Can’t Sleep? Get Better Sleep Tonight
If you suffer from insomnia or the ability to fall asleep, you are not alone. It is a frustrating and helpless experience to approach sleep each night without the ability to fall or stay asleep.
I suffered from insomnia for many years such that I would often cry in bed. I felt wired yet so very tired. I desperately wanted and needed sleep but I could not turn off my racing mind. In today’s post I share how I reversed the aggravation of insomnia.
1. Create a nourishing bedtime routine
The 30 minutes leading up to your bedtime is an important time to start to train your body for sleep. What would make you feel relaxed and nourished right before you go to bed? Writing in a journal? Using essential oils? Meditating? I break my 30 minute pre-bedtime routine down into 5 minute increments Sunday through Thursday (I give myself a break on Friday and Saturday nights!) to support easily drifting off the sleep.
30 minutes before bed – Write in my gratitude journal and reflect on the day. What was great and what could I have done better that day? I use the “5 Minute Journal” and I love it!
25 minutes before bed – I read whatever book is currently on my nightstand. I only read for 10 minutes. Even if it’s a really good book, I only allow myself 10 minutes. No thrillers allowed by my bedside either.
15 minutes before bed – I use sesame oil on my arms, hands and feet to help me feel relaxed. Sesame oil has a heavy, grounding quality to it which helps keep energy down as I prepare to go to sleep.
10 minutes before bed – I put cotton balls soaked in sesame oil in my ears. I am a VERY LIGHT SLEEPER so this Ayurvedic trick blocks out sound. The sesame oil is dense and creates a natural sound barrier.
5 minutes before bed – I practice alternate nostril breathing called nadi shodana to calm the nervous system and reduce stress. I will also alternate this routine with meditation 5 minutes before bed, too. I set a 5-minute timer on my iPhone (make sure the alarm is quiet) so it can alert me when the time is up.
0 minutes before bed - Lights peacefully out
2. Turn lights out by 10pm
Energy naturally starts to rise after 10pm and its easy to catch a second wind if I am not asleep by 10pm. Notice for yourself if you naturally get more energy after 10pm. Energy on the planet is naturally calmer between 6-10pm. Use that momentum to help you go to sleep.
3. Avoid screens 1 hour before bed
TVs, laptops and iPhones are all stimulating to the mind and increase energy instead of bringing it down. One hour before bed is ideal but if that feels like too much of a stretch, start with 15 minutes before bed and work your way backwards. Consider implementing your own version of the above referenced bedtime routine in its place.
4. Finish last meal or any caloric intake 3 hours before bed
Eating 3 hours before you go to sleep allows your body to naturally digest food so that you go to sleep with a pleasant, empty feeling in the stomach. Test me on this one – try to go to sleep with an empty stomach and watch how deeply you will sleep. For example, if you want to be asleep by 10pm, the kitchen and all associated snacks and drinks must be finished by 7pm. Watch your body’s healing potential soar when you incorporate this habit into your life.
5. Remove hidden stimulants in diet
Dark chocolate, sugary snacks and alcohol that converts to sugar once digested all act as stimulants in the body and can boost your energy in the evening unnecessarily. I have a very sensitive nervous system, so I am unable to eat foods or consume drinks that give me a boost of any kind. If you find yourself tired but staring at the ceiling at night wondering why you can’t sleep, think back to any stimulants that may have found their way into your diet that day and cut them out.
6. Stop mental work after 6pm
This is a tough one but very important if sleep is an issue. Stop all emails, work related tasks and work-related conversations after 6pm. This gives your mind a chance to unwind and relax. When I was in the marketing and advertising world, I would often do work after I put the kids down for bed and would cram tasks in until 11pm each night. My sleep was inconsistent and very poor back in those days. When I started to learn about Ayurveda I learned about the importance of this habit and made the shift. I began to set my alarm clock early for the next day and finished tasks in the morning when my mind was fresh and I felt recharged. Trust me on this one. If falling asleep or staying asleep is an issue for you, I challenge you to take this one on for several weeks and notice the shift.
7. Keep notebook and pen by bedside
We often have a barrage of thoughts that keep us from drifting to sleep peacefully. They sometimes come so fast that we aren’t able to process them. When you are unable to sleep, grab your notebook and pen and jot down what is on your mind. This acknowledges to your inner self that you hear the concern, it is safe on the pad of paper and it will get time for reflection tomorrow.
8. Reduce and eventually eliminate caffeine
Oh yes….this is a hard one! If you have trouble sleeping, caffeine may be the problem. I am a BIG FAN of running experiments on myself to see what works and what doesn’t work. In this case, eliminating caffeine is very hard for most. Instead, reduce your caffeine intake. If you drink two cups of coffee each day, reduce to one cup. Or cut your coffee with decaf. Run the experiment and see how your body responds.
Choose one habit that you can start practicing this week. I do not recommend taking on all of these suggestions at once. Take a moment to think through how you can specifically activate one of these habits in your life. What are the small action steps you can take today? Write those steps down and commit to making them happen for the next 7 days. Slowly incorporate the other suggestions, one week at a time.
To your wellness,