All I wanted was to sleep, but fear kept me awake.
I fought back with a time-tested method employed by the United States Army.
As a mother of two, I’ve known sleepless nights a bit too well. I was one of the 164 million Americans who contend with sleeping issues at least once a week.
Overall, I was a healthy woman living the best time of my life with a loving husband. Both of our families were scattered around our city. We all got together regularly. It made our family life feel like we were celebrating Thanksgiving at least once a month.
One day I found out I was pregnant. I feel immensely proud to tell you now I handled pregnancy with as much ease as any woman. Every woman of any association with the extended family had tips to share. Even though it was well-intentioned, it sometimes felt suffocating.
Somehow I managed to hold my tongue without hurting anyone’s feelings.
In due time, I gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter. Words fail me. I have no way of expressing how becoming a mother made me felt.
When the euphoria subsided a bit, other pressing matters like breastfeeding the baby, changing the diapers in the wee hours of the morning, and thousand more issues like those started creeping in. Thanks to God, my family was always around, and they helped me to the best of their abilities to cope with things. But being a woman with a chronic tendency to make everything orderly and the insatiable urge to become the best mother in the world, sleepless nights became the new normal for me.
I kept waking up every hour or even though the baby was sleeping peacefully. Even when she started sleeping on her own, I couldn’t shake the habit of waking up at regular intervals. I forgot to sleep at night or in the day for more than an hour at a stretch.
The effect was noticeable. Even though I was only 24, I started losing hair at an alarming rate. Wrinkles appeared. I lost my appetite. I had intense mood swings. My poor, poor husband bore the brunt, even though he was doing everything in his power to make me happy.
After our daughter’s first birthday, my husband forced me to go out for a date night with him. Reading or researching was not his forte, but he went online and tried to check remedies for not having enough sleep.
“Please look at this kind of thing for yourself. There’s a lot there. You’re better at this kind of thing than I am. I’m more of a blue-collar guy,” he said.
I must have looked ambivalent.
“Promise,” he said, insisting.
I gave him my word and tried.
Later, I found that if you type the words ‘how to get more sleep’ on the browser window, Google will let you choose from 1.2 billion results in just about 0.65 seconds. I am not sure how many options were available to choose from that day four years ago, probably a little less, still plenty, though. The point being, there were numerous articles to get help.
With due diligence, I started looking. I got to know that I was not the only mother, or only American for that matter, who wasn’t getting enough sleep.
I needed to find a way to fall asleep fast.
My search for solutions
I learned about sleep hygiene, room temperature, emission of blue lights, and many other reasons that prevent people from having proper sleep. I learned mattresses could also play a significant role in helping people fall asleep quickly. I learned about the differences between the futon and air mattresses, that there are suitable mattresses for heavy people or reading pillows that should be used if you like to read while lying on the bed.
In retrospect, I was really looking for advice on how to relax, stop worrying about my daughter, and finally get some sleep. There were many quick remedies.
Among those, I liked the Military Method most.
My reasoning was simple. Those men and women are actually the ones who should suffer the most from anxieties. Army personnel on active duty literally have their lives on the line, and they can become history in the blink of an eye. On the other hand, they are in constant movement to never actually get the chance to get used to being acclimatized to their surroundings. If they could get sleep from using that method, I could. In no way was I living dangerously.
Serving in the military can push you to the edge. You should be on top of your physical and mental abilities. The importance of proper sleep is paramount.
Lloyd Bud Winter, in his book ‘Relax and Win: Championship Performance’ described the Military Method. The goal is to help soldiers fall asleep within two minutes, no matter their surroundings. Even if active-duty soldiers can sleep 30-60 minutes at a stretch, they can recharge. Being fully alert can be the difference between being alive or dead.
I practiced it for the next couple of months. It worked. I got to sleep again. My body responded. My mind followed. My husband said, “the sweetness came back.” A year or so after my daughter’s second birthday, my husband and I started murmuring about how she might react after getting a resident playmate.
I gave birth to our second child–a healthy baby boy–after a couple of months of our daughter’s third birthday party.
For any mother with a newborn or any other person having difficulties falling asleep for that matter, the Military Method works. Give it a sincere try and see the differences it can make. It changed my life.
The Military Method
- Relax all the muscles in your face–completely.
- Then, relax your shoulders. Let them slump.
- Relax the muscles in your arms. Start from the top of your shoulder. Mentally go down your arms until you get to your fingertips.
- Relax other muscles by breath control. To do that, start from the chest and go down to the legs.
- When those muscles are relaxed, spend about 10 seconds thinking about something that makes your mind calm. For me, I always thought about my daughter sleeping peacefully. Positive thoughts always worked.
- In case the above process seems not to be working, repeat the words “don’t think” for 10 more seconds.
- Repeat the whole process until your mind finally surrenders.
Maybe you will find the process not so straightforward when you get to implement it. Maybe you will have difficulties relaxing your muscles. Maybe you even find it funny. Yet, believe me, the process works. You need to give it an honest effort and have faith it will work. Eventually, it will help you fall asleep fast.
As they say, “practice makes perfect.”
Jennifer R. Heller is a sleeping products expert and merchandise tester. She handles the daily operations at Sleeping Park. She reports, writes, and edits sleep health and sleep industry news. She’ll be found reading or traveling when she gets leisure time.
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