Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? These problems could be short term, lasting for less than 3 weeks, or a chronic condition. Insomnia could be due to anxiety, mental stress, nutritional deficiencies, poor sleep habits, physical disorders like sleep apnea (a breathing problem), or a reaction to medications. A good night’s sleep consists of four or five 60-90 minute cycles, REM (rapid eye movement) and four stages of light-to-deep non-REM sleep, in order to achieve physical and mental well-being.
Here’s something I didn’t know, minimum daily requirements for sleep are genetically determined. Your sleep pattern will stabilize in early adulthood and vary from 4 to more than 10 hours in a 24 hour period. I am a 8-10 hour sleeper. My daughter is a 10-12 hour sleeper. She started that when she was a baby and continued through her teens, although college life has drastically changed that pattern! Before I started yoga, I was experiencing levels of insomnia, waking up at night and obsessing over what was coming up the next day or analyzing what happened yesterday. It seemed I had fallen out of my habit of being a good sleeper. And that was exactly what happened. I was under high emotional stress and getting up at night and going downstairs to eat something had become my new pattern. I had to retrain my brain and body. Yoga helped with that. It calmed down my “monkey mind” and reminded me that I could get back in control of my sleep pattern. I started rituals before sleep. Going through the day and being grateful for all that happened and setting an intention to have a good night’s sleep before I closed my eyes. Turning my clock to face away from me was another way I stopped obsessing. I no longer looked at the clock when I woke up in the middle of the night. So many people tell me they wake up at a certain time every night. I ask them, “How do you know what time it is?”
I believe the best sleep is achieved between the hours of 10 and 2 am. Avoiding caffeine, heavy meals, and strenuous exercise for 3-5 hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep. Limit mildly stimulating factors like alcohol and nicotine. James Balch, from his book, Prescription For Nutritional Healing, says…”Foods like cheese, chocolate, sauerkraut, bacon, ham, sausage, eggplant, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes contain tyramine, which increases the release of norepinephrine, a brain chemical stimulant, causing insomnia”. Try relaxing with a warm bath or shower, soothing music or reading. Get up at the same time every morning, if you have to nap, limit them to one hour and go to bed one hour later. Increasing foods that contain iron and copper may improve your sleep. Dried beans and fruits, red meat, nuts, tofu, also may help you maintain sleep. For nervous tension that creates sleep problems, try carrot juice combined with apple, grape pear or pineapple.
Want to try a supplement? Thinking there’s something else missing? Try B complex, Vitamin C, or some natural alternatives like herbal teas containing chamomile, hops, passion flower, peppermint, rosemary and valerian root. I lived on the homeopathic remedy of Nux Vomica for a long time. And there is that one ingredient, which by now should be in your cupboard and is called the Vermont remedy, 3 tablespoon apple cider vinegar with honey and water. Massage? Pinch just above the bridge of the nose, and inch behind each earlobe, the center of the nape of the neck or massage the sole, heel, sides, ankle and the tops of your feet. Here’s the best remedy…deep breathing! Slow, deep breathing….full belly breathing. Set your intentions for the night and do some slow counting backwards from 100.
And here’s Louise Hay’s take on insomnia..Fear, not trusting the process of life. Guilt. Your mantras for the evening? I lovingly release the day and slip into peaceful sleep, knowing tomorrow will take care of itself.
Wishing you sweet dreams.
If your symptoms persist, please visit your doctor. The information written here should not take the place of your primary care doctor.