How do you sleep?

I'll give you a few tips to answer the question how do you sleep? During very stressful caregiving times, I had a system for handling sleeplessness. This was my personal system and I would recommend that you come up with your own (remember, I'm not a doctor). Personally, I didn't like to take sleep medication and so these are non-drug approaches. They're not really therapy of any kind--mostly just playing around with lifestyle.

If one approach did not work, then I may have taken the next approach. Each consecutive approach took more energy, but was more likely to result in falling (back) asleep. Here are a few tips from personal experience, but you need to answer the question of how do you sleep, yourself:

1. Get your thoughts out of your mind and onto paper. Have a journal next to the bed. Write down whatever comes to mind. This can include any problems that your mind is working on or ruminating about. If problems are clearly identified (don't work too hard on this), then brainstorm quickly about possible solutions and write down what comes to mind. The point is to empty the bucket, not fill it with more ideas, so don't think about this much, just let it flow out.

2. Meditate. Make the object of meditation something that draws you into your body more. Your body is most likely quite tired and your mind is the active component keeping you awake, so bring your attention into your body. For example, pay attention to your belly rising and falling. Your mind is connected to your body and when you focus your attention on your body's rhythmic movements (rather than your thoughts), your ruminating thoughts will start to become reduced.

Do this long enough and you may notice a yawn or two...you are entering sleep!

3. Read. Depending on the book you read, you may fall asleep more or less easily. Pay attention to what is happening in your mind as you are reading. Are you starting to think more? Or is your attention drifting when you start turning the pages. What subjects or kinds of books put you to sleep? Which ones don't? Which ones keep you asleep and which ones produce frightful nightmares that wake you up? Keep a good put-you-to-sleep-book near your bed. How about this one: "How do you sleep?"

4. Get up and do exercise. This is a tougher one, especially since you want to fall asleep in bed, not get up and do exercise! But the point here is just like in the meditation exercise--connect with your body. Let it draw you down into sleep. Some people say they wake up when they exercise. You'll have to decide and experiment yourself. For me, it works. To motivate yourself, just remember how tomorrow will be impacted physically and psychologically if you deprive yourself of sleep.

A few floor exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, or squats can rapidly drop your attention into your body. Don't be hard on yourself--you don't want to mistakenly increase the physical effects of sleep deprivation through an angry push-up that results in a muscle strain!

Just do it gently and notice whether you are getting more sleepy. Soon after you notice yawning, stop exercising and go back to bed. Don't deprive yourself of any more sleep than you must...in order to fall asleep.

5. It's well known that sexual activity can induce sleep. If you are a male, a caveat: sexual activity might put you to sleep, but you'll have to measure that against possible less energy the next day(s). How do you sleep is balanced against how much energy do you want later?

6. Don't worry about it. This is maybe the most important tip. Worrying wastes energy. If you cannot sleep try something different. Add to this list. But whatever you do, don't worry about it. It adds a layer of struggling to an already unhealthy situation, creating more problems.

So how do you sleep? Try these techniques. Make up your own. Be aware that everything you think, say and do affects your life. Food choices, work choices, relationships, where you live and how you live, all this affects your sleep, which in turn affects your next day, and so on. And if the caregiving relationship with your loved one is unhealthy, it can dramtically affect your sleep.

View your life holistically and you can start charting a path toward more health for you and your loved one.

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