Insomnia could be called the 21st century disease. Falling asleep, staying asleep and getting enough sleep is ever more difficult, especially as one gets older – and everyone is getting older.
Couple this with the increasing number of studies that show that lack of sufficient sleep is a major contributor to ill health. Now we stay awake worrying about not getting our sleep!
Many causes are mentioned for our inability to doze peacefully at night. One is not getting enough exercise and another is getting too much vigorous exercise too late in the day. Drinking too much coffee, alcohol or even water (think bathroom visits) might keep us awake.
And screen time is very often blamed. Apparently, the kind of light our various electronics emit convinces some primitive part of our brain that it’s still daytime and we should be active rather than at rest.
But it may not be the blue light from our screens that keeps us awake and restless. It may be the content our devices deliver:
- We see hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
- Terrorists and terrorism always make the headlines.
- A day doesn’t pass without political leaders saying and/or doing something really dumb.
- We’re endlessly reminded about murders, kidnapping and other crimes.
- Even commercials contribute to our unease by subtly implying that we’re not good enough unless we buy whatever they’re selling.
Our uncertain, crazy world can lead to more than insomnia. Psychologist Larry Green notes that it can lead to panic attacks and depression, resulting in a diminishing sense of self and decreased ability to cope with life.
However, he offers two helpful ideas to help us deal with the world around us. One involves how we interact with others and the other concerns how we treat ourselves.
The first prescription Green offers to move from pandemonium to peace is civility. Manners help. Talking politely rather than cussing in every sentence really makes a difference, as does avoiding name calling and bullying.
Almost all faith traditions have some version of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We all want to be treated politely, considerately and with respect. We should start treating others that way and, through our schools, the ballot box and other means, encourage this kind of behaviour in our children, our leaders and the general population.
A medieval rabbi named Hillel suggested an easy way to apply the golden rule. He said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others.”
There will always be endless debate about what’s good and how to do it. However, most of us are very clear on what we don’t like. Being yelled at and being ignored are two things that come to mind. Making sure that we don’t do to others what we don’t want done to us will go a long way to bringing more civility and civilization into our world and our lives.
Treating ourselves better is very simple. All we have to do is remember that we’re human. Anxiety often arises when we stop thinking of ourselves as human beings and think of ourselves as human doings. We have to be doing something and the thought of doing steals our peace of mind.
Ironically, dwelling on doing often makes us less able to get anything done. Instead, we worry about what we have or haven’t done in the past and what we should be doing in the future.
Green feels that taking time out to stop doing and just be goes far in and eliminating depression and enabling us to cope.
He suggests the old and often ignored idea of taking a day off a week to rest. The idea that both we and the world can survive and even thrive if we step back for 24 hours seems almost blasphemous in our 24/7 world, but it can be done. You can even disconnect for that length of time. All the people you don’t reply to right away have dozens of other messages to keep them occupied until you get back to them.
You’ll be rested and refreshed once you go back to the busyness of daily life.
You can also find strength in the knowledge that, looking forward or looking back, your day to recharge is never more than three days away.
Another increasingly popular way to be a human being instead of a human doing is meditating. As its proponents often say, don’t just do something, sit there. A few minutes or even an hour of quiet time once or twice a day goes far in calming our minds and enabling us to deal with all the noise, uncertainties and changes out there.
It can even help us sleep better at night.
Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.