Has this ever happened to you? You’re dead tired after an especially busy day and are looking forward to dropping into bed and drifting into a deep and restful sleep, but find yourself still tossing around hours later. It’s like you can’t shut your mind down as you keep going over things you’re worrying about, or things you need to get done the next day. Or do you experience your restless leg(s) frequently jerking just as you are about to drift off to sleep? Or does your CPAP machine irritate you and keep you from falling asleep? Maybe you go to sleep, but awake a couple hours later needing to use the bathroom and then find it impossible to get back to sleep. Sometimes I’m worried that I won’t hear my alarm in the morning, and that robs me of the sleep I so desperately need. There seem to be so many reasons why a good night’s sleep is so elusive.

And I guess I’m not alone with my sleep problems. It has been estimated that 30 percent to 50 percent of adults suffer from some form of insomnia, either occasionally or chronically. It’s more common in women and older people, and many of us resort to over the counter sleep aids like Tylenol P.M.® or Melatonin®, or even high powered prescription medications like Ambien, Lunesta or Belsomra. The one thing almost all sleep medications have in common is that there are usually side effects like feeling fatigued the next day, having weird or vivid dreams, or the meds becoming habit forming or addictive with continued use.

If you’re lucky to sleep deeply enough to dream, do you find that most dreams, if you can remember them at all, don’t seem to make much sense when you try to tell someone about them? Some dreams may be scary and cause you to wake up with your heart pounding, or some might be so good that you’re disappointed when they end. Because effective sleep medicines give you deeper sleep, there will be more dreams, good or bad, at that stage. I’ve even had four or five different mini dreams in one night, and last week I dreamed I was able to run like the wind, when in truth my running days are long gone! I loved that dream, even as short as it was.

Then there are the dreams where you’re trying to run away, but your feet are mired in something and you can hardly move. Or have you ever dreamed that you were searching for a bathroom, but when you finally found one and tried to sit down to do your business, you found that there were people in another entryway that you didn’t notice? Then maybe you wake up and need to hurry to the bathroom for real!! Being naked in public is another common dream, and some say that means that you are afraid of revealing your faults to others. Dreams of falling often end with the dreamer waking up, terrified, just before the crash landing. Those dreams, some say, are signs that you have a fear of failure at your job or that your love life could be getting rocky. Who knows?

A number of years ago, when I was on the verge of making a major life-changing decision, I had a recurring dream that I was alone in a fast moving car, but I was stuck in the back seat and couldn’t reach the steering wheel or the brake. The windshield was so fogged up that I couldn’t see where the road was, but the car kept hurtling forward at breakneck speed! The dream was so real and so upsetting, that I didn’t go through with the plan that would have changed my life, and it has since proved to have been a good decision.

My sleep problems can be traced back to when I was a teenager. I remember getting fully dressed for school in the middle of the night, going downstairs and even outside while I was still sleeping. My dad would sometimes lead me back to bed, but other times I’d suddenly wake up on my own and realize that it wasn’t time to go to school yet. Sleepwalking is usually related to anxiety and stress, and I know I was a perfectionist about my schoolwork and I constantly worried about being late for school. I believe my brother also was known to wander around sleepwalking, and my teenage nephew even drove the car a short distance down the street while sleeping! Dangerous, scary stuff. It’s a good thing that sleepwalking usually doesn’t continue into adulthood.

So, what’s a person supposed to do to help themselves get the restful sleep they need, without resorting to drugs? I’ve done some research into recommended natural sleep aids, and some things were mentioned in many of my sources. A cup of warm milk with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon added, or a cup of warm milk with 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg added, or a cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of honey added, taken about an hour before bedtime. Well… I can’t get past the warm milk idea. Yuck! Although I am no fan of milk, I can tolerate it only if it’s ice cold and I have a pack of graham crackers to go with it to disguise the taste!

Eating a banana 30 minutes before retiring is supposed to help you fall asleep. Regular exercise, but not right before bedtime is also good. Maybe a hot shower two hours before bed and avoiding daytime naps could be helpful. According to the Mayo Clinic, valerian root may have the power to help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep. Although valerian root can produce some mild side effects like headache and upset stomach in some users, the side effects tend to be less serious than those associated with prescription drugs. Sticking to a scheduled bedtime and waking time, turning off electronics a couple of hours before bed, and keeping your bedroom cool are all helpful suggestions to help you get your needed zzz’s.

If you do occasionally find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night in spite of all these suggestions, you could always call for delivery of some “insomnia cookies” which will be delivered to your door for a price until 3 a.m. No, they don’t contain CBD, or melatonin or any other drugs. They are just warm, gooey cookies to make your lonely sleepless hours a little sweeter! The nearest insomnia cookie bakery is located in Indiana, Pa., and I’d guess you’d pay a pretty penny for that delivery! Now there’s an idea for an entrepreneurial reader out there! As unlikely as it sounds, insomnia cookies have proven popular in other areas, so why not here? I have a feeling that there are more people awake during the wee hours than we think!

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Marilyn Secco is a retired teacher and author of the book “Front Porch Tales.” She has 2 children and 5 grandchildren and lives in Kersey with a temperamental cat named Tidder. Contact her at mbsecco@windstream.net

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