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In frazzled times, sleep may be hard to come by

May 22, 2018

How’s your sleep these days? We have many constraints that affect how we do, or do not, doze off when our head hits the pillow at 10 or 11 or midnight.

Body aches, fits of nerves, diabetes (Type I or Type II now affecting nearly half the country), money worries, fears of what might happen at work or even in the family, or you name it. We are probably all battling one or more of these conditions, and our sleep quotient is likely at risk.

In my own case I’m battling arthritis, chronic sinus troubles and neuropathy in both legs. And hey, racing thoughts? I have majored in that since my college days. Also, since I ventured into my 70s, I find I get cold at night.

What to do?

Former newspaper healthcare editor that I am, I’m happy here to toss in a few ideas from personal experience in the Grace household.

A key sleep aid has been an electric far-infrared BioMat that you can set for high, medium or low. It’s more than a conventional heating pad, measures about 18 by 24 inches and for me, works best placed where my feet usually go.

The BioMat has been the perfect antidote to leg chills, which can even turn painful, from the neuropathy.

Until this discovery, I would frequently have to migrate to the living-room sofa and pile on more blankets than my wife would want to suffer.

As to my frequent need to counter nighttime congestion, I have come up with two workable solutions: inhaling a good dose of VapoRub in both nostrils and putting a plastic nasal strip across the bridge of my nose. These strips work wonders, opening the nasal passages to allow comfortable breathing even amid rather heavy congestion.

Over the counter decongestants may be added if necessary, but the VapoRub and the nasal strips in combination, at least in my case, usually help enough to bring on sleep.

I’ve also found that a glass of warm milk and a sliced-up apple, taken as a combo, have frequently worked to calm my mind and banish, or at least slow to a walk, all those racing thoughts.

As to pills, I have found a composite of natural ingredients that goes by the name of GABA Calm (Gamma-aminobutyric acid). Putting one or two under the tongue and letting them melt down and then be absorbed into the body has often done wonders for getting me to sleep after a bout of restless tossing and turning. (Note: GABA Calm is counter-indicated for people taking anti-depressant medication.)

Waking in the middle of the night for a bathroom break, some of us find it’s hard to return to sleep. In addition to warm milk, an apple and GABA Calm, a not-to-be-forgotten recourse is prayer.

Just reciting the Lord’s Prayer or other scripted prayers you know ought to help calm a frazzled spirit. So will quiet meditation or just asking God to help get you to sleep, reminding him that you’ll need the energy to be at your faithful best the next day.

I am not big on prescription drug remedies for coaxing the body to sleep. At the very least check the side effects and watch for any of them to show up. I realize that some cases can be extreme and need more than a shot of milk or some apple slices to relax the muscles and nerve endings and allow for shut eye. Just be careful.

John Patrick Grace served as healthcare editor for The Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record several decades ago. He is now a book editor and publisher based in Huntington and teaches the Life Writing Class.