I was taking a long flight from London to Kathmandu, Nepal. There was an unfortunate eight hour stopover in New Delhi, so instead of spending an uncomfortable night in the airport, I booked a hotel near to the airport to rest for a few hours.
"O sleep, no greater bliss compares with you; in sleep the prisoners are free from their prison, and kings possess neither throne nor crown. The sufferers lose their pain and worries, and sorrows are forgotten." Rumi
The hotel was modern in that standard lego design format. The Porter took me to a room that appeared clean but immediately upon our entry a sinister sight presented itself. A large Rat scampered across the pillows that I was about to lay my head upon. He was not my ideal choice for a bedmate admittedly so I requested very calmly and politely to be moved to another room.
This request appeared to amuse the hotel staff, why should I be offended by this Raty visitor, they laughed. They gave me a new room. It did not help. I could not sleep or rest and wrapped myself with the sheet into a cocoon and with anticipatory dread imagined little rat feet running over me all night.
I was tired when I arrived in Kathmandu. I checked into the Hotel Tibet and immediately hit the restaurant to eat my favourite dish, vegetable momos with hot chilli sauce. The restaurant was empty, I thought, until I glanced down under the table and saw a rat looking at me, waiting for me to drop a mono. No chance of that, not even a menacing rat will separate me from a bowl of moms. The rat ran into the kitchen .........to complain?
Another hotel, another rat, sleepless in Kathmandu. Did I mention I have a phobia about Rats. As therapy once, I tried to watch the film Willard, but my imagination won the oscar for creating the best sensory, scary experience.
Skip now back to New Delhi and my return trip. Same hotel, same eight hour stopover. I was in a taxi driving towards the hotel when the taxi driver turned to me and asked, "Marm, how did you find this hotel?" his head sliding from side to side on top of his spine.
"Internet" I replied.
He said, "but Marm, I have a better hotel for you."
I replied, "No thank you, I don't want to change hotels at this late stage, this hotel is paid for and it is only for a few hours."
"But Marm" he pleaded, "my hotel has a lovely restaurant, wonderful rooms with modern bathrooms, it has a swimming pool, a gym, a florist, shops, my hotel would suit you better than this one."
A little weary by his hard sell, I asked "Does it have Rats?"
He replied, "Oh Marm, it has everything."
When I told my Mother about my rat stories, she could not sleep. I had inherited my rat phobia from her and I gave her insomnia.
There are many reasons for insomnia or sleeplessness, temporary or otherwise.
"When I am with you, we stay up all night. When you are not here I cannot go to sleep. Praise God for these two insomnias and the difference between them" Rumi
Excluding major medical conditions, sleeplessness can be caused by stress, worries, overwork, overstimulation, interruption, unsafe environment, bad memories and many more.
But there comes a time in the life of an insomniac when he or she becomes tired of trying and failing with all the established advice. No caffeine, drink chamomile tea before bed, lavender oil baths, eat turkey and bananas before bedtime, turn off the TV and computer, avoid stimulation or go to the Doctor and get pills. I did not take pills but I did all the rest and it failed. Maybe I joke about rats, but I had insomnia due to a head injury from a car accident and then being in a building that was blown up by a bomb (another story, another lifetime ago).
While living in New York, I was drawn to sign up to attend a Sounder Sleep Sominar conducted by the system's creator, Michael Krugman. I had found his name through the Feldenkrais world in which I am a practitioner and Michael is one of High ups in that tradition and he had insomnia which created the environment for him to develop this system through his own research and experience.
This course was my last resort. It was a three day workshop and Michael is brilliant with his intelligence and ease of explanation about the research and knowledge behind the science of sleep and sleep disorders and of course his creation of these simple movement and breathing practices. For me it was the first time that someone had offered a proven explanation as to why some of us just cannot sleep. We learnt about the brain and the central nervous system and how the Sounder Sleep System exploits the two fundamental, opposing principles of the human nervous system, excitation and inhibition to produce its sleep inducing affects. The Sounder Sleep System uses small, slow, gentle bodily movements to initiate and amplify the inhibitory process resulting in natural, restful sleep whenever we need it.
My introduction to this method gave me the most relaxing weekend that I have ever experienced and as I practiced the methods over the following weeks my sleep returned to perfection. I could fall asleep and stay asleep without waking up at three in the morning and staying awake. I became a devoted fan and trained to be a teacher. When I told my clients (Feldenkrais and Tibetan Yoga etc) that I was teaching the Sounder Sleep System, suddenly, out of the woodwork, many claimed to be suffering from insomnia and the stress of life. Who knew? People have a habit of keeping quiet about this condition. Now teaching is forms the greater proportion of my practice especially here in England.
Returning to the system's success, I was on an Embodied Life Retreat where Russell Delman, a Zen Buddhist combines meditation with Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement Lessons and Focusing. This is a wonderful combination of practices. Russell would often suggest we have silent days i.e. no talking, no internet, no electronic stimulation. On one of these days it was raining so I could not go out. We had a three hour lunch break and I did not want to meditate or exercise so I thought I would go to sleep. Possible? I practices a sounder sleep move for ten minutes and fell asleep immediately and woke up two and half hours later just before our afternoon session was to begin. Skip to evening, we finished meditating at 8.45pm. I thought sleep would be impossible after my two and a half hour nap. So I practiced sounder sleep again and guess what? I woke up after eight solid hours.
Yes. The Sounder Sleep System works. Oh.........and mine is a double expresso, please!!!