19 March 2016
Most of us have been there, some more than others.
How to explain Insomnia to someone that has never suffered?
“You know that feeling where you’re extremely tired, where you can’t even keep your eyes open? Well, it’s the opposite of that. You are so awake that you can’t even keep your eyes closed. “
Most people that have never had insomnia really can’t understand it. Common responses are “have a cup of coffee”, or “me too, I couldn’t sleep until 1am” – grrrr! Insomnia can be excruciatingly frustrating. Grogginess, fogginess, disrupted visual and sensory perception, and irritability. Any lack of sleep is never fun. Poor, or no sleep can harm our health, mood, productivity and general quality of life. Around 80% of the population experiences poor sleep at some time. One bad night’s sleep is enough to put most of us on edge, but chronic insomnia can be life-threatening. It has been linked to depression, heart disease, strokes, lung disorders, weight gain and relationship problems.
But STOP! Before you rush out to get sleep medication, try the following natural sleep recommendations. Many of these can not only help you fall asleep and stay asleep, but may also promote muscle relaxation.
So here’s my top 7 tips to help you fall asleep more quickly and reliably.
- SET A ROUTINE
Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Sticking to a consistent sleep-wake schedule helps set your body’s internal clock. Avoid sleeping in, even on weekends or nights you’ve stayed up late.
You can help your body recognise that bedtime is imminent by setting routines and repeating them every night.
“We suggest that people establish regular nightly routines before they get into bed, to help their brain shift into sleep mode,” says Gary Zammit, PhD, Director of the Sleep Disorders Institute in New York. “Laying out your pajamas, brushing your hair and teeth – these habits can be very sleep- conducive.”
2. SOAK IN A HOT BATH
Soak in a bath for 20 to 30 minutes, about two hours before bed. Your temperature naturally drops at night and when you soak in a bath your temperature rises – and the rapid cool-down period afterwards relaxes you, and helps put you in a deep sleep.
- ZEN IT UP! TUNE OUT AND BLACK OUT
Your body releases the hormone melatonin, late in the evening, which makes you sleepy, but only if it gets the right signals. Darkness is one of the signals. Bright lights keep our brains switched on and in wake mode. Make your room as dark as you can, consider a good quality eye mask, and let yourself delve into the darkness!
Noise is another major stimulus that stops us from sleeping, and just adds to the stress when you are tired! Try some earplugs, or ‘sleep’ headphones – anything that’s comfortable and blocks out any annoying sounds. To add to the zen vibe, play some soothing, calming music, meditations or nature sounds, and drift off!
- TRY THE 4-7-8 TRICK
One of the simplest, most effective tools that you can use for instant calm! Simply inhale through your nose for a count of 4, gently hold this breath for 7 counts and exhale slowly for another count of 8.
This type of yogic breathing stills the mind and stimulates the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain. Given that stress is a major cause of sleep disturbances, relaxation is absolutely essential to help your mind to wind down.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for their therapeutic and healing properties, as part of the practice of aromatherapy. Particular oils are used for their ability to induce sleep. One thing to remember when using Essential Oils is the fact that a little goes a long way. Lavender and Frankincense are two of my favourite ‘go to’ oils. Lavender (angustifolia) is an excellent oil for assisting with sleep and relaxation. Frankincense was one of the most important ancient fragrances revered in the Middle East, and among its many medicinal properties is that it helps alleviate anxiety and depression. Chamomile, Lavender, neroli, orange and petitgrain essential oils are all strong sleep aids.
Our sense of smell is powerful, and we also build up an ‘association’ with the smell and sense of calm. Aromatherapy works on emotional, psychological and biochemical levels to induce calm. Essential oils act directly on the brain and the endorphins.
- NATURE’S MEDICINE CABINET
An herbal supplement containing sleep-inducing herbs will help most of us nod off to sleep. Many are now available in tablet form, or in a liquid form. An herbal supplement containing combinations of herbs such as, Chamomile, Valerian, Hops, Passionflower and Ashvagandha, are readily available. Be mindful, that the quality of the formula is very important, and that some herbs do react with some meds, and may not be recommended for prolonged, regular use.
The hormone Melatonin that controls the circadian rhythms can help induce sleep. It may be used to enhance the natural sleep process and for resetting the body’s internal clock. L-theanine, the amino acid found in green tea not only helps maintain a calm alertness during the day, but also a deeper sleep at night. A supplement is best in order to significantly boost your REM cycles, and to avoid getting up for the bathroom in the night (if you were drinking green tea)!
- GET MOVING!
If you have trouble sleeping, chances are you don’t exercise, or you don’t exercise enough or exercise properly. Exercise is one of the most important things you do to overcome sleeping difficulties. Regular aerobic exercise improves the quality sleep, vitality and mood.
Yoga – regular yoga practice is known to cure several ailments, including insomnia or abnormal sleeping habits. Yoga helps unwind that built up stress at the end of the day, and helps to get a better nights sleep.
When we get good sleep, our body repairs on a cellular level and removes toxins. It is therefore necessary to get at least six to eight hours of sleep daily. Improved memory, living longer, reducing ageing, reducing inflammation, feeling more positive, creative, and vital, are some of the many benefits of a good night’s sleep.
Sleep: we all love it!