Today i’m going to talk about sleep (or lack there of) and 10 ways to get to sleep naturally. I’ve included some pictures of beautiful bedrooms, relaxing hammocks, and sleeping babies that will hopefully make you feel peaceful and sleepy just by looking at them! Sleep is something that eludes many people. I used to be one of those people and sometimes on the odd occasion i still am. With the fast paced world that we live in, slowing the mind, meditating or learning to relax is a most valuable skill. A skill that might seem simple for some but can actually be quite a challenge. About 2 years ago, during a stressful and anxious period in my life, i was suffering from extreme insomnia. I went 3 days without a wink… It was a scary time. It was like i’d forgotten how to fall asleep! Something that was so innate to me seemed to vanish into thin air… With this bout of insomnia, came a nasty habit and belief system that sometimes still pops it’s head out of the clouds today and it goes a little something like this, “i can’t sleep”. During that stressful time, that was my mantra, “i can’t sleep. What am i going to do? How can i overcome this? I’m going to get sick. Why is this happening to me? blah blah blah”.
In my case the insomnia was set off by high levels of anxiety and sleeping became another thing to be anxious about and so the vicious cycle began. This suffering however, taught me a lesson that i thought i already understood but had obviously not (hence the life experience the universe sent to me). And the lesson was, I am not my mind. I am not my thoughts… Once i realised this i was able to let go. This understanding allowed me to step back from the anxiety and scary thoughts (that seemed to run away with themselves), and not take part in the story my mind was continuously telling. The thing that helped me most was my fiancé. Each night we would go to bed and as soon as my head hit the pillow, there they were, those scary thoughts, “What if i can’t sleep, i don’t want to be tired tomorrow, blah blah blah”. And each night my fiancé would say to me, “You’re body knows what to do, all you need to do is… nothing.”
Understanding the concept of doing nothing is a little contradicting because it implies that you must infact do something, which is nothing. Confused? Well the thing that i realised was that i was trying to solve a puzzle that had already been solved or infact didn’t need solving at all!
Not being able to sleep can be such a helpless feeling and of course you need to get to the root of the problem that’s causing you not to sleep. There are many health issues that could be causing insomnia such as: Hyperthyroidism, Anxiety, Chronic Fatigue and many more so always seek the advice of a health professional if you’re concerned about not being able to sleep.
Below are a few considerations that helped me turn my poor sleeping habits around:
Switch off technology
Switch off technology 2 hours before bed, this includes phones, televisions, computers and tablets. These devices all have a blue light beaming out of the screen that stimulates your brain and actually suppresses the release of the sleep hormone melatonin.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND installing f.lux onto all your devices to regulate the blue light in your screens. F.lux adjusts the colour of the screen with the time of day so, when the sun goes down it will reduce the blue light and create more of a “Candlelight” look. It’s much easier on your eyes and won’t keep you up all night! Here is their website https://justgetflux.com
Avoid caffeine which can be found in green tea, coffee, energy drinks, and even cacao can have a stimulating effect on the body due to the theobromine content. Instead choose Dandelion tea, chamomile tea, lemon balm tea.
Leave your worries for tomorrow
Keep a Journal or a book by your bed to write down all of the days “worries” or things you have to do tomorrow. This helped me to clear my head before hitting the pillow. Of course things happen in life that play on your mind but what i learnt in my long and lonely nights awake, was that nothing is that important that it should have you up all night worrying. Tomorrow is another day.
Take it down a notch
Implement a relaxing practise into your day whether that’s meditation, mindfulness or Yoga Nidra. Here is a free yoga nidra audio that always helps to take me to cloud nine! This helps to get your nervous system into parasympathetic mode instead of pumping out adrenalin and getting you ready to fight! A few tricks on calming your nervous system:
1 – Breathe deeply through your nose into your belly for 4-6 counts and out through your mouth for 4-6 counts. Do this several times.
2- While lying down in bed, put your attention on one body part at a time starting at your feet and moving up to your head. Imagine each part becoming heavy and relaxed.
Avoid Negative dialogue about sleep
When i was not sleeping well, my relationship with sleep was not good. I feared going to bed and the tough night ahead. Now, if i have a thought about not being able to sleep i simply let it go and don’t allow my body to get swept away into a big reaction. It’s only a thought, let it pass. This is where your mindfulness will kick in because you will have the ability now to let go of thoughts and not fret on them. Sleep should be a peaceful, healing time, where you feel safe and cosy.
Use Herbal or natural sleeping aids
When my sleeping was really bad the doctor gave me a sleeping pill which i tried a few times but they are by no means a long term solution and in my opinion don’t give you the same quality of sleep as natural sleep. Plus they gave me nightmares and i’m not one for taking drugs! Instead i opted for herbal sedatives like passionflower, hops, lemon balm, lavender, chamomile. Ask your naturopath for the best option for you. I also used magnesium. Natural Calm is a highly bio available form of magnesium and definitely helps me to drift off to sleep.
Let the natural sunlight hit your eyes in the morning
First thing in the morning, go outside or open the curtains to allow the natural sunlight to hit your corneas! This helps to regulate your sleep hormones and will help solidify a healthy sleep routine. Try to go to bed before 12 pm – every hour before 12 is worth 2hours!
Having a good pillow and bed is so important in getting a good night sleep. Find a pillow that supports your head and neck, i find Memory Foam Pillow are great!
It’s often said that your outside world is a reflection of your inner world. Keep your bedroom clutter free. It’s also important to keep your work space separate from your sleep space. If your office or desk is in your room, cover the computer and any other work equipment with a blanket – this helps transform your work space into your sleep space.
Are you sleeping in an electromagnetic field with poor ventilation or air quality? All these things can affect your quality of sleep. Make sure your room has adequate ventilation, get an ioniser and remove your bed head from any power outlets and electrical equipment.
Of course i wouldn’t leave you without some sort of recipe! So here is a little bedtime trick my acupuncturist told me. Apparently according to Chinese Medicine Black Sesames help you sleep! So before bed take a 1/2 tsp of honey and dip it in a jar of Organic Black Sesame Seeds and eat! My last piece of advice is to SURRENDER to the bed, surrender all thoughts, let everything go and be ok with that, it’s now time for you to rest… Now go and sleep up a storm!