February 3, 2011

A Practical New Book for Insomniacs: Master Your Sleep

An informative new book is on the market about sleep, it’s importance, why we don’t get enough, and what we can do about it. In Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified, author Tracey Marks, MD, tells us that more than one third of Americans – over 100 million people - have clinically-diagnosed sleep disorders!

What has happened in our society where people cannot rest properly? There are more folks awake in the middle of the night than we can imagine, tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, chronically sleep-challenged.

We know that many more than this 100 million have occasional or frequent bouts of insomnia, causing frustration and even dread. Aside from a sense of helplessness, what is this doing to one’s ability to think clearly, be alert, and have energy throughout the day? To keep the immune system functioning? How are these millions managing on the job? Emotionally?

Dr. Marks says insomnia is underlying many quality of life issues such as anxiety and burnout. It also puts people at risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, compromised mental abilities, and shortened lifespan.

What are your options if you are one of the 100 million with a bona fide sleep disorder? Or, even if you are an occasional insomniac? Pills aren’t the definitive answer. If taking sleep medication worked over time, returning you to the type of sleep required for good health and mental balance, the problem would be easier to solve. But this isn’t the case. Pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs have their drawbacks, as do natural and herbal remedies.

In her new book, Master Your Sleep, Dr. Marks outlines numerous simple methods that support the body to fall asleep at bedtime and wake up refreshed. She has an easy-to-read, straightforward style with a refreshingly sensible and practical approach. Her prescription for a “sleep hygiene” program encourages the body and mind to accept a more healthful sleep pattern. As an added bonus for parents, she discusses what to do if your children have sleep troubles.

I always appreciate an expert that can offer sound advice with the goal of addressing underlying issues. That is what Dr. Marks does in her new book. So, for those of you who find yourself looking up at the dark ceiling more often than you care to, get a copy of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified and follow the advice of Dr. Marks. Meanwhile, consider doing my favorite of her suggestions: take the laptop out of the bedroom and keep your computer activities in another room.

The Optimist’s Path

Childhood experiences, environment, success and disappointment can play a role in shaping our attitudes. But whatever your current worldview might be, there is always room for a little more optimism. Especially now, when one dark thing after another appears on the nightly news, flexing the optimist muscle is imperative. This helps life become more meaningful, lifts physical energy and vitality, and certainly makes it nicer for others to be in our presence.

A friend and I were talking about the concept of good health being related to a positive mental attitude. My view was that a positive outlook is a healthier way to live and can even prevent illness. But he countered with something interesting. He said, “Some of the nastiest, most negative thinking people I’ve known have lived to be very old.” Once I thought about this, I had to agree - I’ve seen this too.

Although we’ve all known a difficult, cantankerous person who lived to old age, I still believe keeping a positive focus is important for physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. I like what Dr. Karl Menninger said, a founder of the Menninger Clinic and proponent of blending psychiatry and medicine: “Set up as an ideal the facing of reality as honestly and as cheerfully as possible.”

Why go the opposite route? It’s apparent that many of us choose the path of complaining and misery, but why? About complaining, a wise teacher I once had said, “It’s self-correcting. One eventually sees the futility of one’s own negativity, although this may take many lifetimes.” I found this to be an interesting way to look at it: we are all evolving and one of the roads in our travels is the road of pessimism!

I’d like to think I traveled that road long ago, but things happen and sometimes it just feels really good to get right into the center of the mud pile and complain about everything. If we can be aware of the moment we choose to jump into the mess, and also be a little practiced in how to climb back out and clean off, then once in awhile maybe we can be excused and just indulge. Griping is an indulgence, after all.

Affirmations are one way to help your mind stay focused on the positive and also to help dig yourself out of the mud pile once you’ve had your fun in there. I encourage you to set up your own self-fulfilling prophecies. Listed below are a few you can use to get you on your way.

I make conscious, positive choices
I have the kind of inner fortitude that survives and succeeds through anything
I live in true comfort and joy
I have a healthy vibrant body and mind
I forgive myself for everything
I am open to positive change
I flow easily with change
My own well-being is my top priority
Optimum health is mine now and always
I am fully loved
My body knows how to heal itself
I am completely healthy in every way
Every day I’m feeling happier
I am alive and healed on all levels
I remain in balance, steady, strong, peaceful
I have a lot of options
I have many opportunities
My life is filled with harmony

You can write them out, print and post where you can see them, choose one that resonates with you and put it on your refrigerator, or make a list of your own. Either way, you’re mental focus will be improved and, according to the latest studies on mind-body wellness, you will be healthier and happier.