Speak Up

Enjoy essays and poetry by people living with neurologic disorders and their caregivers. Readers can also find letters to the editor.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Letters to the Editor: Sleep Strategies
In the February/March 2014 issue of Neurology Now, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Robin Brey asked readers to share their strategies for falling asleep. We received many responses. Here are a few we selected to publish. Thank you to everyone who responded!
In the February/March 2014 issue, the article “Sleep Well” (http://bit.ly/1eSAndW) included a link to other articles from Neurology Now on sleep disorders. However, the link doesn’t seem to be working. Would you let me know the correct link?
— Lynn Richardson
THE EDITOR RESPONDS: The link appears to be working. Here it is again: http://bit.ly/1hIPHuV.
I am giving this issue to a student in my yoga class who uses yoga and meditation to help manage her multiple sclerosis. The article on sleep particularly intrigued me. In “From the Editor” (http://bit.ly/Mvvr2Q), Editor-in-Chief Dr. Robin Brey asked readers to send tips on sleeping well. I have been teaching yoga for 20 years, and I sometimes recommend “legs-up-the-wall” pose for insomnia. One lies in bed backwards or on the ground if possible with the legs up a 90-degree angle for 10 to 15 minutes. I have had great experience with this safe and gentle pose. I also like to read a psalm before bed, as it gives one a sense of peace and safety to know God is there with you.
—Carol Serna
Jupiter, FL 
This may qualify as a good strategy for preventing sleepless nights. In a 1958 book on folk medicine by D.C. Jarvis, M.D., he suggests two teaspoons of honey as a natural tranquilizer. If that doesn’t induce sleep within 20 minutes, I believe he wrote, take two more. On my occasional sleepless nights, two teaspoons of honey works well. And on the rare occasion when that doesn’t work for me, a little more will.
—Robert Seibold
Shippensburg, PA
You asked us to tell you how we fall asleep. I’ve used this for years: Pretend a lit candle is held directly in front of your face. The flame flickers as you inhale and exhale. Your job is not to make the flame flicker, so you must make your breath smaller and slower. But the flame keeps flickering still, so you must make your breath even smaller and slower. But that flame keeps on flickering still… so, breathe smaller and slower. Hopefully, good night. This is a yoga relaxation exercise. I’ve used it for years. I’ve gotten so that I can eliminate the visual of the candle and just go to repeating a single word. My word is “slow” over and over.
—Martha Walton, RNC
Webster, NY
The article “Sleep Well” in the February/March 2014 issue was interesting. Although I don’t have chronic sleep problems, I do have occasional insomnia. I have learned to use a tactic that usually allows me to get sleep quickly.
My insomnia is often brought on by “hot button” issues that keep my mind too active to shut down. Realizing what’s happening, I try to focus on one thought, rejecting all others as they come up. It is very difficult to concentrate on one thought, and as I start the process, I am flooded with intrusive thoughts. After a minute or two, I can more quickly reject them to return to the main subject. That concentration subject is the abstract idea of sleep—abstract because I can’t visualize it. This process is very mentally tiring if done rigorously. Sleep usually takes over shortly. Hopefully this technique will be useful to others.
M.E. Sweeney
The Woodlands, TX
I have been reading Neurology Now for a few months. I am a 71-year-old fibromyalgic/depressive. There was no mention in the February/March 2014 sleep article on the exploding head syndrome, an apnea-related condition described by Dr. John M.S. Pearce in 1989 (http://bit.ly/1coJ1kr). I wrote Dr. Pearce to thank him for helping me with this awful thing.
I have central hypopneas, which are episodes of overly shallow breathing. I think the basic sleep guidelines you discussed do not apply to everyone. I am a beer drinker; the hops help me sleep. I have also found large late-night meals helpful. Also, I am on a limited, fixed income and live in a small studio apartment. Could you feature some articles on poverty-stricken sick people?
—Karen Keys
THE EDITOR RESPONDS: Thank you for your letter, Karen. Generally, doctors recommend against consuming alcohol before bedtime; although it will sometimes help a person fall asleep in the short-term, it can lead to dependence. We will also try to include more stories about people with neurologic conditions who are facing poverty. Please see our “Penny Wise” department, which includes stories about managing the cost of care: http://bit.ly/1fHx2is.