Sleep tight: Fitzroy Nursery owner John Dargel has suffered from insomnia for almost 40 years, and shares his tips on how to get through it.
Sleep tight: Fitzroy Nursery owner John Dargel has suffered from insomnia for almost 40 years, and shares his tips on how to get through it. MEGAN LEWIS Ml--

Stress linked to insomnia

FOR almost 40 years John Dargel has had trouble sleeping.

And he is not alone.

About 4.8 million Australians suffer from stress and insomnia, according to a Blackmores Sleep Survey from 2009.

John, now almost 50, said he first started having trouble sleeping when he was around 11 or 12 years old.

When he started reading a lot a night John didn’t see it as a problem, even though he was reading until 1 or 2am and then going to school in the morning.

“You just don’t sleep, you can’t settle.

“It was just the way it was.”

And it is still that way now, as John’s sleeping problems did not go away.

The Blackmores Sleep Survey also found 51% of those who suffer insomnia blame stress for their lack of sleep.

Pam Stone, Blackmores’ director of education, said it made sense that the most common reason for insomnia was stress and the inability to switch off an overactive mind.

“Sleep is critical for the proper function of every aspect of the body.” Ms Stone said.

“Attention span, metabolism, vision and muscle fatigue may all be affected by the amount and quality of sleep you get.”

John said one thing that helped him now was learning to put things out of his mind that were stressful.

Co-owner of Fitzroy Nursery, a business John’s father started in 1953, John said his work pressures didn’t disappear at 5pm.

“You try and reduce the mental load you take home.”

One helpful idea, that John also taught his daughter, was to imagine wading in a warm ocean, a calm sea with a nice sunset.

While thinking of something pleasant like that, John makes sure to expel the air from his lungs and breathes in fresh air.

“You have got to get all settled,” he said,

“You can’t get frustrated, so keep calm, as getting upset is only going to make it worse.”

John gets up if he can’t sleep, and either goes for a walk or does a workout, has a shower and then goes back to sleep.

While there are medications available to help people sleep at night, John has made the decision to seek natural methods for his sleep disorder.


John’s tips for better sleep.

Eat lightly two hours before bed.

Don’t have much sugar, salt or water two hours before bed.

Anxiety or worry will keep anybody awake, so try to a positive angle to your thoughts or put them aside “for now”.

Be physically active, to burn energy, which makes you tired.

Read interesting but not not exciting literature before bed.

Getting agitated about not sleeping can make it worse so stay calm and tell yourself “I can’t sleep so I’ll get up and read,” or go for a walk.

Breathing control through meditation is the most effective way to settle the mind and the body.

During periods of insomnia, an accumulation of hours of sleep per day is better than nothing, so sleep when the need takes you.


John’s Five Minute Meditation Technique.

Lie on your back in bed.

Breathe in to fill the lungs then hold full for 3-4 seconds.

Exhale all out

Hold empty for 3-4 seconds.

Breathe in till full and hold full for 3-4 seconds.

Breathe out till empty and hold for 3-4 seconds.

Don’t breathe forcefully, relax and let your mind think of having a warm bath or some other mild, calming activity.

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