon of honey before retiring.
Keep a sleep diary. Note the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. Include information on naps and any medications or drugs you take. Sleep labs report that over 50% of the cases they treat can be solved by keeping a log. Of course, they know what to look for.
Relax yourself before going to bed. Use a relaxation tape or do it yourself. It's easy. One at a time, you slowly tighten each muscle in your body and then relax it and tell it it is becoming more and more relaxed each second.
Go to bed only when it is time for sleep. No reading or watching TV in bed. If your sleep diary indicates that you only get 5 hours of sleep and you have to be up at 7 a.m., go to bed at 2 a.m.
Once you have done that for 4 straight days and slept well, you can retire 15 minutes earlier. However, if you sleep less than 80% of the time, you must go back to 2 a.m.

How do you stay up to 2 a.m.? You make a list of active things to do. Write letters, sew, fix things, paint...just keep yourself busy. You may need help staying awake the first week, but after that your rhythm will adjust.

5. Set a pattern and keep to it. Go to bed at a specific time every night. Your body loves consistency and develops the habit of shutting down.
6. Bore yourself to sleep. Yes, counting sheep actually works, unless you get $2/sheep for the wool. Reading is another way to induce the relaxation that ALLOWS sleep to happen. (Remember, it is a natural process.) Don't read something exciting or scary, like Stephen King. I don't recommend him under any conditions. Why would you allow that negativity in your consciousness?
Reading puts your body in a relaxed state, the requirement necessary for sleep to slip in and whisk you away to castles in the sky.

7. Avoid napping during the daytime. That means no watching Geraldo. Yes, you'll have to miss programs like the man with 3 heads and 12 personalities who gave birth to a live cactus using Lamaze, but it's worth it.
8. One doctor recommends soaking your feet in hot water for 10 minutes before going to bed. He claims it isn't as good as going for a brisk walk before retiring, but it takes blood away from the brain, thus inducing sleep.
9. Sex, I've been told, induces sleep. This is definitely not a cure for chronic insomnia.
10. Schedule dinner 4-5 hours before retiring.
11. Exercise every day. It eliminates the daily tensions we all experience that can keep us awake at night. If you are tired from exercising, you'll sleep. For some of you, I know that is a desperate solution, but it is so healthy.
12. Gaylord Hauser, a fitness guru in the Twenties, told his followers to buy "the biggest jar of calcium with vitamin D. Any form of calcium can be used. Take two to four calcium tablets at bedtime and drink a glassful of hot grapeFruit juice sweetened with a bit of honey or molasses. Keep the tablets by your bedside table and, if you feel the need for more, take more during the night. Ex-insomniacs around the globe have thanked me for this incredibly simple method of regaining sound, natural sleep."
13. Trytophan WAS a popular remedy. But one manufacturer's carelessness resulted in severe neurological damage to a small number of people. I doubt you can still buy it and I wouldn't if I could. It was claimed that tryptophan was the amino acid in warm milk that produced sleep. Many people swore by it. Others have been irreparably damaged by taking. Beware!
Edgar Cayce's Perspective

Sleep disorders came up frequently in the Cayce readings. He treated people from ages 4 to 78. One third of the causes were emotional; the rest were physical. The latter included diabetes, menopause, arthritis, cancer, a spine out of alignment, and the after effects of surgery.

Our old friends, improper assimilations and eliminations were also mentioned. They produce toxins which disrupt the balance in the body resulting in insomnia.

Cayce advised a man who couldn't fall back to sleep after 4 a.m. to use the time constructively. He told him the cause was part habit and part a physical reaction.

The cure was to use the first 30 minutes of his insomnia in meditation. He was told he would then sleep more the next hour.

Cayce Remedies

Cayce's treatments varied from person to person. Unlike the Pill Fairy's Playmates, not everyone receives the same medication, e.g. Halcion.

The most common treatment was electrotherapy. Relax, it really doesn't involve sticking your finger in the wall socket or using any normal source of electricity. I don't have room to go into detail on it here, but I will in the next issue.

Running a vibrator along the spine to produce relaxation was sometimes suggested, as were massage and spinal manipulations.

Dietary advice was given, but only one suggestion for using food for sleep was given: add a teaspoon of honey to a glass of warm milk and take it at bedtime.

To increase eliminations, colonics, enemas, and laxatives were suggested. Just because you move your bowels doesn't mean you are in good inner shape. Almost everyone would profit from an internal cleansing. If I had insomnia, it would be the second thing I'd try. Warm milk and honey would be the first.

I've got more practical ways to combat insomnia including herbal remedies and some new fangled electronic devices. They'll be included in the next issue along with a simple way to find the cause of many back pains. It's a technique chiropractors have used for years. I'll teach you how to do it.

I've got a few inches of space but nothing really important I can say in that space so here comes some trivia.

Our sleep needs vary with age...you knew that. Newborns sleep (hopefully) 16 to 18 hrs./day. A 10 year old needs about 9-10 hours of pillow hugging. Adults require about 8 hrs./day, but that varies widely.

Stress Management Press.

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