By Carol Chipkin (A Member of Ease Meditation)
I have always loved sleep, I could never get enough of it when my children were young. And then, as I began to approach menopause, I suddenly seemed to have lost the ability to put myself to sleep or to stay asleep! I would read for hours trying to get my brain to stop ruminating about…. well, just about everything! As soon as I would start dozing off, all the anxiety would come crashing back, and I’d be wide awake again. Sometimes I literally dreamt that someone was tapping me on the shoulder and I would wake up just to lie there and obsess over some trivial problem!
My anxiety levels seemed to be much higher than usual and I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by feelings of despair and sadness. I would frequently get up and roam the house hoping to tire myself out. After a few months (probably more like a year) I knew that I had to do something to change this …. experience I was having. It was affecting everything in my life, to the point where I couldn’t feel joy anymore and my relationships were suffering.
I began researching. I went to months of therapy, which, by the way, can be very useful to help identify how your experience of life now has been affected by events that occurred in the past. However, the part about moving on and dropping all of this baggage is a lot more difficult. I read many books and articles and of all the things that I have tried, meditation has been the solution that works for me. I began to understand, through meditation, that I, more than anyone or anything, am capable of changing the way that I experience my life.
One of the realizations I had was that the change in my sleeping patterns had coincided with the onset of anxiety and depression. Sleep is probably the single most important need that your body has, apart from breathing. Without sufficient sleep you will become both physically and emotionally ill… and stupid by the way! Of course at this point it was a vicious circle of fatigue, stress, depleted immune system, illness, lack of proper sleep.
Through learning to meditate, I learned to quieten my brain, to soothe myself, to stop my mind from constantly fretting over what has been or what is to come. I have learned to be my own best council. I’m aware that this sounds a bit arrogant but, I really believe now, that I know myself and no longer lie to myself, I will make the right decisions for myself.
The best part for me is that I have regained the ability to sleep peacefully and deeply. There is is a clarity now that I did not have when I couldn’t sleep. I have made a list of some of the things i do to ensure a good sleep.
- Make a ritual out of going to bed.
- Dim the lights as it gets late. Your brain secretes melatonin when it’s dark which makes you sleepy.
- Don’t drink any alcohol or stimulants like coffee or tea for a few hours before going to bed.
- Don’t eat a huge meal and immediately roll into bed, your digestive system needs time to work it’s magic before you go to sleep. Go for a stroll, call a friend, make yourself peppermint tea, it aids digestion.
- Have a luxurious soak in a hot bath. Bath by candlelight.
- Use your favourite body lotion to treat yourself. Notice the sensations and perfumes.
- Make your bedroom a haven, where everything is calm and soothing and welcoming . If you like natural oils, aromas such as rosemary and lavender can be very soothing.
- Spend some time being mindful of all that you have, the comforts, the security, friends, loved ones, warmth…
- Listen to a guided meditation as you lie in bed, stay in the moment.
- Stop your mind from ruminating over what was or will be, don’t follow the stories the mind makes up, just be.