Sleep is a part of mental health which is related to physical health and illness. A study found the correlation between sleep deprivation and risk of stroke. The results showed that sleep duration of 7-8 hours/day or less was associated with increased risk of stroke. The Japan Collaborative Cohort (JACC) study found that sleep deprivation was associated with increased mortality from coronary heart disease and all causes
Sleep is associated with melatonin and serotonin which are hormones secreted by the pineal gland in the brain relating to biological clock which is a virtual clock in the brain. This clock can detect sunlight and darkness and secrete hormones causing you to feel sleepy or awake according to sunlight and darkness.
Therefore, sunlight influences sleepy and awake feelings. The results of a study in cadavers who had just passed away showed that red light of sunlight could penetrate all parts of the body even skull, soft tissue of the brain, the middle of the brain. The intensity level of the light can be used to easily read a book by the naked eyes.
In case you have insomnia, you should do as follows :
- Reduce or stop drinking coffee because coffee is a cause of insomnia Even tea may cause insomnia in some cases.
- Stop medications causing insomnia. In case you are taking many medications that can cause insomnia, you must try to stop one by one medication per month, before deciding which medication causes insomnia. In a case of sleeping pills, you should not use it for more than 6 months because all kinds of sleeping pills are safe for short-term but they should not be used for over 6 months. You should avoid using sleeping pills continuously for years.
Take some time to examine the function of the thyroid gland (FT4 and TSH) because the high levels of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) cause sleeplessness.
- Do cognitive therapy. The common belief that everyone needs to sleep for 8 hours/day is incorrect because the need for sleep is different in each person. Someone is enthusiastic all day although he/she sleeps 7 hours/day. If you adhere to 8 hours/day, it can make you sick unnecessarily. Another belief that if you are sleepless but are conscious without distraction you will wake up with whacked feeling is incorrect because the physical and mental relaxation you get with good mindfulness and meditation without distraction can affect the body like a sleep, despite not actually falling asleep
Modify your habits or sleep hygiene as follow;
- Go to bed when it is bedtime and wake up when it is time to wake up. Set your schedule of when you have to eat when you have to take a medication, when you have to exercise- for familiarity.
- Do not spend extra time in bed after waking up.
Wake up when you feel you have slept enough. Do not try to lie in bed further to compensate for previous sleepless days.
- Avoid daytime naps. If it is necessary, take a short nap, do not nap over 1 hour and do not nap after 3 p.m.
Create a comfortable sleep environment in the bedroom such as dimming the light before going to bed and making it dark when it is bedtime and keeping your bedroom quiet, cool with good ventilation and having clean and dry accessories (pillow case, flat sheet, blanket, etc.) in bed.
- Do not work or do any activities in bed such as watching TV, reading a book, eating snacks, playing cards, planning, etc.
- Stop working or doing activities 30 minutes before bedtime. Slow down everything, relax the body and mind, wear pajamas, listen to easy listening music or read a good book. Do not watch exciting or thrilling TV programs before bedtime.
- Avoid activities that stimulate the mind, emotion, or the body before bedtime. Do not talk about serious subjects. Do not do intensive-exercises before bedtime. Dim the light, turn down the music so the body can prepare for bedtime.
- Do not eat a big meal before bedtime. However, do not let yourself hungry when it is bedtime.
- Do moderate-exercise every day. The best time for exercise is afternoon or evening. You can choose but it should not be after 7 p.m. because if you exercise just before bedtime, the body is in active mode and it is difficult to sleep.
- Don’t force yourself to sleep. If you cannot sleep within 15-30 minutes, you should get up and do relaxing activities such as read a book in a room where there is not too much bright light or watch a relaxing TV program until you feel sleepy again. Do not keep checking the time as you may become worried that tomorrow will be worse if you cannot sleep tonight.
- Remove things that can disturb or cause worry such as alarm clock, mobile phone.
Practice relaxation. Practice muscles relaxation at cool-down time – at the end of the exercise. Practice thought and mind relaxation with meditation. Keep in mind that you will be sleepless if your body or your thoughts are still stressful. Keep practicing daily, and do it for long-term.
When you have done all of the above, you should reduce sleep duration, It means that you need to note how long do you really sleep and how long are you still awake? Then you reduce sleep duration for only the real sleep time. Reduce sleep duration by going to bed late but wake up at the same time without having a nap in the daytime (except napping shortly in the afternoon for elderly persons). When the quality of sleep gets better, gradually increase sleep duration as necessary.
If you have tried all of above methods and it does not work for you, you may try to use the method suggested by a monk. He advised that we should take sleeping time as if “being close to death”. He taught to be ready to die when the time to die truly comes and die with mindfulness to be reborn in a good world. However, we can use that method to treat insomnia without bothering with where you will be reborn. The technique is telling you seriously and accepting seriously at bedtime that, when you fall asleep, you will die. Yes! Die surely and you have no chance to wake up anymore.
You are just left with a few minutes before death so you must not be worried about any remaining problems in your life because you do not have time to solve them. You pass away and you never know whether next life is real. It is as if you are going into a dark tunnel. Therefore, you should always be conscious of the remaining time so that you will not freak out when you enter the dark tunnel.
Check periodically that you are breathing in, you are breathing out and observe your mind. Do not die accidentally when your mind wanders, otherwise you will become jinn (hungry ghost), you will sleep easily for sure. When you wake up unintentionally at midnight and you want to sleep again, you just try the technique of “being close to death” by observing your mind and without letting your mind wander. If you follow a wandering mind, it is difficult to sleep, in contrast, if you do not follow it, you will sleep easily.