By Laura A. Garren
Recently, I described in a blog entry how yoga helped me reduce my back pain. At the end of the piece, I indicated that yoga had helped me in other ways. One very significant change occurred regarding my sleep. For years, I had been taking sleeping pills. I don’t remember what event occurred that interfered with my sleep to the extent that I needed medical intervention, but I had plenty of stress that undermined my sleep, including an aged and ailing mother and a stressful job. After a while, I found that I couldn’t sleep without my Vitamin Z. I tried to quit and failed. I was exercising vigorously every day, too. I finally decided to just keep using.
After my husband had a stroke, I had trouble sleeping despite the pills. I would wake up at 2 or 3 a.m., whereupon I arose because I knew I would not be able to go back to sleep. I would sit on our deck, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee, waiting for the sun to rise. This pattern continued for a couple of years, until I accepted that my husband was permanently disabled and I was able to adjusted to our life change.
Gradually, I was able to sleep through the night. Still, I was dependent on the sleeping meds. I tried several times to break the habit, but I found it difficult because it entailed enduring several weeks of poor or no sleep; as I am the caretaker of my husband, I cannot afford to be that exhausted. Again, I resigned myself to being a hophead.
Then, eight months ago, I started practicing yoga. I began to feel more relaxed than I ever had; I felt as though something in me had opened up, releasing years of frustrated tension and blocked stress. At some point I wondered if, having been purged of that bad energy, I might be able to sleep naturally. One night I tried.
For a few nights, my sleep was not as deep or restful as when I had pharmaceutical assistance; however, I did manage to get and stay there for eight hours. I felt a little tired the next day, but not to the point of incapacitation, so I continued the weaning process until I was pill-free. I now fall asleep almost instantly, which I never did even before I started taking sleep meds. I sleep well and awake refreshed, most of the time. Since the only change in my life was yoga, I only can credit that activity with my freedom from a drug dependency.