Good news for those who toss and turn | Sunday Observer

Good news for those who toss and turn

6 September, 2020

Jackson’s sleeping difficulties began when he was serving in a difficult area close to Polonnaruwa. The weather was hot and humid and there were mosquitoes and bed bugs that disturbed his sleep. After serving one year in the difficult station he managed to get a transfer to an office close to his residence. However, his sleep did not improve. Instead of his six to seven hours sleep, the 50-year-old postmaster slept just three or four hours every night. “I’d toss and turn for hours, then get up and pace,” he said.

Jackson tried going to bed earlier than usual, but the slightest noise, even his wife’s breathing disturbed him. On a friend’s advice he drank a glass of wine at bedtime and fell asleep promptly, but he woke up two hours later. His physician prescribed a sleeping pill for two weeks. When he stopped taking the pill, he slept worse than ever.

Most of us have the occasional bout of troubled sleep and then snap back to normal a few nights later. However, according to medical opinion, for one in six people, insomnia is a chronic problem.

Nine-step regimen

The Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore has developed a nine-step regimen to help insomniacs cure themselves. It was based on the premise that by deliberately reducing time in bed and by modifying your waking activities, you will be able to sleep more soundly.

Unlike ordinary people, Richard Allen, a psychologist and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center, thinks insomnia is a 24-hour disorder. According to him, people should pay attention to daytime as well as bedtime behaviour. He advises insomniacs to keep a record of their sleep patterns for a week. They have to record the time they go to sleep and the time they get up in the morning. In the meantime, they have to record any nap they take and medication.

Some of us do some reading or watch television before going to bed. He advises that insomniacs should avoid reading or watching television before bedtime. If they do not get a minimum of five hours sleep, they need medical or professional help.

Sleeping-pill habit

Some people find it extremely difficult to kick the sleeping-pill habit. They regularly take sleep medications or an over-the-counter sleeping pill. If you sleep a solid five hours per night, the dependency on the pill can be broken.

Most housewives spend the time indoors. Doctors say they should spend at least 20 minutes in the sun every day. Sunlight helps advance your natural body clock, telling you to feel alert. If you cannot spend much time outdoors, the best option is to raise the blinds in your house and have your breakfast in a sun-drenched room. Sunlight will give you a real surge of energy.

Doctors recommend moderate exercise – a leisurely walk or a ride on a stationary bike – about two hours before bedtime. They say being inactive is the worst thing an insomniac can do.

Sleep is a liberating state in many ways. First, it supports emotional freedom by refreshing your body. William Shakespeare’s Macbeth calls it “The chief nourisher of life’s feast.” Think of sleep as a mini-vacation you take every night, a healing balm for your body and mind. On the other hand, sleep is necessary for maintaining our sanity. Those who do not get adequate sleep would snap at a flea and be prone to high drama. Do not forget that sleep is as precious as oxygen, food and water. After a hard day’s work, you need regular repairs from the wear and tear of living. If you can sleep well, your senses will switch off and your body will click into a healing mode.


Judith Orloff, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, says sleep recharges the part of your brain that controls emotions. You will note that those who sleep well are go-getters who won’t lose their temper easily. Sleep-deprived people find themselves in a grumpy mood all the time. Sleep sharpens your memory and ability to learn. Burning the midnight oil and cramming till morning is not going to help in the long run. You may pass your examinations at the risk of your health.

Sleep also sharpens your immune system and elevates your mood. If you are always in a bad mood, you will find everything going wrong. They will constantly argue and engage in a verbal battle with customers and colleagues. If you can get a ‘beauty sleep’ every night, your skin cells will regenerate and repair the damage caused by stress, ageing and ultraviolet radiation. Look at sleep-deprived people and note their dull looks and dark circles around their eyes. When you sleep well, you will look and feel better.

Psychologists have identified five stages of the sleep cycle. In stage one you will drift into drowsiness for a few minutes. In stage two, you will enjoy a light sleep with your brain waves and metabolism slowing down. In stages three and four, you will find yourself in a deep ‘delta wave’ sleep. Sleepwalking can occur at these stages. In stage five, you will enter the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state and start dreaming.


Most people find it extremely difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. This condition, known as insomnia, plagues a large number of people. According to psychologists, there are many causes for insomnia. A major cause is the obsession with daily concerns. Negative emotions will keep you up depriving sleep. Heavy smokers do not get sufficient sleep and others who depend on caffeine and diet drinks will exacerbate insomnia.

Psychologists have come up with certain cures for insomnia. They advise people to stay away from excess alcohol, heavy meals or taking in too much of liquid at night. Similarly, you should avoid emotional situations at bedtime. On the other hand, deep breathing will help you to get rid of negative emotions. They say that holding a mental picture of the delta waves of deep sleep can relax you.

For those who are religious, prayers and meditation can help to get rid of insomnia. Finally, you should know how to calm your mind and banish negative emotions. Think of a mountain lake or a stream babbling by a hill. Close your eyes and try to imagine the serenity of the moment. You are sure to fall asleep!

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