Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
Falling asleep should be easy, right? Most people think that sleep isn’t anything special. We just stop our daytime activities and we should be able to go right to sleep–isn’t that right? Well, no. Falling asleep involves a complex neurologic process. To successfully fall asleep we need to calm our nervous system. We need to stop paying attention to the outside world. Sometimes our body forgets how to make that transition. Today, lot’s of people have problems with insomnia, whether it be falling asleep or staying asleep. Why? Because in many areas of life we have lost our appreciation of the importance of transitions. We do this in many areas. We are all trying to fit so many things into our day so that we are going full speed all day long. We also have become accustomed to more and more quick convenience.
Think of food. When we are hungry, or when it’s dinner time, we are ready to eat. And so we get accustomed to grabbing food quickly (ideally food that is already prepared, or only takes as long as the line at a fast food restaurant, or the time to work a microwave). Once you have your food your body is ready to eat, right? Not quite. Our body, especially the more unconscious parts of our physiology (like digestion and sleep) need time for transition and preparation. We actually digest a meal so much better when we build up to the meal. Our body gets ready when we prepare the ingredients, smell the aroma of cooking food in the air, then sit down at a table with the time and consciousness to really notice the food in front of us. That’s probably part of why taking the time to eat food in an elegant restaurant tastes so good–you get ready for it. Now take those same images and apply them to sleep. Imagine going to a place that specialized only in sleep, with a maître D that showed you to a sparkling tub with a hot bath, then provided incredibly soft pajamas, and finally escorted you to a soft bed. Sounds like gourmet sleeping indeed.
That metaphor holds important truths. We fall into lots of habits or shortcuts that over time get in the way of a good night’s sleep. Identifying them makes the transition to sleep easier. In addition, practicing self-calming empowers us. Self-soothing is a life skill. It often needs to be consciously guided and supported in children. These insights are an important part of Anthroposophic pediatrics. We very commonly use a variety of non-habit-forming natural, herbal and homeopathic medicines help guide and support the transition to better sleep. Working to build sustainable patterns and better sleep habits is an essential part of the process.