Most people have trouble sleeping at some point in time, or perhaps have children or partners who struggle getting to sleep. We all know how grumpy we get when tired but did you know sleep is also the time our body performs restorative functions like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and hormone release. Experts agree that getting a good nights sleep is as important to health, well-being, and weight as are diet and exercise.
Besides good sleep hygiene such as a dark room, no screens before bed, consistent routine, no alcohol, what else can you try if you are spending hours staring at the ceiling?
Essential oils can have many different benefits such as providing clarity and focus or soothing feelings of anxiety. They can also be used to help you relax and sleep better.
My preference is to use one of the blends made specifically to help you relax and sleep well. They often include lavender, geranium, ylang ylang, frankincense
I like to use the oil in a vaporiser and only a few drops is required to fill the room with relaxing aroma. Another alternative is to add a few drops to your pillowcase shortly before going to bed. If the essential oil (1 drop) is diluted with a carrier oil (1 teaspoon), it can be applied directly to the skin. Common oils used are coconut, extra virgin olive oil and jojoba.
Do not ingest oils and seek advice if pregnant, breastfeeding, for children or if on medication.
Breathing exercises can be used to help calm your mind and help you to fall asleep. So if you find your mind is racing, it maybe worth concentrating on your breathing.
Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. There are many different breathing exercises but one I find easy is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Some people find they become light headed when first doing this, so make sure you are lying down.
- Allow your lips to gently part.
- Exhale completely, making a whoosh sound.
- Keep your lips together and inhale through the nose for a count of 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale for a full 8 seconds, making a whooshing sound throughout.
- Repeat 4 times when you first start. Eventually work up to 8 repetitions. You may need to try this a few times before you notice the effects.
Another technique to help when your sleep is disrupted by anxiety or your mind is bouncing between ideas, and is great with children, is to ground yourself.
Start by paying attention to your breathing. Try slow, deep, long breaths to help you feel calm. Once breathing steadily, go through the following steps to help ground yourself:
- 5: Acknowledge 5 things you see. It could be a pillow, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.
- 4: Acknowledge 4 things you can touch. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the sheets.
- 3: Acknowledge 3 things you hear. This could be the ticking of a clock, the sound of the wind outside your window.
- 2: Acknowledge 2 things you can smell. You maybe able to smell soap on your skin, or a smell wafting from another room.
- 1: Acknowledge 1 thing you can taste. What can you taste inside your mouth ?
Tension often builds up and stops us from relaxing. Massage has been shown to improve sleep and is often used to help infants sleep. Regular massage has been shown to help decrease anxiety and improve sleep quality, it is thought this may be due to the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help calm you.
Studies have shown pending 15 minutes writing a journal every night before sleep can help reduce worries, stress and increase the quality and length of sleep.
One way to do this is to write about a recent positive experience, how you felt and what happened. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or spelling the journal is just for you! Writing down the positive thoughts appears to provides more benefit than just thinking about them.
Next time you are going through a phase where you are not sleeping, pick one or two of the above techniques and start including it in your bedtime routine. You may find you get the best nights sleep you’ve every had, with the added benefits of better health and the ability to maintain a healthy weight!