How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The “I think I can” school of insomnia relief
I was a career soldier in the insomnia wars. “Wonder if it’s the top of the hour and I can catch the 3 a.m. SVU from the start,” was my first thought as I snapped awake in the wee hours night after night. My method was grin and bear it; I figured insomnia was the dues -paying part of a full and busy life.
Then Dr. Phil Eichling at Canyon Ranch in Tucson sets me straight. He sends me to his sleep lab for a night, all wired up with electrodes. No problems there. I don’t have apnea or restless leg syndrome, nor do I suffer from teeth-grinding or TMJ. I’m just a garden variety non-sleeper.
For me, Dr. Phil prescribes not Ambien but Zen – counting your breaths from one to 10, over and over again. “It stops your mind from racing and basically bores you to sleep.” He urges me to think about my bed in a different way: as a refuge rather than a war zone. “Yeah, right,” I think, padding out of his sleep lab, wondering if Mariska will have the good short hair tonight or the bad shoulder-length do.
Back at home, though, I become a believer. I am feeling serene in my bed as I take time each evening to appreciate both my surroundings (the cozy bed in our little farmhouse with the forest all around) and my life (wonderful friends and family, everybody healthy, interesting work) and sleeping much better. When I do wake up, I bore myself back to sleep. The answer is like Dumbo, for whom the feather isn’t magic; what propels him aloft is his belief that he can fly. The ultimate cure for insomnia is believing you can sleep. Easier said than done, I’ll grant you, but there you have it.