I Can’t Sleep, but I Don’t Want Medication

I have been having trouble sleeping lately. I know I should go talk to my doctor about it but I don’t want to be put on medication. I have been having these anxiety attack for over 4 months now.

I find comfort and instant relief when I read the bible. Do you have any other suggestions for me?

Thank you.  I look forward to your answer


Dear Enid,

We “coincidentally” saw your question as we were having a discussion about the increase in anxiety in society today. It is hard to avoid the word, whether you are talking to educators, medical professionals, reading ads touting medication or simply keeping one’s ears open.

This should not surprise us. At one and the same time our society has been increasing the voices sounding doom and gloom while removing those constants that anchored us. For years now, schoolchildren have been used as pawns to attend rallies and write politicians and newspapers in order to preempt terrible consequences. It didn’t matter if the feared enemy was loggers (presented as a menacing threat when our children were growing up in the Pacific Northwest), corporations, or political positions and candidates. Something or someone was/is always threatening their world. More than one generation of adults has now not only failed to protect the innocence of the children with whose care they were entrusted, but has actively hurt them. The first generation of those children are now grown and, not surprisingly, increasing numbers of adults find the world a scary place.

We are bombarded by news reports delivered in anxious voices. A constant barrage of negativity assaults us. That is what grabs our attention and sells the products paying for the sites delivering the news.

At the same time, faith in God, in family and in country is eroding. While believing in God does not mean that bad things don’t tragically happen, it does mean that there is an ultimate plan and that the plan is good. It means that we are not dependent on weak and changeable people to decide how we should act and what we should believe. Strong families mean that we don’t have to face trouble on our own.  The Bible tells us that it is not good for any people to be alone (Genesis 2:18) yet today more people are living alone than in any earlier period of American history.  One of the best antidotes to anxiety is being together with other bright and upbeat people.  The nation’s psychic health was one of the benefits of the ancient pilgrimage to Jerusalem undertaken by most citizens three times a year. Imagine what a boost those visits must have been.  Finally, taking pride in our country empowers us to strive to keep it strong. If we have to face the world alone there is, indeed, much about which to be anxious.

Enid, we aren’t surprised that turning to the Bible helps you. We would encourage you to be proactive in other ways as well. Some ideas include  limiting your exposure to the news, building relationships so that your troubles are shared, and seeking out as friends those who express gratitude and joy rather than fear, anger and resentment. Find time each day to  make  others happy, even if it is something as small as complimenting the scarf a checker at the supermarket is wearing. Make sure your days include physical activity, ideally with some time outdoors. In other words, Enid, we can’t rule out a problem that a doctor might uncover, but living with calm is a revolutionary activity today and needs to be actively pursued.

Sweet dreams,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

19 thoughts on “I Can’t Sleep, but I Don’t Want Medication”

  1. Interestingly enough, some friends and I are doing a Bible study on having an attitude of expectancy. While commenting on the lesson this morning, I utilized Rabbi Lapin’s method from one of his podcasts to illustrate a point: writing down 3 things that you are grateful for in the morning and carrying that with you throughout the day “primes the pump” so to speak on having that positive attitude. I also believe it reduces anxiety because you are focused on the good in your life.

    Thank you for the blessing of your teachings, and thank you for the curious joy I receive when I (a Christian) tell people I have a rabbi!

  2. Thank you Rabbi and Susan ~
    I just started listening to tapes, “The Battle for Your Mind & Warfare Prayer”. It was calming and helped me to fall asleep. Thank God for hearing ears.
    May you have a year filled with good health and happiness and everything you do have God’s goodness.
    Shanah Tova

    1. Esther, I sometimes put on an audio book download – Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was one of my latest – of a familiar story with zero suspense and often fall asleep to that.

  3. Hi, I also have had anxiety and lack of sleep. And I definately find reading the Bible calms me down and so do having quiet restful activities before bed. What has also helped me greatly is using magnesium threonate. This is calming and also helps me sleep. there are different types of magnesium for different purposes but this is the one thats good for anxiety and sleep. It is a mineral that is depleted in our current society.

    1. Grace, we can’t speak to the magnesium but encourage everyone to do their own research. Thanks for sharing what works for you.

  4. I promise I am not pandering when I say this: I listen to the Ancient Jewish Wisdom on TCT on demand every night as I get ready for bed and get into bed. Sometimes I’m still awake when my chosen episode is done, but if not, I listen to it again if I wake up later. Sometimes I miss almost the whole thing and have to listen again in the morning!! If ever I feel filled up on Rabbi and Susan’s show, I choose another bible-teaching program, but I always listen to Ancient Jewish Wisdom first!!

    1. Susan, we’re sure you mean it in the nicest possible way that we put you to sleep. We’re going to accept it in the nicest possible way. 🙂

  5. I fight anxiety daily as I think many folks do these days. Our world is increasingly going at a faster and faster pace. All you have to do is take a drive to the store and you will run into all sorts of crazy. I make it a point each day to just be quiet and get away from the noise pollution. I rarely watch the news or tv.
    Our society has tried very hard to take out/ignore G-d in his own world. Now those people wonder why the world is so crazy now. I just wish and pray that people will come to their senses and realize that the reason things are so messed up now is because they have tried to take G-d out of the picture.
    My kids wonder why some people can be mean and rude and I tell them they just weren’t taught right and to not take it personally. You just do your best to be G-dly and rise above it.
    Walking and breathing exercises can help. So can not buying into all the businesses and information overload. In my prayers Enid.
    Terry Sterling

    1. Terry, you are doing your children a great service by helping them cope rather than magnifying their worries. Sadly, many adults are doing exactly the opposite.

  6. Rabbi and Susan, thank you for the answer that you gave to Enid. I have a daughter who has had anxiety most of her life. Although she has grown out of the most of it she still has the problem of socializing with other people. I have told her the same things you have mentioned when she was younger she is in her 30’s now and the reason she has not come out of the nonsocial is because of her mother. Let me explain that, her mother is not a bad person but she had a similar problem when we got married. I believe that she stays close to her mother and is being hindered from socializing and making friends. shalom Alechem to you and Susan.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      So sorry to hear that your daughter suffers from anxiety, Mordechai,
      It is humanity’s default condition for which connection to the Infinite can be an antidote. But obviously the more time one spends anxious the more normal it becomes. Practice makes permanent. I hope your ex-wife and your daughter experience a spiritual renewal that banishes their anxiety and stress. Shalom to you and a happy new year.

    1. Carl, there is a lot of useful advice about what to eat and how to set up a sleep mode, but we wanted to focus on why anxiety, and with it difficulty sleeping, is to be expected today.

  7. This is an excellent answer to Enid’s question. We are currently doing a study on worry and anxiety as a congregation and this goes right along with it. Thanks so much.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Harriet–
      Do you know that an alarming number of little kids attending GICS (Do I have to tell you that the acronym is Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as public schools) actually believe that everyone will die within 12 years if no dramatic government action is taken on so called climate change? I don’t know how many of their parents believe the same but having a program learning Biblical principles of dealing with worry, stress, and anxiety is surely a good idea for your congregation.
      When you lie down you will be unafraid; You will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.You will not fear sudden terror …(Proverbs 3:24-25)

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