The major cause of insomnia is mostly either physical or mental. Drugs assist nature but, in themselves, cannot cure. If there is a physical reason for sleeplessness, the best medical aid should be secured to remove the cause ; but if mental, as the result of sickness, sorrow, or overwork, all depends upon the person's common sense.
Fear is the fundamental cause of sleeplessness. After one sleepless night, we fear the next night's coming. We suggest to ourselves that there is a possibility of another sleepless night ahead of us and subconsciously we register the thought. We are seldom disappointed and begin, then and there, to form a habit of insomnia with its resulting ill-health and intense nervousness.
The child may be taught to fall asleep at a certain time and, unless over-tired or positively ill, may be depended upon to be true to the habit. He has no distressing thoughts or fear. It is time to sleep and he sleeps. We go to bed over-tired or excited and take with us the cares and worries of the day. How can we expect a dreamless and refreshing slumber?
I once assisted a noted nerve specialist in caring for a woman suffering from a nervous breakdown. She had not slept in four days and nights and at the end of that time was so weak that I dared not so much as move her pillow. She begged for an opiate but the doctor told her if he gave her even one dose of "forgetting" medicine she would curse him. He would teach her to control her nerves as completely as they now controlled her.
The breakdown had come gradually. At first, when she did not fall asleep readily after retiring she would sit up and read. Then she read in bed, always with one of those alarm clocks on her bedside table. Then she possessed herself of a flashlight and would watch the clock to see just when she became sleepy. Often it was two or three o'clock in the morning before she would cease to listen for the striking of the numerous clocks in the house. Eventually she turned night into day and took up china painting. She could paint at night as the gas light did not change the china colors perceptibly. Sleep by day was next to impossible, hence the breakdown.
She was restored to health and normal ways of living by simple and practical methods.
She was fed light, nourishing food every three hours: liquid
peptonoids, broth, and malted milk. Later, when her stomach could digest them, solids were added. All clocks in the house were stopped; time was forgotten. She was persuaded that time or sleep did not matter, so long as she was comfortable and resting. No harm would come to her if she did not sleep. She feared she would become insane if she did not.
She absorbed sounds. Cars blocks away would set her nerves vibrating. She would lie in fear after the passing of one trolley, car, dreading the approach of the next one. To overcome this, we placed a Victrola two rooms away and played softly over and over again a Venetian Trio record. She said afterward she just had to go to sleep to get rid of hearing "The Sweetest Story Ever Told."
If you wish to overcome insomnia and sleep like the little kid above, don't crowd your days too full of excitement, your stomach with indigestable food, or drink strong tea or coffee. Have your bed comfortable and your room well aired.
Learn to leave your worries outside your bedroom door just as they did their shoes in the "good old days." They are sure to be there in the morning. Cultivate sane methods in your habits of life just as you do in your business, if you wish to lay up riches of good health and pleasant dreams.
By Ethel Webb
Walton, N. Y.