By: Sarah Grace Powers – Confluence Daily is your daily news source for women in the know.
In last week’s post, I shared six tried and true tips to help you get the restful sleep you need so you can be well charged for a productive day – not to mention feel and look a heck of a lot better!
True confession: Sometimes I forget to take my own advice. But, I always know when I’m getting off the program when I start struggling with too much wakefulness. Granted, there are many factors at play for those of us who find ourselves wide awake in the middle of the night and/or after shutting off the light to snuggle up for sleep.
Hormones, life events, and many other things play a role. In some cases, it’s a good idea to see a medical or mental health professional to get things sorted out. However, the tips and ideas I’m sharing here and in last week’s post can really shift things, no matter what else is going on.
Wait – what? We’re talking about getting still and resting. Sure, but it’s been proven that regular exercise (preferably aerobic, but any type helps) promotes a more restful sleep. If you hate the very thought of structured exercise, you can get some ideas on this blog I wrote years ago, called (appropriately enough) Hate to Exercise? Baby Step Your Way to Fitness.
One caveat though: Don’t get all aggro and work up a big sweat in an hour or two before bed. Stretching is great later in the evening, but schedule the heart pumping for earlier in the day.
Write it Down (Pen or Voice)
Here’s what I used to recommend: Keep a journal or notebook, pen, and flashlight by your bedside. If you awaken with that hamster wheel whirring in your brain – whether it’s worries or brilliant ideas – grab your notebook and jot down some key points. Then, trust that these world-shaking thoughts are now preserved.
Nowadays, I usually forego the flashlight and notebook and just grab my phone and talk into the voice recorder, or write by voice into Evernote (any note-taking app would work. Sometimes I even dictate an email to myself!) Pen or voice, they both work, I just suggest NOT turning on a light. Also, make sure your phone is turned down to the dimmest light setting when you are settling in for the night.
Afterward, you could do a little visualization to turn your worries over to a higher power. Picture your cares drifting upwards in a floating balloon and trust that all will be resolved.
Resist the Urge to Pretend it’s Daytime
My partner has struggled for years with a pattern of waking around 4 or 5 am and feeling wide awake for about an hour or more. When we first got together I saw he was exacerbating the problem by getting up, turning on a bright light, looking for his sleep aids, going downstairs for snacks, fretting, etc.
This is NOT the way to get back to sleep! When he listens to me and uses his phone flashlight instead of a light, or better yet, lies still and engages in some deep breathing he is able to sleep back into dreamland a lot more quickly!
If you find yourself super awake during the wee hours, do your best to stay put in bed. Lie still, breathe, and you will often find yourself at least in an alpha state of rest.
Skip the Coffee
This one’s pretty obvious, but bears repeating. If you regularly struggle to get to sleep or if you can’t drift back off after waking in the wee hours, give some serious consideration to weaning yourself away from your caffeine habit. It’s not just coffee. Black and green tea, colas and even yerba mate can promote wakefulness just when you don’t want it.
At the very least, cut back, and forgo these beverages after 2 p.m.
Engage Nature’s Allies: Use Herbs &Natural Remedies
Try one or more of the vast number of natural herbs and supplements to bring on that restful sleep. Be aware though, it’s best to avoid drinking herbal tea right before bed if you suffer from insomnia. Getting up to use the bathroom is counter to your goal! Purchase herbal formulations as liquid extracts or capsules.
- Relaxing herbs include kava, passion flower, valerian, California poppy, hops, chamomile, and catnip. Many of these are helpful for pain as well – which can keep you awake. Herbs work particularly well when used in combination. Check out the selections of herbal combos at your favorite natural foods or herb shop. Or find them online from the comfort of your bed!
- Calcium and magnesium, when taken before bed, can relax the muscles and encourage sleep.
- Melatonin is a hormone manufactured in our own bodies. Sometimes we need more of it. It’s been shown to help you fall asleep more quickly as well as reverse daytime fatigue. Many people swear by it for jet lag since it helps to adjust your circadian rhythms.
Take A Hot Bath
Not only will this relax you and help you wind down, the increase and subsequent drop in body temperature signals your body that it’s time for sleep. A shower or sauna will do this too. If you can treat yourself to the full luxury of a bath, try adding some sleep-inducing essential oils (see below.)
Use Essential Oils
These concentrated plant essences are powerful therapy and several are known to help insomnia. Add several drops to your bath, mix with some almond or jojoba oil and treat yourself to a little bedtime massage (better yet get a friend to), or add a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser.
Essential oils of bergamot, chamomile, frankincense, geranium, and lavender are all excellent for bringing on the shut-eye.
Practice Daily Stress Reducing Routines
If you incorporate relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation and deep breathing into your day, it will pay off when it’s time to get to sleep. Daily journaling is another way to release stressful thoughts and process anxiety caused by life transitions. Spending some time on this during the day frees your brain to relax into sleep come evening.
Try A Sleep Pillow
Make or buy a sleep pillow filled with soothing herbs like hops, lavender, and chamomile and tuck this into your pillowcase. The relaxing aromas will lull you into a peaceful dream state.
Don’t Forget the Earplugs
I currently live in the center of a small city in Mexico where wedding parties and festivals occur pretty much every weekend. When the windows have to be open due to heat, earplugs are my best friend.
If you live in a noisy nighttime environment, earplugs can be your savior. Especially if you are easily woken, or if you are battling that busy brain wakefulness. I find that even if it’s not THAT noisy if I pop in my earplugs I tend to drift off more easily. My current favorite is wax earplugs.
Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as ‘tapping’ or EFT is an amazingly effective therapy for many issues, including insomnia and anxiety. It can be practiced anytime, even in bed, and you can do it all by yourself. Good old Dr. Mercola explains it in great detail here.
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Sarah Grace Powers is a certified life coach and EFT Practitioner. She is a ‘dream resuscitator’, helping clients rediscover their passions and reinvent themselves no matter what their age or circumstance. In her previous career she owned and operated an herb shop and has practiced holistic living for over three decades. Find her at sarahgracecoach.com
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