Eating healthy organic food is just one way to live a vibrant and productive life. It is just one piece of the equation of an overall healthy lifestyle. Sleeping is an essential aspect of feeling and looking great. Sleep deprivation can lead to risk of developing type II diabetes, a compromised immune system, and a lapse in memory just to name a few side effects. If you are like me or most other people, you have suffered from insomnia at one point in your life. For me, this is something that I have battled for several years following a bout of PTSD after losing a loved one unexpectedly. I have resorted to taking sleep aids out of desperation for sleep. Insomnia is a truly horrible condition. But I knew that my end goal was to battle this and sleep naturally. It took years, but through extensive reading and a lot of trial and error, I have experimented with different techniques and approaches to finally result in restful sleep that is completely organic.
In my research, I cam across and interesting find that it is actually not natural for people to sleep for 8 consecutive hours at night. Back in the day, people would go to bed early, sleep for a few hours, then wake and be active and then nap for a few hours in the afternoon, We have only trained our bodies to so that over time since most people’s lives evolve around a 9-5 sleep cycle. So if you are waking in the middle of the night, it is totally normal and natural to do so! This partially explains why so many people are using sleeping aids, OTC and prescribed. If you would like to message me privately about this topic, please do so! I hope this information helps someone to sleep better tonight.
Here are a few successful things I have integrated into my life.
Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal glad that regulates our sleep cycle. Light affects our production of melatonin, so in the winter we will produce it earlier or later in the day. This can sometime lead to SAD as well (seasonal affective disorder) or winter depression. Melatonin is found in some foods as well. For example I was recently reading that taking 1 TBS of cherry juice at night helps to aid in sleep since it contains melatonin. Luckily for us, melatonin comes in capsule form! It is available in different mg. I take three 3 mg. each night after dinner, around 7 pm. For me, it just takes awhile to work so I found this is more affective to take early. The bottle however recommends an hour before bed. You can find melatonin, anywhere! Walmart or Walgreens just to name a few.
2. Valerian Root
Valerian is an herb that people have used for centuries for anxiety and as a sleep aid. It is derived from the root of the valerian plant typically found in areas of North America, Europe, and Asia. As a sleep aid, valerian seems to be most effective for people who have trouble falling asleep but also has had good results for people who wake up during the night. Valerian root is available as an extract in powder or liquid form, as a dried herb in tea form, or in pills. I take it in pill form and ingest three supplements about an hour before bedtime.
3. Essential Oils
I am just discovering and learning about essential oils and their wide array of health benefits. I began by using peppermint oil for my allergies and found it to be very effective. I discovered a wonderful sleeping oil that is a roller ball. There are two that I use at night. One for anxiety, and one to help me sleep. I put the oils on my wrists, temples, third eye, behind my neck and ears, and on the bottom of my feet. Not only do they smell wonderful, they are truly effective in calming me and putting me to sleep. I have only had two nights where I have been up all night in the past few months, which is remarkable progress for me. I tend to now sleep a few hours, and then awaken in the middle of the night for a while. I use the oils when I wake in the middle of the night and they do help me to get back to sleep. I initially found the oils at Marshalls-they have a wonderful organic an essential oil selection! But it can be hit or miss. So I have ordered these off of amazon as well.
4. Exercise your body
This is a huge one for me! I sleep so much better when I have physically exerted myself. Whether it be a run at the gym, time on the elliptical, a brisk walk, or some soothing yoga. Make time to do this and you will definitely notice an improvement in your sleep.
5. Exercise your mind
When I paint, or research something, read, write for my blog, I feel myself being drained of energy. It is important to work and challenge your mind to clear it of busy energy and leave it feeling relaxed and peaceful.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force known as qi or chi (CHEE) believed to flow through pathways in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these pathways, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance. When I was initially faced with insomnia years ago, someone recommended acupuncture and although off put by the thought of needles in my skin, I was willing to try anything. I was pleasantly surprised at the results. I would go for acupuncture usually twice a week and on the nights I went, I definitely felt more relaxed and slept better. The acupuncturists will work with you to target specific pulse points on your body to treat different ailments. I recommend looking for a community acupuncture center which involves sitting in a large room with other people while relieving treatments as opposed to a private session. I was a little skeptical at first but the environment was very relaxing, calming, and peaceful. And the benefits of doing a community acupuncture was the cost. Sessions were based on whatever donation you were willing to give which I typically gave around $15 so it was very affordable. Unfortunately the area where I live in now does not support his type of practice so financially it isn’t an option for me right now.
7. Limit anxiety at night
One of the problems with developing sleep disorders, is that it is very easy to create a cycle of anxiety around sleeping. This was definitely true with me. I would anticipate going to sleep and become anxious. I would also worry about the hours left in the night that I had to sleep and most of all I would worry about staying up all night. I have only had two nights where I have been let up all night in the past few months, which is remarkable progress for me. I tend to now sleep a few hours, and then awaken in the middle of the night for a while. But the oils help get me back to sleep usually.
A few things I do to lessen my anxiety surrounding sleep is to turn my alarm clock away from me so I can’t see the time if I awaken in the middle of the night. This definitely contributes to anxiety if I start to worry about having to get up in just a few short hours. I keep very dark curtains in my bedroom so there is no light allowed in and I will not be cued as to whether it is still night or morning.
8. White noise
This could be a fan, music, a sound machine. I have used all three but recently just a fan. Bath and body works has great sound machines. And sometimes I just set up Pandora on my phone or lap top to a soothing station. The use of white noise will help distract your mind.
I have used guided mediations on my iPod to relax me and I feel they are very effective. I used “Butterfly Meditation” by Chunyi Lin if you are searching for a good one. If you have never meditated before it is definitely worth trying for an overall peaceful state of mind.
10. Limit caffeine-this is a common rule of thumb if you want a more restful sleep. I only have two cups of coffee in the morning and then nothing else for the day. I wouldn’t advise drinking any after 3 p.m.
11. Don’t eat a large meal late-this always guarantees a bad nights sleep for me. Try to stick to regular meal times and eat on the early side so you body has time to digest the meal. It is recommended to eat a light healthy snack about 30 minutes before bedtime to help regulate blood sugar and to avoid waking in the middle f the night hungry. I tend to choose a banana, a few crackers with peanut butter, a handful of almonds, an apple, or a few rice cakes as options.
12. Stick to a routine-It isn’t always realistic but try to go to bed and rise at the same times or within an hour window. This will queue your body that it is time to sleep.
13. 4-7-8 restful breathing exercise-This is technique that I have been implementing recently when I wake in the middle of the night. This exercise is simple and can be done in any position although when learning this technique, sit with your back straight. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system
I have spent years battling my insomnia and it is such a relief to me that I finally conquered it. I think my body is still learning to sleep naturally so I don’t get many full nights of sleep. But they are becoming more and more frequent. Please keep in mind this advice and information is not coming from a medical standpoint but from someone who has experienced insomnia and wants to share what I have learned through my struggle. There are natural alternatives to medicine and they are effective. If you have any natural sleep remedies that have been effective for you, I would love to hear them!
Best of luck and sweet dreams! 🙂