Now that you've assessed your sleeping environment , let's address the sleeper.
We work hard to get children into a routine that promotes their going to sleep. Have we outgrown the need for such rituals? Maybe not. A bath, warm milk, comforting reading, and saying prayers - they can't hurt.
Achieving a regular sleep schedule has lots of health benefits. But oddly, a daytime nap may make it harder to get an uninterrupted night's sleep, so think about curtailing napping if you're working on insomnia.
If you become stimulated by watching television or chatting on e-mail or the telephone, consider taking a break from these activities a few hours before bedtime. Keeping a brief (5-day) food and sleep journal can help you uncover whether certain kinds of foods or beverages tend to leave you wakeful. (Caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, or too much food all can have this effect). And while physical activity is important and can help you become physically tired enough to sleep, late-day exercise can raise body temperature or release hormones, both of which contribute to wakefulness.
Your pastoral life may contain evening meetings that leave you full of unresolved feelings or anxiety. Ten minutes of listening to soothing music, meditation, or prayer may help you create the space to put the meeting behind you so that you can sleep.
Even when you make these adjustments, you may still wake up in the middle of the night. When this happens, it takes your body about 90 minutes before it's ready for another deep sleep cycle. Somehow knowing that it will take that long helps me to stop thrashing around, and I either get up and read until I'm sleepy again, or listen to a radio that’s turned down low.
There are definitely medical causes for poor sleep, so part 3 on this topic will discuss what to ask and tell your doctor if you're having trouble falling or staying asleep.
Yours in health until the next post,
Health Programs Director
Clergy Health Initiative