Having been a great sleeper most of my life, whenever I do suffer periods of sleeplessness, I really suffer! It’s not fun but on the plus side, figuring out how to get my sleep back on track has been one of the most rewarding feelings. And the difference in how I feel when I’m sleeping well just makes me more and more convinced about the importance of great sleep for overall health and wellbeing.
Naturally there are periods in life when lots of sleep might just not be possible, with a young baby, restless kids, traveling a lot, for example. But when sleep is totally possible but just not happening I know how frustrating that can be and how it completely sends your system off.
Recently fellow teacher Elonne wrote a blog about a wonderful and simple 10-minute yogic practice to help get a restful night’s sleep, which I highly recommend checking out: http://www.samahitaretreat.com/blog/restful_sleep-elonne-html/
While here I’ve compiled a list of 20 more tips that are worth trying out to find out what works for you when your sleep is off. Personally I’ve tried endless methods, determined to figure out what works for me, but also to help some clients and students get more restful sleep. Because not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, we’re all different, with different body types, lifestyles and at different stages of life. And it turns out there can be many reasons for not sleeping well, whether it’s simply not having enough energy to either go asleep or stay asleep, or whether it’s hormone, stress or blood sugar related, to name but a few common reasons.
Note that none of the tips below are quick fixes like taking sleeping tablets or even natural supplements such as melatonin. The first 16 are quicker fixes, you can pick a few that appeal to you and try them over a week or two, while the second 4 require a bit more commitment and may be for more serious sleep issues.
1. Brain Dump
Write down all the big things on your mind before going to bed. Empty it out, get it on paper or in your computer and leave it there to deal with tomorrow.
2. Talk About It
Just as affective can be connecting with people whether your partner, sibling, friend, colleague and sharing what’s on your mind. A mind that’s preoccupied will be much less likely to switch off.
3. Soothing Sounds
Playing music that soothes your soul can be a great way to relax the mind before bedtime. I like to lie down in savasana or with my legs up agains the wall with some relaxing sounds.
4. Nourishing Tastes
Warm, grounding, nourishing foods, especially in the evening are recommended if you’re feeling a bit ungrounded or strung out. Cooking itself can be relaxing and taking time to sit down and eat slowly can help you unwind in the evening and is much better for digestion.
5. Cut Caffeine
If you’re a coffee lover like me you don’t want to hear that you have to give it up. I can’t see me ever totally giving it up. But what I have found is that drinking it in the afternoon can definitely affect my sleep, especially if I’m a bit wired already. Try restricting your caffeine intake to the mornings only.
6. Exercise Early
If you like to workout in the evening it could be pumping your system up rather than helping it wind down. An early workout will energise you for the day and give you time to do more relaxing activities in the evening instead.
7. Foot Love
This is an Ayurvedic tip I recently came across which seems to work wonders for me. Try massaging your feet before you go to bed with sesame oil. Massage the soles especially, helping to calm the vata dosha to induce a sound sleep. Vata imbalances can often cause insomnia.
8. Holistic Healing
There are many holistic treatments which work wonders for sleep issues including aromatherapy massage, reflexology, reiki and acupuncture. Test some out and see what works for you.
9. Bath Bliss
A hot bath or shower before bed will help relax the body, washing off the worries of the day and making you feel much calmer before bed.
10. Technology Discipline
Being on your phone or laptop or watching in bed can be far too stimulating for the brain. Try limiting technology an hour before you go to bed and leave your phones and laptops in another room.
11. Belly Love
Hot water bottles are so comforting. If you haven’t had one since you were a kid, seriously go get yourself a new one! Try lying down with it on your stomach to relieve the stress and tension that’s often carried there. The heat and weight is so comforting.
12. Bedtime Tea
Herbal nighttime teas can be very soothing. There are plenty you can buy or you can experiment with making your own. A favourite recipe of mine is with rice milk and some chai herbs such as cinnamon, cardamon, clove, vanilla and turmeric. Simmer for at least 10 mins and add a small amount of honey to sweeten.
13. Lavender Oil
Long known as one of the most relaxing essential oils, lavender oil can be used in so many ways. Try a few drops on your pillow, in your bath, or add to your body oil and give yourself a nice massage before bed.
14. Yoga Nidra
A wonderfully relaxing practice that takes you into deep relaxation and can help with falling asleep. There are plenty of recordings available on YouTube or various practices you can download or buy on CD.
15. Book Time
Instead of TV just before you go to bed try reading a book instead. Books are wonderful for escaping your world and switching off from a hectic day plus they don’t have the stimulation aspect of TV.
If these tips aren’t working or you know that you need to make a bigger commitment to get to the root of your sleep issues then you could try some of the following tips that take a little more work:
Starting with your bedroom commit to doing a massive spring clean of your home, emptying out those boxes that haven’t been touched in years, giving stuff away, or throwing out all the junk. Creating space in your home helps create space mentally.
17. Routine Rework
Do you have a routine? If not start there and aim to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day or as much as possible, over the course of a month. If you’re a night owl and lacking sleep try moving your fixed bedtime earlier and earlier until you are going to bed before 10pm and waking up before 6am.
18. Meditation & Pranayama
Many people will vouch for the effectiveness of meditation for reducing stress and helping sleep issues. Certain pranayama or breathing practices can also be used specifically to calm the system. However, it does take some commitment, both in learning good techniques and more importantly, putting it to practice.
19. Restorative Yoga
Again this can take some commitment but learning how to do restorative yoga like yin can be a wonderful tool for unwinding in the evenings. By committing to at least one or two classes a week you can eventually start to practice at home and see the benefits.
20. Ultimate Treat
If you know that stress is your issue or you want to learn some yoga, breathing or meditation techniques but simply don’t have time in your daily life, then treat yourself to a retreat, far away from it all. Immerse yourself, unwind, give your health the time it deserves and go home truly recharged and rested. Our de-stress program is a popular choice as are the spa programs, both combined with daily yoga.
I wish you many, many great sleeps in the future!