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Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

This might be the best Christmas gift you receive this year.

Then again, it might look like a scam. Can’t be, because there is no money or response attached to it in any way. Nor drugs or breathing aids.

The usual disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and cannot offer any guarantees about what I am going to prescribe for you. All I know is it works for me and it might for you, too.

At some time in their lives, most people have problems getting to sleep and staying asleep for at least the 7-8 hours recommended by health professionals. I’ve found a simple solution for what can be a serious problem.

First of all, take the common-sense advice of the real experts and start off with a firm mattress and a cool, dark room. In the winter, we sleep on a mattress pad with a heating element in it. It takes the chill off the sheets, especially a blessing if you need to get up during the night.

I won’t get into caffeine and alcohol – that could get too complicated – but I think most people know what affects them, and practice moderation.

Now. Into bed. I’d say find a comfortable position, but maybe in the beginning of this exercise, lying on your back will be simplest. Be sure your arms and legs (“limbs,” as my Victorian-era mother would have said, modestly) are supported by the mattress and not swinging.

The hardest thing about inducing sleep is clearing your mind of the clatter and demands of the day. If you have a problem that needs to be worked out, get out of bed, pray, e-mail someone, or make a phone call, whatever it takes to put your troubling thoughts away or at least put off until tomorrow.

Back in bed, start again. Arrange yourself again, close your eyes. If you wish, tighten all your muscles, beginning at your feet and ending with your face, but I don’t bother. Starting with your feet, relaxing them totally. “Feel” them sinking deeper into the mattress. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to “feel” the bonier parts of your body. You have enough muscles nearer the surface.

Your knees are next and then your thighs. You can really feel them sink into the bed. Take your time, and don’t let the joints you’ve already relaxed compete with the ones to come.

The most important areas are dead ahead. Chest, arms, and shoulders lend themselves happily to this part of the procedure. So do your head and neck.
But the best is yet to come. You hold your face and jaw muscles tense most of the time. Right now, test how tight your face muscles really are. Consciously, let go of the muscles around your mouth, your jaws and eyelids, and practice a couple of times tensing and releasing them.

This is how you can tell whether your Significant Other is really asleep or trying to fool you. He wears a frown and seems to be grinding his teeth while awake. When he actually goes to sleep, his jaw drops and his brow smooths out, but you can still see the frown lines. You don’t shake 80 years of frowning in a few minutes.

Now. If you’re still awake, start over. Take each part of your body through the same drill. “Talk” to your joints and muscles, silently and calmly, and if they tense up again too often, be patient and let them work it out their own way.

I’m not a patient person, and I used to repeat this exercise without results, and was more than once ready to toss it. But suddenly I realized it was working. Dave said one night that I seemed to fall asleep the moment I turned my light off. I even got to the point where I could count seconds while progressing up my body, and was falling asleep in 15-20 seconds.

Now I love to “practice” so much that if I am wakened during the night, I take it as a gift to go through the process of getting back to sleep again.
Honestly, the only problem I’ve identified is that I hate getting up in the morning, always have. Never was a “morning person,” but I tend to stay up late and can easily sleep until 10. That doesn’t leave many hours in the day to write, work out, wrap gifts, cook, do laundry, read….

Another disclaimer I’d better offer is that I am on a lot of medication for my demon (Parkinson’s). I don’t feel drowsy or tired, however.

Whoa, that’s not true. I tire easily and usually take a nap rather late in the afternoon, as recommended by my neurologist. That’s not the same as being drowsy.
If anyone has a solution to that side of the issue – not wanting to get up, especially on a cold morning – I’ll pass it on.

Tell you what. Let’s just swap information and call it even. You tell me how to get up cheerfully and I’ll share your best suggestions.

Until then…. Nighty-night.

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