Sleep – is now in the news. Arianna Huffington has written a book about the necessity of sleep. Her new book The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night At A Time talks about how important it is to get enough sleep. It talks about the fact that we are a sleep-deprived society, and if we don’t change our patterns of sleep, the result can be poor health and in some cases death.
In a recent article, the writer discovered that “skimping on sleep may eventually affect us so badly that those of us who don’t end up dead – through cancer, heart disease or fatal accidents caused by exhaustion – will be overweight, stupid and depressed, our brains, metabolisms, and moods ravaged.”
Sleep deprivation has even been tied to making one more susceptible to Alzheimer’s!
It is true we are a nation of sleep-deprived people.
One of the first things I talk about with my coaching clients and their sleep pattern. I have found that there really is no wisdom or pride in saying, “I only need four hours of sleep”. Actually getting only four hours of sleep can make it difficult for our cells to regenerate, to heal from colds, infections or ward off chronic disease.
There are some solutions to help increase your ability to relax and get a good sleep.
10 Holistic Ways To A Good Night’s Sleep
Here are 10 holistic ways (no pharmaceuticals) I have tried that can be very helpful when it comes to getting a good night sleep.
This natural hormone, which is made by the body’s pineal gland, is available over the counter, and many health experts say it can safely help you get drowsy before bed (it may even have immune-stimulating and antioxidant benefits, too).
But, as with all herbal and natural remedies, it’s best to get your doctor’s OK first.
2. Awareness Breathing
Does your mind race with thoughts and worries in bed? Your play-by-play of the day’s activities may increase anxiety and fuel insomnia.
Instead, try simmering your mind down, focusing on each breath and how it travels through your body. As it turns out, this type of conscious or awareness breathing may help you get to sleep1 faster, say experts.
How does it work? By following the air as it moves in and out of your lungs, your mind, which generally can only focus on one thing at a time, will be occupied with your breath — not your anxieties. And it’s not as intimidating as it sounds.
Simply take slow and steady – deep – breaths, focusing your thought on the natural inhale-exhale rhythm and watch as you sleep, your body and mind calm down.
What can a few downward-facing dogs do for quality? A lot, say, researchers. Past studies have found a correlation between yoga practice and decreased symptoms of insomnia. One study from Harvard Medical School researchers, who found that daily 30- to 45-minute yoga sessions significantly improved symptoms for those suffering from chronic insomnia.
In another recent University of Rochester study looking at cancer survivors, a demographic that frequently reports sleep disturbances, researchers found that the movement, breathing and mindfulness of yoga significantly improved the quality of the study participants’ sleep.
This exotic-sounding herbal supplement is commonly used throughout South America for help with sleep and relaxation – it’s even found in some sodas. There is evidence that the herb may have pain-relieving qualities, helping to control muscle spasms and even menstrual pains.
Passionflower (also known as passiflora) is available over the counter at most health food and drug stores that carry herbal supplements.
5. Total Darkness
Of course, you turn off the lights before dozing off (you do, right?). But if there’s still a flicker of light in your bedroom, from streetlights outside, your husband’s book light, the dim hue of the television, and so on, it may be time to make some changes.
Researchers have long known that too much light can affect your sleep cycles, disrupting restful sleep. But now a new study from researchers at Ohio State University reports that too much light can disrupt your body’s natural clock so much that even the dimmest light in the bedroom may lead to weight gain.
Banish excessive light in your bedroom by turning off the TV; try to avoid falling asleep with lamps or even bright nightlights on; and
consider investing in blackout shades (purchased inexpensively at any department store), which can eliminate outside lights better than blinds or curtains.
When counting sheep won’t work, maybe meditation will. Meditation – defined as simply focusing on a calming, peaceful image or thought – may help you get sleepy fast. Here’s why – it stimulates alpha brainwave activity followed by theta brainwave activity. In effect, this is slowing down the frequency of your brainwaves, the same process that occurs when one moves from waking to light and then to deep sleep.
New to meditation? Just get comfortable, take deep breaths through your nose, and let your mind go quiet for a while. After a few moments, your mind may start becoming distracted (thinking of things that happened during the day) and when it does, focus on each breath to draw you back to a place of peace and calm.
Valerian’s effectiveness has been compared to a Valium family medication (oxazepam), without the ‘hung-over’ feeling present with most Valium medications. It can be used as a remedy for insomnia, and a number of studies show numerous benefits, including an improvement in deep sleep, the speed of falling asleep and quality of sleep without next-day sedation . As with any alternative medication, be sure to talk to your doctor before using.
As with any alternative medication, be sure to talk to your doctor before using.
Could the secret to great sleep be in what you … smell? Many essential oils not only help you fall asleep quickly, they also induce a higher quality of sleep.
Top picks? Roman chamomile, which has a bright, apple-like scent; clary sage, with its rich, sweet scent; and the floral notes of geranium and lavender (all available inexpensively at most health food stores). The best method is to put two to three drops of essential oils on your pillow, under the pillowcase. Refresh the drops on your pillow every few days to once a week – about as often as you wash your sheets.
9. Warm Bath
Don’t forget about the power of a simple pre-bedtime bath to get you in a groggy state. Baths help your muscles to relax. But it’s what a bath does for your nervous system that may really help.
There are two main parts of our nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system, which is the adrenaline part described as the ‘fight or flight reaction,’ and the parasympathetic nervous system described as ‘the old man after dinner’. Shifting from the adrenaline to the relaxed part of the nervous system is critical for entering into sleep, and a hot bath shifts your brain into sleep mode.
It’s best to take a bath before bedtime but give yourself about a half-hour before hitting the hay for your body’s natural thermostat to cool. Setting the thermostat in your bedroom no higher than 65 degrees can also help.
10. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
You’re lying in bed wide awake, staring at the digits changing on your alarm clock … now what? Try something called progressive muscle relaxation, a practice that involves using the mind and body simultaneously to induce sleep.
Here’s how you should do it: starting with the muscles in your feet and slowly moving up to your calves, thighs, pelvis, abdomen, chest, neck, head and face muscles, relax the muscles in each area, one group at a time. People find that they can induce a very deep state of relaxation using this approach, and often fall asleep in the middle of the process.
You can practice this technique in any sleep position; the key is to pick one you are most comfortable in, then relax your muscle groups from there.