About the Author
Sondra Kornblatt is a health writer and blogger for the Huffington Post. She is the author of A Better Brain at Any Age (16,000 copies sold), Restful Insomnia, and Brain Fitness for Women, published by Conari Press. She lives in the Seattle area. Visit her at www.brainfitnessforwomen.com.
Read an Excerpt
HOW to GET THE BENEFITS of SLEEP EVEN WHEN YOU CAN'T
By Sondra Kornblatt
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2010 Sondra Kornblatt
All rights reserved.
The Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind—Who's Driving the Van?
It is the mind that makes the body.
MY CLIENT TOM BRUSHED HIS TEETH, put on his red plaid flannel PJs, and snuggled under the comforter next to his sleeping wife. He was definitely ready for bed after a long day at his insurance business. He tried to read Master and Commander, which he loved when he was younger, but he was too sleepy to get through the first chapter. It'll be a good weekend read, he thought as he turned off the lamp.
Tom's eyes closed as he listened to Linda's breathing. Quiet, dark, restful ... Terrific, I'm falling asleep. His thoughts drifted to gardening, his next surfing adventure, his upcoming anniversary as he settled into the bed.
Shoot! He forgot to call the landlord to renegotiate the lease. The payment for quarterly taxes was due tomorrow. They had a teacher conference for their daughter at three fifteen, right before his team meeting at four.
Needless to say, Tom's eyes were no longer closed. He was too tired to turn the lamp back on, and there was really nothing to do tonight about anything. So he lay in bed and wondered whether the negotiation strategies on his desk covered all the bases, if they should talk to the teacher about that girl bullying their daughter, and if he needed to transfer money from his savings for the taxes.
His body wanted to sleep, but his mind had taken over. Actually, it was his Conscious Mind that took over, focused on getting things done, just like it did during the day.
Letting Go of the Restless Mind
You probably know that your mind can keep you from rest at night—especially if you've been kept awake by the "restless mind" touted in pharmaceutical ads. However, with Restful Insomnia you have more options than medicine to let you and your mind rest.
This book is about those options, about how to step aside from the Conscious Mind at night and focus instead The Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind on the restful dreaminess of the Unconscious Mind. Unfortunately, there is no on-off mind switch (other than sleep or anesthesia). However, you can invite this shift of focus; it just takes practice.
This chapter clarifies my definition of the Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind. It also talks about how the Conscious Mind takes charge during the day while the Unconscious Mind takes over at night—and how that affects the body.
The Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind
You listen to your chattering mind all day and many restless nights. It chatters off orders, concerns, plans, and analyses even if your body's pooped: "You didn't finish the bills today; You should decide this quarter's strategy after you read the marketing report; Go to sleep already!"
That chattering mind is your Conscious Mind. It thrives on being productive and in charge. It has goals, connects us with our community, and follows and creates rules.
The Conscious Mind is convinced that it's the boss, the head honcho, the one-and-only chief. This is especially true during insomnia, when it ignores the other side: the wisdom of the Unconscious Mind.
The Unconscious Mind is a storehouse that holds your experiences, memories, beliefs, and desires. It communicates in images, sounds, dialogues, smells, textures, and sensations. The Unconscious Mind generates dreams, creativity, and intuition as well as automatic body processes, such as blinking and breathing. It shapes your perception of reality and underlies your beliefs about life and yourself.
Imagine life with just the Conscious Mind: we're robots without creativity or a heart. Imagine life with just the Unconscious Mind: we're lost, like Alzheimer's patients. There's a natural balance between the Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind, and between the cycles of day and night.
During the day, the Conscious Mind holds court. I see the Conscious Mind driving a minivan—full of kids, a briefcase, dry cleaning, groceries, sports equipment, and a to-do list trailing out the window.
The Conscious Mind doesn't drive alone, though. Sitting in the passenger seat is the Unconscious Mind—navigating. It suggests paths to follow, connects the tasks to a bigger picture, and may create obstacles (if the plan doesn't meet familiar beliefs). The Unconscious Mind is actually guiding the van—but let's keep that a secret from the Conscious Mind.
At night, the balance changes: the Conscious Mind rests, and the Unconscious Mind leads. The Unconscious Mind leaves the minivan behind to guide a sturdy raft through moonlit water. It tells stories of the day to the sleepy Conscious Mind—odd stories filled with experiences from the day and from years before, images from movies and emotions, and perhaps possibilities for the future.
The raft floats to islands where it drops off old baggage and gathers new information. The night journey cleans the slate and then prepares the Conscious Mind for tomorrow.
In sleep we transform from the minivan to the raft, from to-do tension to dreamy relaxation. But in insomnia, we don't let go. The Conscious Mind—the restless mind—demands order and organization, just as it does during the day.
Restful Insomnia techniques help your Conscious Mind rest so you can follow the dreamy and creative Unconscious Mind. You're mimicking the natural pathway from day to night, allowing the mind and body to balance and renew.
Balance of the Minds
Here's how I discovered the mind-body balance during my many sleepless hours
I explored the body's perspective on insomnia. I started with the different body sensations that resulted from physical stimuli (caffeine, hormones, or too long a nap during the day). Next I explored where I experienced emotional states (anger in the jaw, fear in the stomach, sadness in the chest). Then I explored how different mental states changed my body as well.
Here's an example. My husband and I were quarrelling, except he was asleep and I had the full-blown quarrel in my head. I kept going over the argument again and again, on a quest to find the perfect zinger. One where he'd say, "You're right, I'm sorry. I'll change." Unfortunately, the husband in my head kept defeating my zingers with new responses, and there I was: awake in the mental pinball machine of impossible resolution. (You can learn more about situations like this one in chapter 9, "Change Your Mind.")
Then I heard acceptance whisper, "Your mind is stuck. Focus on your body."
Hell, no. I wanted to fix my husband, not me. Still, I hated being awake. All right, I'll try. To change direction was like steering a semitruck after the front tires blew out.
My body ... I know I have one. Inhale. I noticed how my stomach clenched, my teeth locked, my hands curled. Exhale. The tension around my heart loosened a millimeter ... a little space around the rage. My body sensations kept shifting and moving. I felt like I was watching an anger aquarium in my body. Look, a spitting-mad tetra ... the not-my-fault carp ... the you-forget-stuff-too hatchet fish.
I rested into dreamy odd sensations and let my body experience the anger without trying to fix it. I think I'm falling asleep.
My mental alarm clock went off. Now I'm not falling asleep. I was so close.... I should just get up and answer my old e-mail or pay the bills.
What was the reaction to my buzzing mind? I felt my head, like it was buzzing, like the sensation you get after you rub your palms briskly together. My brain was charged like a halogen bulb on high.
Weird and curious. Did thinking I'm falling asleep make my head buzz and wake me up? In that moment, I realized that insomnia was being driven by my thoughts, and Restful Insomnia started by my thoughts and paying attention to my body.
I had a lot of time to explore how the Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind work. Like how the Conscious Mind can chase the connection to sleep away. Or how to step aside from the Conscious Mind. I discovered that altering the relationship with one's mind is a key to soothing the body at night. I could see it in my husband.
The Minds of Restful Insomnia
My husband was great at letting go of the Conscious Mind at night. If something bugged him, he'd just figure that the problem would get resolved in some way, somehow, someday—and fall asleep.
However, for me, and for many of my clients, the Conscious Mind is too active at night to just stop thinking, worrying, and planning. It needs something to replace its manic anxiety and help it fall back behind the Unconscious Mind. The Restful Insomnia techniques use the environment, the body, emotions, spiritual views, and new mental perspectives to change the mind in the middle of the night.
Here are some examples of these techniques, described fully later in the book:
Distract the Conscious Mind by counting sheep—or blessings.
Do a relaxation exercise, but not to fall asleep. Instead, relax to appreciate the body at night.
Create a soothing stash of items with a Night Nest. (See chapter 4, "Creating a Night Nest.")
Develop a body-focused Evening Ritual—a habit to help your body remember the dusk. (See chapter 5, "Evening Rituals.")
The Conscious Mind may resist at first—remember, its job is to be in charge and plan, worry, and think. Over time, though, it will find that the Unconscious Mind really helps it solve problems, change, and accept the unexpected.
Your Conscious Mind Learns
When my client Tom started looking for techniques to help him bring his Unconscious Mind to the fore, his Conscious Mind said, "Hell no, I'm in charge, and I can do what needs to be done." However, Tom's Conscious Mind started to sense that the Unconscious Mind actually helped it function better, and his body started to rest.
In the following chapters, I will show you techniques that re-adjust the balance between your Conscious Mind and your Unconscious Mind so that you can rest and renew during the night.
What's the Problem?
Insomnia: a contagious disease often transmitted from babies to parents.
MY FRIEND MALLORY went to an acupuncturist one day for help with a long bout of insomnia. The acupuncturist, Dr. Chen, held her fingers on Mallory's pulses for over a minute and then inspected her tongue, top and bottom. Dr. Chen looked for causes of insomnia—weak liver, heart, or spleen meridians—not recognized in the traditional Western perspective. Homeopaths also look for subtle symptoms of insomnia such as time of insomnia, chills, stress, visions, and more. Whatever approach, something is keeping your natural ability to sleep or rest off your radar. Identifying the causes, even if there's nothing to be done about them, helps you understand who you are in the night. Who you are, combined with your environment, food intake, ability to breathe, tension, allergies, medicine, and other things that may interrupt your sleep.
It's helpful to know you have considerable sleepless company. Prescriptions for sleeping pills have increased by 60 percent in six years. Luxury mattresses sell for ten to twenty thousand dollars. One-third of American adults have trouble falling or staying asleep, and of those, half, or more than thirty-five million, have chronic insomnia, defined as poor sleep every night or most nights, according to the National Sleep Foundation. More women than men have insomnia, and its incidence increases as the population ages. Insomnia affects exhausted drivers, salesclerks, and coworkers.
This chapter describes the medical view of insomnia, together with suggested traditional and alternative cures. (If you can fix your insomnia, you might as well.) The chapter also explains how Restful Insomnia goes beyond medical remedies to help you change your relationship to sleepless nights. And it offers Restful Insomnia perspectives on some ignored causes of insomnia, from hunger to the gotta-do mind.
Once you have a better sense of what's going on at night, your mind can stop trying to figure it all out and get some rest.
What Is Insomnia?
"What is insomnia?" is a silly question for anyone who can't sleep. As French writer Marie de Rabutin-Chantal said, "There are twelve hours in the day, and more than fifty in the night."
However, it's helpful to understand how medicine, especially sleep medicine, defines the problem. (Sleep-medicine physicians, usually pulmonologists, focus on sleep issues ranging from breathing disorders to narcolepsy—falling asleep rapidly in daytime situations, such as driving.)
Sleep doctors describe three types of insomnia:
Transient insomnia lasts only a night or two. It is usually caused by some outside influence—sleeping in a strange bed, perhaps in a hotel room; worrying about a big presentation you have to make in the morning; having trouble getting to sleep on Christmas Eve as a child.
Short-term insomnia can last from a few days to a few weeks. Stress, poor sleep habits, premenstrual syndrome, or jet lag can bring this on. So can worry about things like health, business, and relationships.
Chronic insomnia occurs many nights of the week. It may last for months or years and sometimes starts in early childhood. The resultant loss of sleep causes many health and cognitive problems.
As you know from your own experience, not getting enough sleep or rest creates problems like worsening moods and irritability; excessive daytime sleepiness; diminished coordination, memory, concentration, and decision- making ability; increased frequency of colds; and weight gain.
Although acupuncture and homeopathy identify alternative causes of insomnia, the traditional medical causes are these:
Physical ailments: Breathing or muscle disorders such as sleep apnea or restless legs (unavoidable urge to shake or move legs or other body parts; more pronounced near bedtime), reflux, arthritis, asthma, allergies, and diabetes.
Environmental factors: Interruptions, discomforts, jet lag, penetrating light, and sleep hygiene. (Sleep hygiene is a term created during the turn of the last century and means keeping regular sleeping hours.)
Emotional factors: Stress, intense emotional reactions, depression, and psychiatric disorders.
Other factors: Misuse of sleeping pills, use of stimulants, and side effects of medication.
Not sleeping may mean more than irritable nights and sleepy days. It could be a symptom of a larger health issue, and these are times that you should talk to your doctor.
Depression. Insomnia is one of the most common symptoms of depression at any age. Some people hit a depressed wall a few months after a difficult situation or loss and don't realize they're still carrying the effects. Counseling and medication can ease the blues.
Thyroid problems. Usually too much thyroid, but sleep cycles can be interrupted with too little thyroid as well.
Hypertension. High blood pressure can be caused by and lead to a feeling of tension, contributing to insomnia.
Kidney disease, arthritis, asthma, heart failure. These conditions and treatments may make it hard to fall and stay asleep.
Sleep-wake-cycle disorder. Your internal circadian rhythm is off.
Sleep apnea. If you snore, if you've been told that you stop breathing for short periods during your sleep, or if you wake up tired even though you sleep through the night, you may have sleep apnea, which can be life threatening.
Other problems. See your doctor if you experience excessive sleepiness during the day; if you find that you fall asleep at inappropriate moments (like when you're operating machinery such as electric saws, carving knives, or automobiles); if you have pain or uncomfortable "creepy" feelings in your legs (restless leg syndrome); or if you walk or make aggressive movements in your sleep. All of these may be related to medical conditions that can be treated by your physician.
Use your doctor to rule out—and treat—physical factors or medication interactions that may be making it harder for you to sleep. If your physician has not been trained in treating sleep disorders, ask for a referral.
The Promise of Insomnia Cures
How can you cure insomnia? Aerobic exercise before 8 P.M. might solve all your sleep problems. Or you may try all the remedies you've found in books and on the Internet, and still look up more on the Net in the middle of the night. Having recommended and experienced rounds of insomnia remedies, I've found they have individual success, just like individual orders at a coffee shop: you like a grande latte with caramel syrup on the bottom not stirred and nonfat dry-foam milk, and your friend likes herbal tea with no sugar. Same thing if you try an insomnia remedy such as calcium, sleep hygiene, or the Sleep Number bed. It might work for your best friend but not for you.
Excerpted from RESTFUL INSOMNIA by Sondra Kornblatt. Copyright © 2010 Sondra Kornblatt. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: An Endarkened Insomniac Sees the Light 15
1 The Conscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind-Who"s Driving the Van? 25
2 What's the Problem? 35
3 Reframing and Using Insomnia 51
4 Creating a Night Nest 61
5 Evening Rituals 75
6 Getting into Your Body 89
7 Night Yoga 99
8 A New Relationship with Pain and Discomfort 113
9 Change Your Mind 127
10 Resting with Meditation 141
11 Emotions and Touch 155
12 Wisdom Writing 169
13 Finding Your Spiritual Center 177
14 Grounding 187
15 Positive Focus 195
16 Taking Restful Insomnia Insights into Sleep and the Day 211
Bibliography and Resources 219
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For the most part I liked this book. I have read a lot about insomnia since I have suffered from it myself for many years, and this book did offer some new and interesting tips for dealing with it. It provides a new frame of reference for thinking about sleep and insomnia. What I found frustrating is that the organization of the book is difficult to follow. In the beginning chapters there are many references to later chapters, which was annoying. It seems that the book should have been organized so that the chapters are not constantly referencing things the reader hasn't read yet. The other problem is that several of the techniques are not fully explained and the reader is told to read other resources. It would make more sense to have more fully explained the techniques so the reader didn't have to read yet another book to truly understand the techniques. Other than these issues, I think the book could be quite helpful to people who have trouble sleeping. Even if you've read a lot of other books on sleep, it's likely you'll find some new things here.
I just spent all night in a state of "restless wakefulness." got up and ate a piece of toast, watched some tv, finally drifted off at around 6 am this morning and woke up at 8am feeling like a zombie. This was after reading "Restful Insomnia". There are many helpful hints, most of which I have tried before. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. The directions for the 'hip opening' exercizes frustrated the heck out of me. The book seemed to me to be a compilation of magazine articles stretched out into a book. It could have been half the size.
As a long-time insomniac, I was skeptical that this book could add anything new to the suggestions I've gotten over the years from dozens of magazine articles, TV talk shows, and medical advice columns. I was pleasantly surprised. For me, the most important piece of advice in this book was merely re-framing the way I think about not sleeping. I no longer lie in bed stressing about how tired I'm going to be, but can relax.
I run groups in a program for people that are dually diagnosed with a mental illness and chemical addiction so I¿m always on the look out for new material.Many of the people have sleep disorders so I was pleased to get this book. This book was filled with great tips and facts that were easily understandable on all levels once I waded through all the extra Fluff. I use a lot of work books and while this isn't laid out as well as many the Information is provided to help create a plan for if not sleeping through the night at least resting. The book offers solutions to help begin to take control of your nights.
This was a very useful, engaging read. Suffering from chronic insomnia myself, scoring this book was a nice snag. The techniques and exercises listed within are clear and easy to follow, truly helping to take the immense frustration out of not being able to sleep. Well worth reading for those who are chronically awake and those who only suffer the occasional bout of insomnia.
I have been a chronic insomniac for about 7 years now. This book had many wonderful, useful suggestions for making insomnia less frustrating (which it most certainly is!). Using the exercises and techniques in the book, I managed to find rest even when I didn't find sleep, which was a godsend as half the frustration is not being 'asleep' when you feel you are 'supposed' to be asleep. My favorite was building a Night Nest. Wonderful, wonderful book!