If you have trouble sleeping, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Nearly 60% of adults in the United States experience insomnia 2-3 times per week. The reality is that insomnia affects our quality of life. It often leads to a loss in productivity (at home AND at work) It also increases our risk for having accidents. Insomnia is linked to other health problems including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, to name just a few.
There are 3 main TYPES of INSOMNIA.
Can’t fall asleep
Can’t stay asleep
Light Sleeper - Sleep is not restful
What causes INSOMNIA?
Physical Conditions – Chronic or acute pain, body sensations related to other health conditions
Medications/Drugs – Many substances, both prescribed or over-the-counter can interfere with our ability to find restful sleep.
Dopamine agonists (includes some medications for Parkinson's disease)
Psycho-stimulants and amphetamines
Cold medicines and decongestants
Beta agonists and theophylline (bronchodilators)
Medications to lower blood pressure (alpha agonists, beta blockers)
3. Over-active Mind and Worry – Stress is one of the leading causes of insomnia!
So…what are the options for those suffering from insomnia???
Well, the quick fix is to see a physician and start taking a pharmaceutical medication. There are many on the market, but most come with risk for side effects.
As a holistic health practitioner, I subscribe to the principle Primum Non Nocere, which translates to “First, Do No Harm.” A holistic practitioner applies this principle by:
choosing treatments that support the innate healing ability of the body
choosing treatments that honor the laws of nature
teaching people insight and awareness of how lifestyle choices and other factors affect their health
Do a little research and consider over-the-counter homeopathic remedies and nutritional supplements. Homeopathic remedies are completely safe. They have NO SIDE EFFECTS. They either help with the specified ailment or do nothing. Be aware, however, that some nutritional supplements may have negative side effects. Just because it is “natural” does not mean it is harmless. I have seen many a case where people have set themselves into a spiral of imbalance with hormone-influencing natural supplements. It is imperative to fully research the effects of nutritional supplements before taking them willy nilly!
Before resorting to pills, look at the following…
your insomnia may be just a matter of making a few
Diet/Meal habits – Research shows that eating regular meals, less meat and eating dinner earlier in the evening may be important keys to more restful sleep.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, sugar.
Create a bedtime routine. Regular repetition of a “winding down” routine can condition the nervous system to settle down as you make your way toward sleep. I like to sip a cup of herbal SLEEPY TEA, wash my face, brush my teeth, elevate my feet and read a book. Turning off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime is a MUST.
Create a bedroom environment conducive to sleep. If you follow no other advice, at least do this: REMOVE THE TV FROM YOUR BEDROOM. Reserve this room for sleep (and sex.) This is a sacred space and deserves to be free from unnecessary distraction. Keep your bedroom décor minimal.
6. Examine your subconscious attitudes about sleep. Are you fearful about going to bed…anticipating that you will have difficulty falling asleep? Sleep is your friend. It is a time of renewal and rejuvenation. Try to re-frame your thoughts by being grateful that you have this time. Welcome sleep with your entire being!
HERE ARE SOME ESSENTIAL OILS THAT CAN ASSIST YOU IN FALLING ASLEEP AND STAYING ASLEEP. USE THEM IN AN ELECTRIC/ELECTRONIC DIFFUSER IN YOUR BEDROOM, NEVER IN CANDLE FORM!
As a longtime yogi, former insomniac and Yoga Therapist,
I have put together the following practice to help you find peaceful slumber.
It works for me EVERY TIME!
NO FAIL YOGA PRACTICE FOR INSOMNIA
The entire practice should take no more than 15 minutes. If we view the problem from the yoga perspective that everything is ENERGY, there are three aspects to this practice.
Gaining Control of the Energy
Calming the Energy
Choose one or two practices from each category to create a nightly routine that you find enjoyable. ALL parts of the practice must be done with awareness and intention to sleep.
1. GAINING CONTROL (choose one)
Double Breathing with Tension/Release: Inhale for 3 seconds, retain the breath for 3 seconds, creating tension in the muscles of the entire body during the retention. Release the breath slowly and gently for a count of 6 seconds. Repeat 6-8 times.
3-Part Vessel Breathing: Inhale slowly, filling the abdomen with air from bottom to top (belly, ribcage, chest), then exhale slowly until you feel completely empty. I like to focus on making seamless transitions between the inhales and exhales. Repeat for 8-10 breaths.
2. CALMING (choose one or two)
Standing Forward Bend – from standing, simply fold the spine forward with bent knees until you are hanging like a rag doll. If this causes strain in the lower back, rest your elbows on your thighs.
Easy Seated Pose Forward Bend – sit in a simple cross-legged position and fold gently forward over the legs. Use a pillow in your lap if necessary to relieve tension in the neck or back.
Child’s Pose - come onto your knees and sit back onto your heels. Open the knees up wide and bring your feet together. Walk the hands forward slowly as you bring the torso toward the floor. Inhale deeply and release your body weight into the pose as you exhale. You may choose to use a pillow or bolster under the torso for support. Allow your body to become limp as you breathe deeply through the nose.
Reclined Twist – lay on your back with both legs extended. Bend the right knee and grab hold of it with the left hand. Inhale and as you exhale, gently pull the knee across your body to the left into a twist. Remember that there is no goal to go any deeper into the twist than your body allows. Take 5 deep breaths as you hold the twist without strain. Change sides and repeat.
Happy Baby Pose – lay on your back with your feet up in the air. Bend your knees and grab hold of the feet by holding the outer edges of the feet. Gently draw the knees toward the floor as you press the feet into the hands toward the ceiling. Slowly rock from side to side massaging the back muscles. Release and relax.
Legs Up the Wall Pose – lay on the floor on your back with your legs extended up a wall. This pose helps calm the mind, slows the heart rate, and may assist in lowering blood pressure.
If using bolster or pillows in forward bends, be sure the skin is pulling gently toward the eyes instead of toward the hairline. This calms the nervous system and quiets the brain.
Choose one technique and use it each night. All Surrendering techniques are practiced in bed, with the lights off, in Corpse Pose (lying on your back with arms and legs extended alongside the body.)
Sensory Visualization – visualize your thoughts like cartoon “thought bubbles” floating out and away. You will notice that the thoughts flow in a constant stream that varies in speed from night to night. As you witness the “thought stream” you will likely discover it is not that interesting…and sleep soon follows.
Muscle/Body Part Relaxation – systematically move through the body focusing your attention on one body part at a time. I like to start with the eyes, feeling them sink deeper into their sockets, becoming relaxed. Move your awareness to the forehead, cheeks, jaw, neck, shoulders, etc. Work your way down to the feet and toes. Most times I am asleep before I get there!
Mantra or Affirmation – think about a phrase or affirmation that supports a peaceful frame of mind and simply repeat it silently to yourself. Some suggestions:
I am at peace.
I am calm.
I am ready for sleep.
There is more wellness in me than not.
I am becoming more relaxed with each breath.
I am grateful for each breath I receive.
I deserve to rest.
My body and mind are relaxed.
Let us know how it goes! Share your experiences and comments below.
Jessica Lohrey is a Certified Yoga Therapist by the International Association of Yoga Therapy. She sleeps peacefully each night in Asheville, NC.