USCG Specific


by award-winning stress-relief expert Susie Mantell (author: "Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace")
NOTE: Enjoy more of Susie's FREE stress tips or "Ask Susie.." your own stress questions at

Dear Friends at,

Do you ever crawl into bed longing for sweet respite in deep, restful sleep,close your eyes and snuggle in...only to find that the movie in your head begins? In my work facilitating the stress-relief in varied contexts, a theme is emerging. a) The average person needs a lot more sleep than (s)he gets, and b) We're paying for it. Whether talking with CEO's or submariners, surgeons, inner-city homeless moms ...or suburban soccer moms, I meet people experiencing difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Your grandmother was right: Everything always looks a little brighter after a good night's sleep. But sleep deprivation is a pervasive problem in a culture demanding more and more of us all. Many view sleep as a luxury rather than the necessity it is, and many complain of restless nights and waking feeling like they've been run over by a truck, rather than refreshed and revitalized.

Because Mother Nature has hard-wired us with a very clever stress-hormone response system providing expandable (though not unlimited) reserves of energy in emergencies, when habitually sleep-deprived, the system is literally "stressed" beyond efficiency. Overtaxed and depleted, we become more susceptible to illness, depression, forgetfulness, irritability, headache, etc. Self-esteem, pain tolerance and positive outlook may also be compromised. Sleep-deprivation can diminish immunity and mental clarity,and in studies of fatigue-at-the-wheel, delayed reflexes were found to equal or exceed those of driving while intoxicated. We are over-drawing the sleep account nationwide and the end result is a society working longer hours, often exhausted, achy, ill, and frankly... some are more than a little "cranky".


Worries and mental chatter drain energy, focus, and at bedtime we expect somehow to suddenly stop after a day that's taken us in twelve directions, sometimes at 90 miles an hour. In rare cases, health conditions can cause insomnia and it is always good to rule out, or address, any medical cause. But here are some more common impediments to restful sleep, and drug-free suggestions for each to help you to enjoy more peaceful, healthy sleep.


Make a "worry list". Leave it on your night table. Often when my mind is racing at bedtime, it's full of things I'm trying to remember and frankly, I only need to remember to call the plumber once -- not 17 times. By committing these things to paper we're able to release them. They require attention, but tomorrow...not right now.


1) Muffle mental chatter by inhaling deeply, imagining shimmering light cascading over your head and shoulders, dissolving words and images, any aches it finds along the way.
2) Visualize bits of "chatter" floating on a raft, downstream and out of sight.
3) See and sense yourself writing worries in wet sand, watching the waves gently wash them away, releasing them to the sea.
4) Sail worries out a window in your mind... on long, silk scarves.


Spend that last hour before bed doing something relaxing, non-work-related and not on the computer, which stimulates brain activity. (Try a warm bath, relaxation audio, meditating, journaling, a "brain candy" novel, foot-rub, gentle time talking with someone you care for.)


What's the last thing you do before you go to bed? We need to be informed, however I strongly recommend that watching the news not be the last thing you do before bed.


For 1 week, put yourself to bed early enough to allow for 8-9 hours sleep.(I know--but try it as an experiment.) Watch what happens to your energy, outlook and complexion after a few days.


Some pain is due to a mattress or a pillow that is too hard/soft/high/low, When's the last time your mattresses was turned and rotated? (NOTE: CAREfully...and with help.)


Adjust accordingly. And give some thought to the fabrics you sleep in. Most people sleep best in a room that is a bit cool and in soft fabrics. Perhaps you'd like to try a fluffy comforter. Maybe you like snug-as-a-bug-tightly-tucked sheets. White bed-linens...or bright colors...soft florals...or classic stripes. Which side of the bed do you prefer? (All this stuff counts, folks. Explore and maybe try a change.)


Think of bedtime as "a road trip", and plan ahead. If you do wake to use the bathroom, open your eyes only enough to see your way safely. Avoid fully awakening, so you can drift gently back to sleep...


In addition to the discomfort of a full stomach, the digestive process actually initiates a metabolism boost that can stimulate, making it harder to sleep.


Try steaming before bed, or hot chamomile or ginger tea,(NOT caffeinated tea.) Make sure the room is cool enough. Decrease common bedroom allergens e.g.dust mites, mold and feathers. If necessary, ask your physician about suggestions to relieve stuffiness. But be sure to ask about potential side-effects. Many decongestants include sympathomemetics which are also CNS stimulants. You may be breathing better--but doing it wide awake! And some nasal sprays create "rebound reactions" over time. Be an informed consumer--especially regarding your health.


When we are sick the body pretty much calls the shots, but find ways to gently rest,even if you cannot sleep. Healing and immune function require energy, and rest allows them to draw what they need.


FMS (Fibromyalgia Syndrome) is a painful connective tissue disorder thought by some to be associated with low serotonin, and/or the Alpha EEG Anomoly,(AKA: Alpha Delta Sleep Disorder), in which "awake" brain activity interrupts sleep, tissue repair, etc. There are many articles and books on the subject with widely varying approaches, since it is becoming a common diagnosis these days but is not entirely understood. For a few tips for living with FMS see: and


Sleep Apnea is a disorder characterized by breath-holding in sleep, gasping, snoring, snorts and sometimes extremely deep sleep. It should be addressed, and in many cases is treatable. Sleep Apnea can best be diagnosed in a sleep disorders clinic. Ask your physican or perhaps call a local university hospital.


Snoring is caused by many factors, and can be incredibly frustrating. There are a few gadgets that may help, including a sinus strip to open airways, sound monitors that vibrate to "nudge" the snorer, re-positioning the head or turning the snorer on his/her side. If you know a great snore-solution please email it to me in one or two sentences? I'll pass along helpful suggestions!


Try a "white noise" machine. A small item, available in catalogs and stores, it creates a background that 'absords' sound. They're used outside many therapists offices for privacy. If yours is a bigger problem, you may need to courteously and respectfully discuss it with your neighbor and try to arrive at a compromise, e.g."Drum practice before 10 PM only."


It is amazing how little we are told about potential side-effects of medications prescribed. Some cause drowsiness, others are stimulants, some increase urination ...or dry-mouth, should be taken with/without food, etc. (HINT: Consult your pharmacist. They know a lot.) Over-the-counter "PM" preparations often contain an antihistimine to cause sleepiness. In very rare instances, short-term sleep medication may be appropriate, but don't be misled by the fact that one is not "awake". In some cases, barbiturates ("sleeping pills") or alcohol can actually BLOCK the restorative Delta (4th) level sleep phase, in which growth hormone is secreted, cell-repair takes place,etc. Psychological, if not physical, dependency can become a serious problem too, so seek professional medical advice specific to your situation, and ask questions. (Coming next month: "Safer Use of Over-the-Counter Supplements")


For women, there definitely can be hormonal activity in the mix including pre-menstrual fluctuations...and for women in their 40's and 50's, all KINDS of fun changes are going on. Check with your GYN if that might be a factor.


We actually NEED darkness for sleep and daylight for activity, and some rhythm of routine to reinforce the mind/body's circadian rhythm (day/night cycle).


Check your use of caffeine including chocolate and as in all things, use your intuition to see what feels right for you. Here are a few more suggestions to achieve the sleep you long for: Warm bath, chamomile tea, aromatherapy, massage, using the bed only for sleeping and sex, exercising but early in the day -- not evening (metabolism kicks in and stimulates your system), meditation, counting sheep, magazines, relaxation tape or soothing music.


A clear conscience is worth it's weight in...well, it doesn't weigh a thing, but peace of mind is unquestionably affected when we are responsible for the unhappiness of another. Deep, healthy, restful sleep is infinitely easier to achieve by those who go to bed liking themselves and feel they've done the best they could that day. Do a quick internal inventory and see if a gentle apology to a family member or colleague might make you (and them!) feel better, perhaps bringing the deep restful sleep you need and deserve.

Counting blessings...saying prayers...wishing on stars...are all ways we connect with what is meaningful for each of us, and soothing away tiresome days. Until February, wishing you many blessings to count,"sweet dreams", and above all,

Susie Mantell's award-winning relaxation audio, "Your Present: A Half-Hour of Peace"("BEST AUDIOS"-Publishers Weekly), has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, NBC,ABC,CBS TV, Billboard, Cosmopolitan,, and used in The Mayo Clinic, VA hospital and the U.S. Army (Fort Leonard Wood), for anxiety, depression, sleeplessness; parenting, caregiving & workplace stress. Copyright ©2000 All rights reserved. For permission to reprint call 1-888-NOW-RELAX. Susie Mantell offers support as an adjunct to, but not a substitute for, professional health care.
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