By Constance Hale, Natural Solutions
It always begins innocently enough: My sweetie rolls over and starts snoring. Or my neighbor, a concrete cutter, starts up his truck for an early-morning job. Or I have a dream in which my niece is on a hijacked bus, and I can do nothing about it. I look at the clock: 3 a.m.
I have to get back to sleep. I cuddle up to my honey to leach calmness from his body. Then I get too hot. I roll over and place a pillow over my head to blot out the glow of streetlights. Then I can’t breathe. I try to focus my mind by going over dance steps I learned in class last week. Then I start to fret about how I’m losing sleep–how if I don’t get back to sleep now, my workday will be shot. If I’m not careful, I’ll get sick and my whole week will be shot.
I wouldn’t call myself an insomniac. In fact, I’m a sleep hog–I can snooze for luxurious nine-hour stretches at night and take catnaps in the late afternoon. And I wouldn’t call myself an anxious person. But if there’s trouble in my soul, it starts to scream at 3 a.m.
I’ve learned all the tricks for tackling this problem. Hard exercise–an hour walk, a 45-minute turn on an exercise bicycle, a half-hour swim–works best, only I can’t always get to the gym. I’ve tried indulging in warm baths an hour before bed and dimming the lights throughout the house to affect my body’s internal clock. I’ve avoided stimulation late at night (no 10 o’clock news, no New York Times), and I’ve stayed away from tea and coffee after the early afternoon. I’ve sipped chamomile tea and warm milk.
The problem with these standard tricks is that it’s not going to sleep that’s hard for me, it’s staying asleep. It’s that 3 a.m. thing.
During desperate times–like the traumatic period after my father’s death, or on a brutal 23-hour flight from San Francisco to Delhi–I’ve turned to drugs like Ambien. But my family has a history of addiction, so I’m wary of pharmaceuticals. Also, with sleeping pills, sleep always seems to come on like a thick lead curtain. I wake in the morning feeling deprived of my favorite kind of sleep–that restful slumber filled with wonderful, exotic dreams.
Which is why when an acupuncturist recommended Shui De An Capsules I was willing to give them a try. This “good sleeping & worry free powder” of the Tang dynasty, apparently, would enable one “to fall asleep in 30-50 minutes.” When sleeping, it assured, “the user dreams no terrible dreams,” and after waking “he feels full of vigour.”
I couldn’t decide whether I was hopeful or skeptical when I read the list of ‘functions’ the capsules were said to perform: “heart-nourishing, blood & vital energy-enriching, mind-calming, appetite-stimulating, head-clearing, and health-strengthening.” This all sounded too good to be true: a nondrug, non-sedating sleep aid that would clear my head, help me sleep, and boost my health?