Sleep Strategies: How To Find The Elusive Restful Night

Sheep by Anne Marie Cunningham


Second In A Two-Part Series

by Kim Keller

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta reports that “an estimated 50-70 million adults in the United States have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders.”

Staggering number, isn’t it?

On one hand, I suppose it’s nice to know I’m not alone. (As I detailed in my previous blog, sleeplessness started tormenting me about eight years ago, during my father’s health ordeal, and I’ve found it difficult to get a good night’s sleep pretty much ever since.) But sleep deprivation is more than just a maddening debilitation. According to the CDC, “Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic.”

People with varying forms of insomnia not only face a reduced quality of life and productivity, but they’re also more apt to develop chronic illnesses, such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and even obesity. Sleep insufficiency has been linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and a variety of other dangerous occupational errors.

The CDC offers a few solid suggestions:

1) Have a regular sleep schedule,
2) Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, and
3) Steer clear of nicotine.

In Care of Dad has a few suggestions as well, ideas we’ve collected from friends and colleagues who have their own private sleep remedies. On Tuesday we published the first half of the sleep tips.

Now the second half:

“If I’m having trouble getting to sleep, I try not to have any screen time at least 45 minutes before I go to bed. No screens of any kind, including the phone. No bright lights or loud sounds. Also helpful is chamomile and lavender tea, both of which are delicious. Maybe a couple cups in the evening, a nice hot tub with Epsom salts and low lighting. If I need to just calm myself down, then deep, long breaths lying in bed usually quiets my busy mind. When I remember, I try to catalog all the wonderful things that happened to me that day — it’s usually more than you think!”  ~Juliet from Berkeley, CA

“Lie on your back, get comfortable, breathe deep and start at your toes, working your way up the body to the top of your head. Breathe in, breathe out, focus on each breath. Repeat. Works for me.”  ~Jane from Darien, CT

“Someone gave me this good advice once: He said, ‘Don’t tell yourself you have to fall asleep. Just tell yourself you have to keep your eyes closed.’ That always works for me. I just keep my eyes closed, and eventually I become really still and fall asleep. Another trick I use is to say to myself, ‘If I don’t fall back asleep, then I have to get up and do something productive, like filing things.’ Then I always manage to fall asleep just to avoid that task.”  ~Gabrielle from Scarsdale, NY

“The subconscious mind responds to ritual. So here are a few nighttime rituals for anxious thoughts: Do a ‘turning over’ ritual by writing the thoughts down in a journal or putting them in a worry box on slips of paper. Ask for help from the universe, The Divine Power, Your Higher Self, to hold the energy for you until morning so you can rest.

Alternatively, if you are woken up in the middle of the night and your thoughts are racing, writing down your thoughts and fears is more beneficial than simply letting them race through your mind. Having someone you can speak your worries to during the day helps as well. I was fortunate, when my mom was ailing, to have friends who were going through or had recently gone through the same thing. Speaking those forbidden thoughts to a trusted friend really helped.

Avoid any disturbing television shows and news before bed. Anything that highlights the negativity or darkness in the world doesn’t help, especially when you are struggling with a family crisis to begin with.”  ~Carol from Los Angeles, CA

“I use a technique that I learned in yoga to help me sleep. Once, when I was holding a difficult pose, wanting it to be over because my muscles were burning with pain, my instructor suggested that I shift my focus to something that makes me happy. I find this also works to help me fall asleep. So, when I lie awake with a million things on my mind, I choose to think about pottery. I start planning what I’m going to make next and think of new ideas, and I fall asleep happy. This always works.”  ~sister Karen from Stamford, CT

Many of our friends find success with guided meditations. Here are some of their favorite ideas:

“So many times when I’ve been troubled, and sleep is elusive, I’ve been lulled to sleep, or at least into deep rest, by listening to Vandita Kate Marchesiello’s “Ram Chant.” It’s a beautiful lullaby on her CD Transform, Relax, & Rejuvenate, a deeply restorative relaxation guided by Vandita. The guided relaxation is wonderful, too, but all I need is the last track of the chant to soothe my soul. Om Shanti!”  ~Ann from Norwalk, CT

“I use the body scan meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn. It’s sort of an off-label use. You aren’t really supposed to fall asleep when doing it during the day.”  ~Jacob from New York, NY

“I use an app on my iPhone from HealthJourneys called “Sleep Help.” Part guided meditation and part soothing music, it’s supposed to give you a restful night of sleep. I love it. It costs $11.99, and I think it’s worth every penny.”  ~Christine from Hampton Bays, NY

“I listen to a variety of guided mediations. Regardless of the content, I find them calming, and they take my mind off the endless voice in my head. I recommend sampling a few to find a voice that you find soothing and restful. Here are some I like: Jack Kornfield, Meditation for Beginners; Marianne Williamson, Meditations for a Miraculous Life. I just listened to Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health series, which I enjoyed. There are a couple of free podcast meditations on iTunes that I also like: Guided Meditation for Deep Rest, by Mary and Richard Maddux, and Insomnia Relief, by Lita Stone.”  ~Ann from Los Angeles, CA

Caring for others often adds an additional level of stress that makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Ironically, it’s also a time when you really need the rest in order to have the patience, tenacity and alertness needed to care for a loved one with a serious illness.

Sweet dreams, if you can find them.


Kim Keller is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad. She lives and works in New York City.

The photo was taken by Anne Marie Cunningham.

One Response to “Sleep Strategies: How To Find The Elusive Restful Night”

  1. […] Get Rest — The converse to number 15 is also true. Sleep is a great healer. For the longest time I just accepted the notion that I wasn’t a good sleeper, that I wasn’t blessed with that particular gift. But in recent years I’ve come to realize that my inability to sleep well was just another bad habit I needed to break. So I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into the subject, and that prompted a number ofIn Care of Dad articles. These, in particular, I found helpful. Take a look. Sleep Strategies Part One and Part Two. […]