All of us know what sleep is and we know how it feels; however, while much progress has been made by sleep scientists, the essential nature of sleep still remains unknown.
Approximately 60 million Americans suffer each year from some form of sleep deprivation. While research continues, sleep still remains one of the body's most mysterious processes. We do know that sleep is absolutely necessary for survival. The lack of sleep for millions of people worldwide is not only a major medical concern, but a major big business. Even occasional sleeping problems can make daily life feel more stressful or cause you to be less productive. Sleep loss affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity and impairs the body's ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.
To help achieve a good night's sleep the more natural way, numerous tips have been cited in almost every form of advertisement available. Although you have probably tried many of them, one of the following tips might just be the one that will help you get a healthier, more natural night's rest.
- Qi Gong exercise for calming the mind.
Here’s an exercise to help draw energy out of your head and direct it to your lower abdomen. By shifting your focus away from distracting thoughts, you’ll rest more easily. Read the instructions then give it a try. Practice this exercise at a time when things are quiet and you can work without interruption.
Step one: Lie comfortably on your back.
Imagine the contented feeling you get after you've eaten a delicious satisfying meal. After a meal like that you felt happy and a maybe a little sleepy, right? Simply by recreating that feeling of contentment, your body will begin to slip into a calm peaceful state. At the same time all that extra energy in your head will move down toward your digestive system where it can begin to “digest those distracting thoughts.Step two: Place your hands on your lower belly, about 2 cm (1 inch) below the navel. Women keep the right hand in contact with the abdomen with the left hand on top. Men keep the left hand in contact with the abdomen with the right hand on top.Step three: Begin to make large slow circles in a clockwise direction over your lower belly, keeping your hands in light contact with the skin. The circles should be slow – about 4 full seconds for each revolution. For best results repeat the movement at least 81 times.Tips: When working, focus your full attention on the movement of your hands as they circle around your belly. Feel every nuance of touch, motion and sensation. Soon you will begin to feel warmth in the palms of your hands and throughout your abdomen. Your arms may also begin to feel a bit fatigued. As you shift your focus from your head to your belly your mind will naturally become calmer.If you are having difficulty focusing your attention on the movement of your hands, try following your breath instead. Notice how your belly rises and falls with each breath. Move your hand in rhythm to your breath.If you are still unable to quiet your mind, don’t worry about it. Quieting the mind can take some time. Don’t force yourself to stop thinking — that rarely works. Instead, step back and simply observe the movement of your swirling thoughts from a distance. Observe your thoughts quietly and without judgment. Notice your thoughts rhythmically rising and falling away. Continue to breathe deeply as you circle your hands. Eventually your mind will begin to calm down.
- Herbal support: You can enhance this Qi Gong exercise with Bach Flower therapy. Use a bit of Rescue Remedy or mix it with a bit of White Chestnut. Place a drop of the remedy on the soles of your feet to help with grounding. With the essences still on your hand, do the belly exercise.
- Imaging - think of a hammock - you're up off the ground, wrapped in a cocoon of comfort, swaying gently in the open air. The sun is warm on your face & there's a breeze blowing you back & forth. This visualization helps you "see" what sleep's reward will be, getting you more in the mood to sleep. Visualization has proved helpful in developing the appropriate brain wave patterns for sleep.
- Magnesium - has a calming effect on the nervous system. It is part of bones & cells, especially the smooth cells of arteries, & assists in the absorption of calcium & potassium. Over 300 enzymes need magnesium to function properly. When combined with B6, it helps to reduce & dissolve calcium phosphate stones. It is so important, that the brain stores a "safety supply" to have in the event of a drop in the magnesium reserves. We like the powdered effervescent magnesium found at most health food stores, called CALM.
- Upside-Down Relaxation Yoga Pose - Forget counting sheep. This pose will relax your body and mind, and the best part is that you can do it in bed! Ease your way into dreamland with Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose http://spirithealers.blogspot.com/2013/04/yoga-pose-that-may-have-power-to-cure.html
- Nutmeg - grind fresh nutmeg & serve it with warm, organic, preferably raw or unpasteurized milk & honey. Milk is naturally high in calcium & rich in tryptophan; together they can be a powerful tranquilizer.
- Hot foot baths - in the East, a hot foot bath is a traditional remedy; it draws blood from the brain to calm a racing mind. Try soaking your feet in a hot foot bath with a cupful of Epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil, which will soothe you. Your feet absorb the magnesium from the Epsom salts and relax you further.
- Toe wiggling - lie on your back & wiggle your toes up & down 12 times; do both feet at the same time. Your entire body relaxes. According to the science of Reflexology, your feet are a kind of master control panel for the rest of your body. "Meridians" in the body - those channels of energy treated by acupuncture - end up in the feet. So, the end of those meridians in your feet connect with every organ & every part of your entire body.
- Listening to an audio book - the brain works like a tape player - with one main auditory loop that processes words. If you fill that loop with an interesting book, there's no room for your own worrisome internal narrative. Especially helpful for those who have continuous thoughts running through their heads. (In my own experience I discovered that if the book is very good, you might get the opposite effect)
Yoga for Bedtime
- Short Meditation
Sit up in bed comfortably, either with your legs folded or straight in front of you; whatever you can do with the most ease. Sit up and lean slightly back on your pillows or backboard. Close your eyes and rest your hands on your thighs and just breathe here for a few minutes. This doesn't have to be a serious meditation but just a short while to do nothing but breathe.
- Seated Twists
Stay in your seated position and twist around to the back of your bed. If you have a backboard you can grab onto that to help your twist. Breathe into the twist for a few breaths and then try the other side.
- Easy Forward Bend
Keep your seated position and gently bend forward at your hips and let your hands stretch out straight in front of you on the bed. This will feel good in your hips and your whole back.
- Legs Extended Forward Bend Flat Back
Slowly start to straighten your legs in front of you. You can keep your knees bent slightly since we are working towards sleep here instead of the power yoga move of the day. Reach towards your feet with your knees bent and keep your back flat. Bend your knees as much as you need to keep your back flat. This is a really nice hamstring stretch.
- Legs Extended Forward Bend Round Back
Keep your legs extended out in front of you and round your back gently over your legs. This is a nice stretch along your spine.
- Lying Down Knee to Chest
Roll back down on your back and rest your head on your pillow. Bring one knee into your chest and grab your shin to pull it closer to you. Breathe here for a few breaths. This lengthens your extended leg and loosens up your hip. Switch legs and do the other side.
You can also do a Knee Hug by hugging both knees into your chest and rocking slowly side to side on your back.
- Hamstring Stretch
Extend your leg straight up to the ceiling. Grab behind your knee or closer to your ankle. Keep the leg straight and slowly start to bring it closer to your head on each exhale. Try the other side. Remember to stay gentle with these stretches--almost like you are half-doing them. This will help you drop any tension left in your body before bed.
- Half Happy Baby
Bend your knee again and flex your foot to face the ceiling. Grab the outside of your foot with the same arm as foot and bend your knee towards your armpit. You can also do this with both feet at the same time.
- Bend Knee Lying Down Twist
Bend your knee back into your chest and twist your leg across your body. Turn your head in the opposite direction and bring your arms out to a T shape. Make sure to do the other side.
- Star Shape Twist
Extend your leg that is twisted over and reach with that foot out to the diagonal. Reach with your opposite hand to the opposite diagonal. Look towards your hand. This is a really nice twist. Try the other side.
- Knee Hug
Hug both knees into your chest and rock slowly side to side on your back. Let your whole back relax into your bed.
You're almost there. Extend both legs out straight into a savasana position. Rest here for a while. If you prefer to sleep in this position then you're all set and have a great sleep.