Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Let Dreams Within You Dwell

We've all been there, 3 AM after tossing and turning, your mind unable to calm down and let the day fade away, replaying past events and conversations on repeat, finding the the glaring light of the clock adding to vicious cycle of restlessness.

Sleep is important, I mean crazy important, in cultivating emotional and physical balance. Often times we don't notice its gravity until we're without. Insomnia and sleep problems can reek havoc on our lives, making us more susceptible to illness and mental instability.

I have suffered intermittently throughout my life from sleep issues that have returned with my pregnancy.  I know how much bigger the problem can become than a bad night's sleep. In my case my lack of sleep coincided with bouts of depression, anger, and a weakened physical state. Thankfully this time when insomnia began rearing it's ugly head I had so much more information to help me handle the problem before it became one.

After years of anguish, many sleepless nights, and a compromised immune system, I have found several natural ways to help drift off to peaceful and substantial rest. These methods are pretty simple and straightforward, but have worked wonders for me. Everyone's bodies are different and it might take some experimenting to find what works for you, but so very worthwhile. Only when we are fully rested can we begin to approach clarity and build our strength.

Lifestyle Basics
Get to bed as early as is comfortable (10 PM is a great time for most people)
Exercise regularly (about 4 hours before sleep is ideal, but not directly before bed)
Meditate or enjoy light reading 15-30 minutes before bed
Only go to bed when you feel drowsy
Remove strong external stimuli an hour before bed (turn down lights, turn off the tv)
Establish a sleep routine (and stick with it as much as possible)

Eat a large breakfast, medium-sized lunch, a small dinner (avoid heavy meals prior to bed)
Increase your intake of Vitamin B rich foods (bananas, potatoes, avocados, legumes, kefir)
Increase your intake of Magnesium rich foods (seeds, dark leafy greens, wheat bran)
Drink a cup of hot tea before bed (chamomile*, marjoram, lemon balm, passionflower)
Limit your intake on chocolates, colas or foods containing caffeine prior to bedtime
Drinks lots of water throughout the day

Valerian (30-45 minutes prior to bedtime)
Melatonin (do not take long term, but can be very effective if used sporadically)**

Additional Sleep Aids

Use relaxation techniques in bed (visualization, progressive muscle relaxation)
Aromatherapy (lavender, chamomile, ylang ylang)
A warm bath prior to bed (not too long or too hot)
Eye masks to block the light
Avoid illuminated bedroom clocks
Don't sleep in (if you can help it)
Play calming music or soothing sounds

*Avoid chamomile if you have a ragweed allergy
** Melatonin is contraindicated during pregnancy

Sometimes a calming tune is all you need to hit the hay. Here are a few of my favorite "lull you to sleep" tracks.

Essie Jain-Understand

Jose Gonzales-Fold
Sigur Ros- Agaetis Byrjun
Radical Face- Asleep On A Train
Yann Tiersen- Le Moulin

Wishing you all lots of rest!



Just a Little Nut-Meg said...

I know exactly what you mean about the "just can't turn off your brain" cycle when you try to go to bed. It always seems to be things that have no bearing anymore, like a fight you had with someone in high school, or what you should have said to the rude woman at the grocery store etc. I have trouble sleeping on a regular basis and have found some relief in quite a few of the things you mentioned, especially the purposeful relaxation of body. THAT is a winner :)

Tara said...

Yep. It's always all those little, seemingly insignificant things that bounce around in our heads the most when trying to get some shut eye. Progressive muscle relaxation helps me out so much when I'm struggling with sleep. Before you know it, your mind is calm and you're drifting off. It's definitely a winner!