The ability to sleep well and soundly is a boon which always has been highly regarded. Young in his "Night Thoughts gracefully sings of:
and Shakespeare's familiar words:
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
breathe a benediction upon this common blessing which only deprivation can make us fully prize.
In this age of nervous high pressure, chronic sleeplessness is much in evidence. It is hoped that a brief study of its causes, prevention, and relief may have practical value, and therefore merit consideration.
In every department of life, that help is most effective which helps one to help himself. The suggestions here offered are not merely a matter of theory, but are based upon wide experience and careful observation.
Sleeplessness is a symptom, and not a specific disorder in itself. Like many other experiences, it grows bad in proportion to thinking it bad. It is really negative and secondary, but prevailing opinion makes it a hateful positive foe. Numerous cures have been proposed, but generally they are superficial and unavailable. Counting backward and forward, watching an imaginary flock of sheep as they jump one by one over an imaginary fence, or a glass of hot milk taken before retiring, are samples of popular mental and physical remedies. But to the chronic victim, who is feverishly tossing from side to side, and whose heart is violently thumping during restless hours, such superficial expedients are of little avail. It also hardly need be noted that any resort to drugs is usually aggravating in its final results. Quietude which comes through a stupefaction of the senses is not rest in any true sense.
Permanent relief must be based upon the dominant and concentrative power of the mind. This can be acquired only by cultivation. Fear, worry, antagonism, or selfishness usually make up the antecedents of a restless night. It is best for all to admit that in some degree these are universal. They produce fevered imaginations and processions of disorderly thoughts, so that the inharmonies of the day, and perhaps the expected ones of the morrow, are present and living. Some of the resultant physical correspondencies are congested brain, throbbing heartbeat, excited nervous action, and general heat and discomfort. But enough of this.
After insomnia has become somewhat habitual, it is greatly increased by the fear and expectation of its rule and presence. Nothing will so repel the condition which is desired as undue anxiety for its appearance. At length it becomes tyrannical. Utter indifference, therefore, should be affirmed and cultivated until it grows into a habit. If one can retire with the mental attitude, "I do not care whether or not I sleep," he commands the situation. Sleeplessness being but a symptom, does not need to be cured, but it is its cause that requires correction. It really comes for a purpose, and that is to call our attention to that cause. Utter relaxation of mind and body may be nearly as refreshing as sleep itself, if the consciousness be loftily placed.
As a foundation for self-command, one needs a correct and optimistic philosophy of life. Let us briefly outline it. The Moral Order is good and only good, and our inner spiritual forces are always pressing to repair our mistakes. This supreme confidence in the "nature of things" is as well founded as it is necessary. It should enable one to suggest to himself upon retiring, "Whatever is best will come." This is not only true, but it also includes the very attitude which brings the boon that was desired. Another illustration of overcoming through nonresistance.
Let us now come to the heart of the subject. The sure basis for sound repose is set forth in the ninety-first Psalm. The sovereign balm for restlessness is a dwelling in "the secret place of the Most High." What multitudes have thought this to be mere poetic imagery with little practicality! Rather it is psychological truth which is exactly fitted to the constitution of man. It is really as scientific as it is religious. A steady and persistent uplift of the consciousness—communion with the Universal Spirit—cultivated and habitual, is the grand restorer by the side of which all the devices and panaceas of the lower planes pale into insignificance.
As the soul consciously puts itself in communion with the "Over-soul," it mounts above and beyond the level where restlessness and turmoil can exist. The physical organism will become thoroughly relaxed and receptive, fall into line, and express harmony.
But in order to round out the practical application of the principles just stated as plainly as possible, it may be well to inquire: How shall the forces which radiate from the loftiest consciousness be most effectually brought down into external and concrete manifestation? The Word must "be made flesh," or, in other words, thought must be transmuted into physical conditions. It is often felt that the latter are slow to respond. Thinking, and even affirmation, is often somewhat abstract and cold in quality, being of the head rather than the heart character. The avenue for the passage of soul energy into its objective body must be near and direct. Thought is to be rendered into terms of feeling.
The great central nerve ganglion in the human body, known as the solar plexus, is a kind of connecting link where ideals are received for distribution through the physical organism. It appears to be a veritable focal bridge spanning the chasm between the unseen and seen, or mind and matter. When under the influence of strong emotion, who has not felt the thrills or vibrations—definitely near the pit of the stomach—as ideas and ideals pass into bodily sensation and expression? One should cultivate a sense of such a transfer of force, and aid in the process by believing that it is taking place. Strive to feel the vibrations to the farthest physical extremities. The body enters into the process as vitally correspondential. Body and mind thus become consciously unified.
We may mentally picture the body as a pure and holy temple being made meet for high service through spiritual refreshing. The consciousness may virtually pay visits to the different parts of its physical organism, bringing its benediction and consecration.
It is in accord with the New Thought to hold that the body and its sensations have a very real reflex or reactionary influence upon the mind, and this is quite consistent with the primacy and positiveness of the latter in their relation. Therefore, in insomnia, as in other negative conditions, where both are concerned, that which is nominally lower should join the higher in a mutual and reciprocal service. We must not think of the material self as relatively base or "common and unclean." Neither is it unreal. Paul speaks of the "redemption of our body." No chemical refining in a laboratory is more truly scientific. The embodiment must be glorified, and not denied or degraded. Many still have some shade of the old idea that the soul and body are natural opposites.
Wakefulness is just as much of an evil as we make it, but in itself it is only the rush of recuperative forces to repair our mistakes which makes the feverish disturbance. The friction comes mainly from our resistance.
When restlessness is present, displace it with the divine Presence in the consciousness. Take such a thought as: "God is here and within me." Concentrate upon it. Try not merely to think it but to feel it. This does not involve any sectarian dogma, orthodox or the opposite. It covers only what is natural and universal. Whether used by Christian, Jew, heathen, or barbarian, it is wholesome and harmonizing.
If not immediately effectual one need not in the least be discouraged. Everything worth while comes in the form of a growth. The solid oak does not grow in a night, but when once started under normal conditions it grows surely.
Repeat the ideal if necessary until it stands out in the consciousness in letters of fire. Then it will become ruling. In such an exalted frame it will be as much of a luxury to lie awake as to slumber. This is "the secret place of the Most High." Aspire until such a consciousness is at command, and insomnia will have vanished.