I have a confession. I am not the best sleeper. Even as a child I hated going to bed. I would stay up reading or writing (and before writing draw picture stories). My mum gave up and ruled that I had to be in bed by a certain time even if I read for the next three hours. Through a very stressful period of my life I succumbed to prescription sleeping tablets which made me feel horribly hungover the next day. Today I generally sleep well but some nights its just not happening.
Does this make me more or less qualified to write this article?
I have certainly tried and tested various techniques. Here, I am sharing what works for me (when i remember to do it).
- Calm down by switching off the computer, all social media and the TV and don't read exciting books for at least an hour or two before bed. We all know this and it may be the hardest as well as the most effective way to relax and fall asleep.
- Observe your breath. Maybe as a meditation or a specific breathing practise. Long slow inhales and even longer exhales. Rest your hands on your abdomen and let the in-breath expand the abdomen and allow the out-breath to soften any unnecessary tension. Bring the hands to your side ribs and again let the inhale be an easy expansion and the exhale a release.
- Massage your feet with oil before bed. This is a great Ayurvedic advice. If you have a busy mind this practise brings the excess energy out of the head and grounds it. It will calm us down. If you have a tendency to anxiety and excitement (Vata in Ayurveda) use a warming sesame oil. If your thoughts feel more heating and towards anger (Pitta) use a cooling coconut oil. But any oil will do the trick.
- Have you moved today? Like the advice above, movement is about getting out of the mind and into your body. It might be a run, walk to work instead of the car or bus, exercise or dance. Yoga is excellent as there is an emphasis on the mind-body connection and poses that may specifically allow both body and mind to relax. Create time to move every single day.
- My top tip for when you are still awake at 3am or woke up at 4am knowing sleep just ain't gonna happen is to practise Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep. It's a bit like a guided relaxation or meditation which allows your mind to be guided free of distractions. Most recordings last between 25-45 minutes and are well worth listening to instead of getting agitated due to lack of sleep. You might even notice when listening to the same Yoga Nidra again and again that you hear different things every time. And maybe you did drift off for a moment or two.
I recorded some Yoga Nidra practises which you can try out. You can find them on my website under classes/podcasts.
Wishing you all the best and a good night's sleep.