Eight natural ways to get a good night's sleep.
Sleep, sleep, sleep!
Do you sleep well?
In these stressful modern times the simple act of SLEEP is fast becoming a luxury. The pharmaceutical companies are making a fortune on the sales of sleep-inducing products, which very often don’t really work, but can be counted on to introduce relatively harmful chemicals and drugs into your organism.
We all need to take a close look at our daily habits, if we want to achieve a better quality of rest each night.
Here are eight recommendations for the preparation period and for the actual moments when we are trying to drift away into a healthy slumber.
They are simple to do, they are not expensive, and they produce results!
BEFORE WE ACTUALLY GO TO BED.
Our feet are vital elements of our everyday life
1.- Pamper your feet.
You should always try to go to bed with warm feet. If they are like blocks of ice, soaking them in warm/hot water should help
Additionally, if you have been standing a lot all day, or wearing shoes that are not so comfortable, or if you have arthritis in the joints of the feet, or if you are just plain tired, and your feet are killing you, take a short time to soak them while adding different products to the water.
For painful, aching feet, a soak in strong brine, preferably made with rough sea salt, will work wonders.
Or you could try a more soothing soak, using a mix of fresh mint and rosemary leaves. An even better experience can be had by using the essential oils derived from these plants. Rosemary is especially effective for reducing the pain of aching bones and joints!
After you finish the soak, if you can find (or make) an ointment or cream based on these same herbs, so much the better!
As a personal comment, I would add that I have always found the foot bath an easier solution than going through all the hassle of a complete soak in a bath-tub, this just seems like too much work after a long day! And anyway, it’s the feet that connect to all the other areas of the body, so here is where you want to concentrate your efforts! Give them a good rub when you dry them and cover them in soothing lotions, you will feel wonderful! And your feet should be nice and warm!
London during World War II
2.- Avoid watching strong scenes on TV or movies.
If you really need to get a good night’s sleep because of some stressful or demanding activity the following day, try to not give in to the temptation to watch a harrowing movie late into the night!
This is not the best of things for relaxing and emptying your mind in preparation for sleep. Your mind will probably become overactive and jump around all over the place. This makes it difficult to control your thought processes, another essential part of going to sleep.
Beautiful, Soothing Lavender
3.- Drink teas made with natural herbs.
There are many herbs that are specially indicated for inducing a restful, natural sleep. To mention a few:
- lavender, which will also help a congested chest;
- chamomile, a plant with a daisy-like flower (not recommended during pregnancy)
- lemon balm or Melissa officinalis is an herb belonging to the mint family
Wonderful, Versatile Chamomile
Lemon Balm (Melissa)
WHEN WE ARE ACTUALLY IN BED
We have probably all heard this one at some time or another. My Granny Madge was very insistent about this, and as usual, she was right!
When you listen to the experts give their instructions, according to which you have to concentrate on each muscle in your body and intentionally relax it, it seems so long and complicated. I have always found that a shorter, more practical version is just as effective. What seems to work is just to give your body a quick general overview, maybe adjusting your posture and finding a more comfortable position.
The key is to really concentrate on the face and neck, as these are the points that are usually all screwed up and tense. Drop your jaw, clear the wrinkles from your forehead, unscrew your eyes, check your neck and maybe your shoulders and you’re all set!
I should point out that these are the really critical zones, and sometimes they are not so easy to relax. Just have patience and work on it, it will soon become a habit.
As was to be expected, the tip about the face being the last part that we relax, and very often don’t do so at all, came from my Granny Madge!
Learn to relax like a cat does.
5.- Practice abdominal breathing.
This I learnt in my Qigong classes and a simplified description would be to say that instead of puffing out your chest as you inhale deeply, you must puff out your abdomen!
Now it may be that I’m exceptionally dumb, but I managed to understand that what I was doing was to push my diaphragm downwards, thus leaving more space at the chest level, which in turn allowed me to inhale a larger volume of air. So far, so good, but where, oh where, was my diaphragm? I know that it is a muscle that crosses the body more or less at waist level, but for the life of me I could not take control of it and move it voluntarily. It took me some time, several months in fact, but I finally managed it, and now I can do it at will, whenever I need to.
The important thing is that as soon as one starts abdominal breathing, the body drops into a relaxed state. This is the most wonderful feeling, and very conducive to a deep sleep.
Controlling your Mind with Neutral Thought Processes.
List of Numbers to the Power of Two.
12 = 1
22 = 4
32 = 9
42 = 16
52 = 25
ZZZ ZZZZ ZZZZ
6.- Control your thoughts, keeping your mind as still as possible.
This is probably the most difficult part. Our thought processes really never stop; they just slow down or speed up as the case may be. Now when we are tense or overtired, or frantic about getting to sleep, our mind just seems to jump around like crazy, and it is really hard to catch it and slow it down. While learning Qigong, my wonderful teacher explained that it would be easier if I found some neutral idea to concentrate on, instead of trying to make my mind blank, which I would probably never do.
When I was young and still studying, I used to recite my lessons, looking for the most boring contents. At one time I mentally recited the chemical valences of the elements. I never got very far along; this put me to sleep very quickly. Then I started to recite the table of numbers from 1 to 25, with their powers of two. That is: 12 = 1; 22 = 4; 32 = 9, etc. I still know them all by memory, except for 232 and 242. I think I must have gone off to sleep before I got there!
At this date and age all that seems too tiring, so through my Qigong practice, I learnt to count backwards, so simple and effective! I tried starting with a large number, like 100 - 99 – 98 – 97, etc., but .I usually got all confused and angry with myself for having to start all over again. So I finally settled for starting at 30 and counting backwards. If I keep a constant rhythm, I have found that it takes me about 2 minutes to work back to 1, a fact which I use for standing meditation. If I need more minutes, I just go back and start all over again. My mind becomes still, and as I have used this constantly, as soon as I start, no matter where I am, at the dentist, standing in line, waiting for the bus, or trying to get to sleep, I immediately relax and start to breathe deeply. It’s just a question of forming a habit, which can be done in a relatively short time, and it works like a charm. It’s easy, free and effective!
Stretch out full length!
7.- Regulate your body temperature through visualization.
After carrying out all the previous steps, you should be nice and warm and relaxed. But if you still feel cold, you need to raise your body temperature. There are innumerable appliances for heating beds, but it is always preferable to achieve this goal naturally. This way, you save on energy and natural resources, and you also avoid possible accidents. The results are also healthier!
The important thing is to stretch out, and really use all the length of the bed, which is what it’s for! We tend to automatically roll up into a ball, but this is not the best posture for breathing and circulation.
Now imagine you are in a warm place, like a tropical beach with palm trees, for example. Use your mind to tell yourself you are warm and comfortable, and this will eventually become a habit, and work for you. When the weather is hot, you just need to change the visualization!
And another small tip is to wiggle your toes. I used to do this in my commuting days, when traveling in the freezing cold buses out to the rural area where I directed a school.
Eat Bananas and avoid Leg Cramps.
8.- Try and avoid leg cramps.
Very often, leg cramps are a sign of lack of potassium. A natural solution is to eat plenty of bananas.
I tend to get very severe cramps, and as they are so painful, there is very little hope of getting a good night’s sleep if you develop one. I have been studying my movements in bed, and I have come to the conclusion that cramps can be self induced. In other words, I tend to shift in bed in certain ways that bring the cramps on. So now I am extra careful about turning over, or sitting up, or getting out of bed. These disagreeable visitors are probably more common in older persons; I don’t remember having such strong cramps when I was young and active! Still, they will chase sleep away, so we must watch out for them!
Most of these tips are well known, but I believe that combining some or all of them is the secret for good results. This also means adopting a more natural way of life, which will improve your overall health as well.
I think I can truthfully say that I don’t take sleeping pills, I don’t have a lot of difficulty getting to sleep, and if I miss out on an occasional night, I don’t worry myself sick over it, I just try to drift off into a pleasant visualization, counting on the fact that even though I don’t actually sleep so many hours, I will feel relatively rested in the morning.
And I don’t drink coffee!
Happy sleeping to you! If possible, let me know if you have had any success with these tips.
© 2012 joanveronica (Joan Robertson)