Sleep is so important for long-term health and optimum daily function. Occasional challenges with sleep is annoying but not a big concern. For some of us, trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both is an ongoing struggle.
Happily, there are many natural strategies that can help; I know because I used to be a “terrible sleeper” (since I was a baby according to my mom!) and now I sleep well.
What Does Sleeping Well Mean?
Some studies and articles say we need 8 consecutive hours. Others counter this by citing the sleep patterns of our ancestors who slept for several hours, woke up, did things, and then got their “second sleep.” One study showed that people who live the longest sleep 6.5 to 7.5 hours per night, contradicting the 8 hours statement.
So What Is The Answer?
If we consider the purpose of sleep, then we have a better idea of what good sleep is. The purpose is to rest the body and mind. If your body does not feel rested or if your mind feels frazzled, unfocused, or otherwise deficient, there is a good chance you are not getting proper sleep. During sleep, the subconscious mind goes through stages of dreaming where it works out and releases our problems. Insufficient sleep means the burden of those problems is still weighing heavily on us.
This individualized process requires you to pay attention. Choose what resonates with you and utilize that strategy for a week to see if you notice improvement. If so, continue and assess if you need an additional strategy. Think of this as an exciting puzzle for you to solve and imagine yourself well-rested and smiling as you solve the mystery.
1. Make your environment conducive to sleeping.
- remove electronics/clutter
- darkening window shades
- air purifier (bonus – white noise)
- a bed that supports you properly, as well as pillows and sheets that add to your comfort
- use your room for sleeping and intimacy only
- make it comfortable/peaceful
2. Sleep rituals cue your body and mind so they know it is time to cooperate!
- get in bed around the same time every night
- avoid television or anything that riles you up for 1-2 hours before bed
- add something soothing like drinking some herbal tea, journaling about your blessings, listening to soothing music (preferably no lyrics), soak your feet in Epsom salts, do a guided meditation (free ones on YouTube) and/or doing some mindful breathing
- if you often wake in the middle of the night, eat an ounce of protein (cashews/nuts are a good choice) before bed
- if you wake up in the middle of the night and you have a flexible schedule, get up and then get the rest of your sleep later (second sleep) – just keep it consistent so you can get through all your dream stages
3. Natural helpers may come as tea, capsules or tinctures (liquid). Some individuals may not react well (groggy the next day, etc.) so start on a night where you don’t have to work the next day and do low doses to start. Additional research or working with a practitioner is recommended.
- Herbal Teas (Sleepy Time, Chamomile, Lavender)
- Valerian Root capsules or oil
- Magnesium capsules or oil
- Rescue Sleep (Bach Flower remedies)
- Dimmak herbs (Chinese) has several sleep formulas
- Essential oils (lavender, valerian root)
- Homeopathic remedies such as Sepia and Pulsatilla
4. Taming the Mind/Relaxing the Body – Our thoughts are very powerful; right before we fall asleep we are in a hypnotic-like state where we are highly suggestible. It is important to choose thoughts that help guide us into a restful sleep rather than worrying or trying to solve problems. This takes practice but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
First, relax the body. Take three deep breaths (abdomen expands first, then the chest), in through the nose and out through the mouth with a sigh or as if blowing through a straw. Focus on your feet. Breathe relaxation into your feet or tense the feet up during an inhale and release on an exhale. Work your way up the entire body doing this.
There are several techniques for relaxing the mind. If something appeals to you, you can find more information with a web search.
- Reflexology – the brain is “located” in the thumb/big toe. If you press around you may find a tender spot – massage it and you will notice a feeling of calm.
- Jin Shin Jyutsu is a Chinese practice of holding your fingers to release emotions.
- Hypnosis/Self-Hypnosis – a Certified Hypnotherapist can help you easily create good sleep habits and most will instruct you in self-hypnosis after a few sessions. Self-hypnosis is a great way to deal with a busy mind.
There are things you can do during the day in preparation for sleeping well. Remember to breathe, stretch, and relax periodically – if needed, set an alarm. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol late in the day, and getting in some walking, dancing, or other physical activity will also help you as you solve your sleep mystery. You might also consider the guidance and treatment of many natural therapies including Reiki, reflexology, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, and biofeedback.
The wonderful thing is that by reading this article, you have already taken the first step in solving the mystery; you know that it is important to sleep well and you love yourself enough to want to find your path forward when it comes to sleep.
I have faith in you and this process – enjoy sleeping better… naturally!