Psalm 127 says that there is no point to doing anything if God is not in it and if he did not ask me to do it. However, if he is in it, I need to get up at a reasonable time–enjoy my labor–quit when it is time to quit–and get a good nights’ sleep. Then I can take on tough jobs such as raising children.
Does this mean that if I can’t sleep then I am not resting in the Lord as well as those who can sleep? No, there are a lot of contributions from inherited problems to medical problems to legitimate high stress level to environmental contributions. Besides, yelling at myself for not sleeping is the best way to not sleep.
If you can’t sleep the first thing is to research healthy sleep habits:
1. Always start by thanking God for your problem with sleep. You are in good company.For example, king David did not sleep well.
2. Get up at the same time each day no matter when you go to sleep.
3. For an hour before bedtime have daily habits which signal your brain that you are preparing for sleep. These should be calming and Psalms 4 suggests that reviewing the day to give God thanks for what he has given you, enabled you to do, people he has worked through and in, new insight into how skillfully he has designed you, “accidents” he has arraigned to aid you and show you how much he is involved with you.
4. Psalm 5:1-3 As you drop off, promise God that the first thing he will hear from you in the morning is thanks that you are already dead to sin and alive to him and look forward to walking the day in his strength. If you just can’t quit worrying and reviewing negatives, work with a counselor to improve your ability to rest in the Lord.
5. No electronic devices unless you are wearing blue blocking glasses. The blue light in the devices signal the supra-chiasmic nucleus that it is high noon and you shouldn’t go to sleep. Your brain will not put out any melatonin if there is blue light hitting your eyes.
6. Focus on things calming and fairly “useless”. If you get a lot done by staying up too late, your mind will think that that is a good thing to repeat. The exception is reading the Bible or prayer. Psalm 42:8 119:148. Read things that are funny or interesting. Don’t do heavy exercising during this hour.If you do that, the devil will put you to sleep. Psalm 127 says, if God isn’t in it why do it and if he is, get up at a reasonable time, enjoy your work and quit when it is time to quit and get a good sleep.
7. Take care of distractions. When I lived in Alaska and had almost 24 hour sunlight, I covered the windows with aluminum foil and ran a fan to cover the noises of children playing outside at 2 am.
8.Most people go to sleep best in a cool room.
9. Don’t eat anything during this time. It may help you feel sleepy but then wake you up with heartburn during the night.
10. If you try to sleep and can’t, then get up after 15-20 min and go into another room and pray, read the Bible or read neutral things. If you stay and toss and turn, your brain will register that the bedroom is the toss and turn room and not the sleep room.
11. Never discuss or argue about anything with your spouse just before bed. (Subconsciously, some people pick a fight at the end of the day so that the other person will give in, in order to get some sleep.) Sometimes an important issue does pop up at this time and you are worried that it will be forgotten or swept under the rug if not dealt with then. Have a “Problem solving teamwork” book and write down the issue in it and set an hour each week in which to open the book and work to figure out A. Both peoples needs and B. How to include both people’s ideas about how to handle the situation. (Remember that if either of you “wins” you both lose because the “solution” will not work!)
12. Set an alarm you can trust and do not have a clock in the bedroom to stare at.
13. There are no proven herbals but it is OK to try teas. Just remember that most things need an hour to do anything.
14. There are NO really good medications but some are worth a try:
15. Melatonin works well for resetting the clock in your head if you travel to other time zones or if you sleep 8 hours but can’t get to sleep. Take the melatonin about an hour before you would like to go to sleep and it will over about 2 weeks slowly pull the sleep time back to the time you want. About one in ten take it and feel sleepy an hour later. Then about half will find gradual benefit after 2 weeks. Old people have trouble making enough and worry-worts use it up during the day trying to calm down. These have to replenish the supply in the brain. Never go over 10 mg as it can backfire and cause side effects. Long term use in children is not a good idea as melatonin is a hormone and no one knows what it might do to children who are growing and have crazy hormones to start with.
16. It is important to be aware that sleep oriented Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to work even better than medications.
17. If the above program does not work: try Trazodone 50-150 mg and hour before bed with melatonin. This is not addicting and should work long term if it works at all. Do not go over 150 mg or it will alert the rest of the brain and keep you up.
18. Restoril/ Temazepam works but often quits after 3 months. It activates the GABBA system in your brain which is calming. Of course, casting all your cares on God will lead to the same things but takes months to reprogram our ability to let go of worry.
19. Over the counter preparations usually have diphenhydramine in them which is fine for a day or two once in a while but usually quits after a week.
20. Zolpidem works and works fast and does not seem to quit but can cause sleep walking and seems to have thinking problems if used long term. The ordinary type only lasts 4 hours, so for middle of the night sleep you would need the long acting.
21. A great technique for middle of the night awakening is to take doxepin 10mg and dissolve the contents of the capsule and take 1/3 or about 3 mg an hour before bed but no more than three per week or it will quit.
22. Antidepressants can help with sleep as can dopamine 2 blockers but these are serious medications and should probably not be used just for sleep. However, if they treat an underlying psychiatric condition, that would help with sleep.
23. If there is a medical reason such as sleep apnea or high thyroid these must be checked out so the bottom line talk to your doctor and maybe get a referral to a sleep clinic.