The articles in this Relaxation series are for people who cannot sleep or relax due to everyday stress. This is not written for people who have a medical condition as the underlying cause of insomnia. There is a big difference. For this reason, I do not use medical terminology for symptoms or diseases. If you know that you have a medical condition or physical weakness that makes it difficult for you to sleep or relax (which is not what this series is about) talk to your healthcare professional. Evaluate the reasons why you can't sleep. Write down everything you can think of that keeps you up at night. Once you have done this, then you can start to think about what you can do to get to sleep. I chose to use the image (above)—another image without a credit that has been floating around the Internet via email—to provide you with an example of what your imagination can conjure up for you. Imagine this is you and that you are a being of pure light (which is true, but hard to comprehend). It's a great way to get relaxed, to feel this way. Think of this when you practice any of the following tips for stress or insomnia.
SOLUTIONS TO SLEEP
- If you were not taught healthy sleeping habits as a child, start teaching yourself now. Acquire a habit of sleeping at the same time every night and waking up at the same time in the morning.
- If you are a student, organize your sleeping hours the same way you do your classes and studying. Try to study during the daylight hours and get to bed as early as possible to be alert in class the following day. Try to get 8 hours of sleep every night. You cannot do well in school on too little sleep.
- If you start to feel tired and really need to stay awake to study, do some cardiovascular exercises to pick yourself up. Small rebounders (trampolines) are great.
- Drink tea before you go to bed. A cup of chamomile tea with honey before you retire is very relaxing (unless you are allergic to ragweed, because chamomile is from the same family). Drinking liquids will wake you up in the morning (if you have trouble waking up), because you will have to get up to urinate. There are many organic teas for sleeping, like Bedtime Tea for example. If you have a medical condition that would not be helped by this, skip it.
- Combine Sage, Rosemary and St. John's Wort in equal amounts and and use 2 teaspoons at night to make a warm tea. This is nature's sleeping pill. Everything must be done in moderation. Don't overdo certain herbs to sleep either. You can read about them online. There are thousands of sites about herbs.
- If you must drink coffee, make your last cup no later than noon.
- Keep the area where you sleep ventilated. It's actually a good idea to have a window open just a crack to get some fresh air in your lungs while you sleep (something one cannot do so easily where it is very hot and humid outside). Fans (but not overhead) is a good idea to get the air to at least circulate. Try to keep the temperature where you sleep comfortable for you.
- Turn off the lights. There is scientific evidence that having a light on during sleep strains the eyes. Light also increases the body's activities and stimulates the kidneys. Learn to sleep in the dark.
- Be sure to sleep on a mattress that is comfortable and doesn't hurt your back. If you are allergic to foam mattresses, buy an all-cotton Futon or a mattress without any foam in it.
- Make sure you are not allergic to polyester. If you are, buy only 100% cotton sheets. You're better off using them anyway. Cotton costs more, but are soothing to the skin. If you live near an IKEA, they have wonderful sheets at reasonable prices.
- To protect your neck and back, don't prop up pillows.
- If possible, take a warm bath before you retire. There are so many bath products on the market that soothe the nerves—find one that calms you down. Lavender is nice. Pamper yourself with the thought that you are doing so to relax your heart and mind. Keep in mind: Intention is the most powerful way to heal yourself. Again, if you have a medical condition that would react negatively to a warm bath at night, skip this.
- If you're very nervous and like crossword puzzles, it's a great way to fall asleep fast.
- Try to refrain from taking sleeping pills. There are many natural products on the market that will help you sleep. Check out a health food store and ask someone who works there to help you. Nothing that creates the urge to sleep heavily can be good for you if taken for a long time, so always use caution.
- When you go to bed, lie down and start thinking about relaxing every muscle in your body (read Part 2 of this series for detailed instructions for The Complete Yoga Relaxation). If you have never learned how to do this, read this entire relaxation series and also read the Breath series. With these two, you can teach yourself how to relax completely. This always helps people sleep. If this doesn't work, buy my DVD and/or CD and listen to the Relaxation every night. That will definitely help you sleep.
- Wear earplugs if noise is the problem.
- Oatmeal. A warm bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and a little warm milk (or soy if you are allergic to dairy or prefer it), or without anything added to it. This is an old way of treating insomnia. Oats are usually easy to digest and are very nourishing and relaxing to the nervous system (unless you are allergic, of course).
- There are many other remedies for working with the inability to sleep at night, instead of fighting it. One of the most common is just to stay awake until you collapse, and then some experts say your body will work it out. This doesn't appeal to me, but perhaps it works for some people.
Research, research, research! Go online and type in the keywords: insomnia, relaxation, and anything else you can think of to help you find the sites that provide you with a variety of non-medical tips to choose from in order to get to sleep, finally. What works for one person doesn't always work for another ... so it's best to try different methods until you find the one that is perfect for you. I find the best method to be Yoga Nidra (Complete Yoga Relaxation - Part 2, below ).