After a busy day of multi-tasking, even the most serene among us can be found wide awake at night, with a mind that won’t stop buzzing. Up to a third of Australian adults suffer from insomnia, with twice as many women as men suffering. If you occasionally find yourself struggling with sleeplessness, simple strategies can help.
Create a bedtime ritual to signal to your body and mind that all activity is done for the day and it’s time for rest. Any food, sensory stimulation or even thoughts you take in must be digested and absorbed before you will be free to rest. Finish eating two hours prior to bedtime, and turn off the TV or put aside your mobile phone and laptop at least a half an hour before retiring.
When you come to bed, take a moment to notice your hands, your feet and the rest of your body. Close your eyes and mentally shower your entire body with love and appreciation for a few seconds. This is the precious container that holds you and allows you to experience the world. Imagine every cell is filled with love.
Stretch And Yawn
Rest on your back and contract and stretch your muscles from head to toe. Flex your feet, spread your toes and then curl them under three times.
Stretch out one foot and reach the opposite arm overhead. Gently squeeze and release the leg and arm muscles three times. Change sides. Hug yourself and shrug your shoulders toward each other. Hold for three or four seconds and release.
Change the cross of your arms and repeat.
Rest the base of your palms above your eyebrows and place your thumbs on your temples. Slide your fingertips along your hairline and circle the thumbs lightly on your temples. Yawn three times.
Rest In Love
Either in bed or on your yoga mat, come into Child’s Pose with your knees wide apart and forehead resting on your hands. Imagine a blanket made of infinite love covering you. Let your head relax onto your hands. Tell your skin, muscles and organs that they are free from the demands of multi-tasking and being on constant alert. Settle into this cocoon and rest for at least a minute.
Let Yourself Melt
Lie flat on your belly, resting your forehead on your hands. Feel your navel expand toward the floor as you inhale and pull back as you exhale. With each exhalation, imagine releasing tension from your body. Do this for 10 breaths. Roll slowly onto your back. Rest your fingers on your belly, feeling it rise and fall as you take 12 more breaths. With each exhalation, let yourself melt and be absorbed into radiant love. Then, curl into a foetal position on your right side and rest. You may even drift off to sleep.
If you’ve had sleep troubles for a month or more, you may have chronic insomnia and may want to contact a GP for advice.
Nourish Your Dreams
What you eat can affect how you sleep. Try these diet tips and remedies to ease insomnia.
While it’s not a good idea to eat heavily close to bedtime, if you’re hungry in the evening, a small snack can be calming. The best snacks contain both a carbohydrate and the amino acid tryptophan, a natural sleep inducer, says Michelle Drerup, a sleep specialist. Foods rich in tryptophan include dairy products, soy milk, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, and nuts and seeds. “Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain, which is why carbs make you drowsy,” Drerup explains.
She recommends natural peanut butter with wholegrain crackers, low-fat cheese with apple slices, or a small bowl of wholegrain cereal with milk or soy milk.
“Caffeine is a mild stimulant that increases central nervous system activity for hours,” Drerup says. “So avoid all sources of caffeine six to eight hours before bed.” Coffee is loaded with it (100 to 150 milligrams per 250ml cup), but other foods, such as chocolate (12 to 25 mg) and energy drinks (60 to 140 mg), contain the stimulant as well. Drerup suggests also avoiding other natural stimulants, including drinks containing guarana seeds, kola nuts and yerba maté.
Melatonin is hormone secreted by the body that regulates sleep patterns. It is available in supplement form, but you can also get it naturally from food. Researchers have discovered that tart cherries, grapes and walnuts contain melatonin.
Studies show that even a marginal magnesium deficiency can excite the brain, preventing relaxation at night. Good sources of anxiety-fighting magnesium include leafy green vegetables, wheatgerm, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, black beans and almonds.
Recent research has shown that certain herbs have a calming effect, and they may help with insomnia. Talk with your GP before you take any herb or supplement for sleep.
Lavender: Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a hot bath and soak right before bed to calm your mind and body.
Valerian: Try a liquid extract of this sedative herb. Follow the dosage suggested on the bottle. It can take a few weeks to take effect.
Passionflower: Drink a tea infused with soothing passionflower.