As an alternative health care practitioner I treat insomnia all the time. It is without question one of the major health concerns of our time. There are many approaches that range from drugs (not a good idea,) to acupuncture, herbs, and cognitive behavioral therapy. All of these help somewhat. The problem is none of them, in my experience, really address the heart of the issue so that we can consistently get deep restorative sleep. What’s going on?
I may have inadvertently tripped over an answer to this question when I moved recently and found myself without a television. In my previous tiny apartment I had a small tv which suited my need for movie watching. I used to smugly tell people that “I don’t watch tv, only movies.” The problem was though, that I LOVE movies. I mean the best part of my day was updating my netflix list. So I certainly didn’t consider myself a tv addict. But as life stressors piled on, I found myself watching a movie almost every night, just to relax and escape a bit. Fine. I also maintained a qigong and meditation practice, exercised, ate a healthy diet etc., so I felt like I was diligent in my healthy sleep hygiene.
But to be truthful, I just wasn’t sleeping all that well. Too many restless nights of tossing and turning and finding myself grumpy and worn in the morning. So when I arrived at my new house (much bigger than my previous spare abode,) I left my tiny tv packed figuring when I had time I’d get a bigger one that I could actually see from the couch.
Then the miracle happened. I started dropping every night into the most delicious deep and restorative sleep. With no tv I sat by the fire each night reading until I felt sleepy, then trundled off to bed, and barely stirred until dawn. Now I could be wrong and this is by no means a scientific experiment, but my contention is that all that electronic stimulation before bed was affecting my nervous system so that I just stayed a little hyped all night. After all, electronic energy is a type of fire energy in Chinese medicine. Perhaps this is a major contributor to our epidemic of insomnia. Who among us just sits quietly in the fading light of the day anymore, allowing the evening to soothe us into a deep restful sleep? I would say most of us are either watching tv, (and yes, movies,) answering email, or in some way keeping our electronic devices humming right up to bedtime.
So I invite you to try a little experiment. Turn everything off starting around 6 p.m. Yes, I mean everything. Turn a single reading light on, and read a little poetry. Let yourself get bored and sleepy. I for one, have actually canceled my netflix account. Sweet dreams.