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Dr. Joanne Whitaker

3 keys to better sleep

When was the last time you got a really good night of deep sleep? Sleep is a soothing tonic for anyone suffering with Lyme symptoms, yet peaceful snoozing can be elusive when you're in pain.

3 keys to better sleep:

1 - Therapeutic massage. Gentle, healing touch can help you relax and get a better night's sleep. Massage is helpful in lowering the anxiety which naturally arises when you have Lyme symptoms. Just the simple act of being touched with compassionate intention can be healing in and of itself. Before you make an appointment with a professional massage therapist, talk over your situation with them. Be certain you can communicate your needs clearly. She or he should be made aware of your illness and your threshold for pressure.

The Bowen Technique, developed by Dr JoAnne Whitaker, is similar in principle to acupuncture. It is a type of gentle massage designed to unblock energy and help the body maintain equilibrium so that healing can take place. Many people struggling with Fibromyalgia and CFS/ME report that this technique has accelerated their healing. (Incidentally, Dr Whitaker is one of the experts I interviewed for the LDRD Interviews with Experts series.)

2 - Maintain a regular schedule. Go to bed and rise at the same time every night and day. Even on the weekends. This is a good health-habit to cultivate even for people who aren't sick. Former surgeon Dr Christine Horner, author of Waking the Warrior Goddess: Harnessing the Power of Nature & Natural Medicines to Achieve Extraordinary Health, which received the “Best Book of the Year” for 2005 award from the Independent Book Publishers association in the category of health, medicine and nutrition, strongly believes in the body's innate ability to heal from any disease. Dr Horner recommends going to bed no later than 10 pm and rising at 6 am each day. (Note: LDRD members, please read the transcript of my interview with her, or listen to the audio version.)

Keeping a regular sleeping schedule helps your body to regulate its other autonomic functions, eating and making bowel movements. All of this can lead to more effective healing therapy. In addition, I'm a big fan of afternoon snoozing, and I usually get in about 20 minutes to one hour, daily. I'm convinced that my napping habit saved me during the worst of my illness. However, if you struggle with insomnia, you might get better results at night by limiting your naptime during the day.

3 - Allow yourself time to wind down before bedtime. This is a personal challenge for me. I'm either online with work or friends, or deep in conversation with my favorite person in the world, my partner Evan. I'm also a natural night owl, so if you are too, I'm sure you can relate. It can be tough to find the discipline to slow down at night, especially if you aren't in the thick of the disease and your mind is back to working order.

Cultivating a meditation practice, simply using breathing techniques from your yoga class, or relaxing in bed with an inspiring book can do wonders. Don't exercise for up to three hours before bedtime. Avoid stimulating drinks--especially during the afternoon and evening. No alcohol. Take a warm bath, and listen to soothing music. Let your loved ones know that they can help by gently rubbing your shoulders or neck. Stretching your arms and legs slowly and methodically before you get into bed can signal your body that it's time to drop off into dreamland.
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