You toss and you turn and you flip the pillow over, searching for the cold side. Only there is no cold side left because you’ve flipped your pillow over a half dozen times already. You just can’t sleep. You are at your wits end on account of not sleeping through the night in at least a week. A caffeinated zombie by day, an angry zombie by night because you’re so tired and yet can’t seem to sleep. We’ve all been here at some point, but the good news is there are many alternative ways of calming your mind and getting a good night’s rest.
Some tips on easing the frustration:
- Avoid eating for 2-3 hours before bedtime: An average sized meal can take that long to exit the stomach and begin making its way through the rest of your digestive system. If your body is trying to focus on breaking down the energy you just provided it with, it won’t calm down enough for you to fall asleep.
- In that same vein, avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages in the evening. Even if you don’t think it affects you. A hot chocolate or London fog isn’t going to do you any favours. Alcohol may help some to fall asleep, but it will disrupt sleep patterns in the wee hours of the morning leading to a poor quality sleep overall.
- Have a bedtime: Set a regular time to hit the hay every night. Likewise, aim to get up at the same time every morning to start your day. Yes, even on Saturday.
- Set the stage: Close the blinds or curtains to darken the room. Consider investing in blackout blinds. I had them as a child and recall a huge difference! An eye mask is another option to curb the light entering your eyes. Your body needs darkness to manufacture melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep.
- Try some pranayama or breathing exercises to bring your heart rate down: Start with an inhalation to a count of four, hold the inhalation for one or two counts, then exhale it to another count of five. Slowly work up to increasing both the inhalation and exhalation to a count of ten.
- Another relaxation technique is to begin at the toes, working your way up clenching, engaging, tightening each body part then releasing it fully.
- Fluorescent lights also disrupt melatonin production. If it’s possible, change lights in your office or home to full spectrum bulbs or juggle things around to allow for natural lighting. Everybody could use a little more vitamin D, especially in the winter months when we get less sunlight hours.
- Finding even just a little time each day for some physical exercise will improve overall health and wellbeing, affecting your sleep quality as well. If you enjoy running or working up a sweat, regular gym time can be a great outlet for any frustrations or stress from your day, relaxing your mind and muscles in the end. Try to avoid anything too intense in the evenings though as it’s more likely to stimulate than relax.
My go-to aids when I can’t shut my monkey mind off:
- Schedule wind down time before bed: Journal writing to go over any frustrating, exciting or just day-to-day things allows me to close my eyes with a clear mind having taken the time to get it all off my chest. Japa meditation with mala beads and a mantra to keep the mind on task helps me personally to slow my brain down as well.
- A last resort: If I’m really stuck and can’t calm my mind I turn to the homeopathic remedy Coffea Cruda. I’m usually asleep before they’re done dissolving under my tongue!
I wish you peaceful dreams!