Suffering from insomnia is an age old affliction that more than half of the global community suffers with. I, for one, have suffered with my personal sleep patterns since childhood. I remember, vividly, awaking in the middle of the night and sneaking down the stairs of our old farmhouse to peak at my dad, who, inevitably, would also be awake watching the Three Stooges or reading a book in front of the fireplace. My dad never slept 8 hours in his life until his cancer medications began to knock him out preceding his passing. I have no desire to await my death for a good night's sleep!
Over the decades, yes, I am alluding to my age here, I have taken supplements, used exercise, and even swallowed a sleeping pill or two to combat my insomnia. None prevailed until I developed a new night time ritual. There is no one clear choice when it comes to the night time rituals to overcome insomnia. Just as everybody is different, every body is as well. Here are a few of the things that have greatly helped me in championing sleep over an active brain:
Breathing is an involuntary action of our bodies, however, with a few voluntary practices we can aide our lungs in receiving more oxygen and take some of the work load off our minds to relax. My favorite night time breath in the Ujayi breath or "victorious breath".
Yogic breath or “pranayama” (prah-nah-YAH-mah) in Sanskrit, Ujayi (ooh-JAH-yee) is one breathing that is recognized to calm the mind and heat the body. Obviously, noone wants to go to sleep cold, so the heating and providing oxygen in a rythmic form can do wonders for relaxation before bed as well as during your yoga practice!
When you begin to practice Ujayi, you will completely fill your lungs, through your nose on the inhale and exhale through the nose as well. As you breathe in and out is will be necessary to slightly contract your throat, making a hissing sound or ocean sound, much like your partner's breathing after too much wine! This breathing technique is used throughout Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga practices.
Some of the wonderful benefits of Ujayi Breath are from maintaining a steady, rhythmic breath. When "controlling your breath, you calm your mind and bring awareness to the present moment. This awareness is the heart of yoga. In yoga, it is believed that by consciously practicing breath control exercises, you can bring positive changes to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing." Ujayi is especially beneficial for calming the mind. It is known to be beneficial for those suffering from stress, insomnia, and mental tension.
I can not get enough of my essential oils, candles and aromatherapy in my relaxation rituals. My go to oil to diffuse is lavender. If you’d like to tame your overactive mind at bedtime this tip is for you. Lavender is the ruler of relaxation when it comes to scents. Pair your pranayama with the aromatherapy and you will be shocked how quickly sleep comes!
I use lavender a few ways before bed... I am a bath addict, I admit it! A bath with rose water and lavender (8 to 10 drops from a respectable essential oil company) not only helps sooth the mind and body but allows you to continue to breathe in the smell even once you are in bed.
A drop or to of food grade lavender essential oil in a cup of warm water before bed, keeps my belly from wanting night time snack, warms and relaxes the digestive system for sleep and just soothes all around.
Lastly, I diffuse lavender at night while I sleep. the smell combined with the subtle white noise of the diffuser put me to sleep like an scratch n sniff sticker put my 3rd grade self in pure bliss!
#3 White Noise
In recent years there has been much research into sound waves and how they affect our brain as well as our circadian rhythm. Most notably the theta waves. We hear about Alpha waves which are our frequency bridge between our Beta waves (our active mind) and our Theta waves or subconscious mind.
"During theta brainwave activity, both the body and mind experience enhanced rejuvenation, growth, and healing. Due to the deep levels of relaxation that theta brainwaves facilitate, the body and mind are easily able to restore themselves during and after illness, as well as after mental burnout and physical exertion."
For me I have found a simple application downloaded to my phone allows the theta waves to play during sleep and not only assist in falling asleep, often the hardest part for an insomniac, but mostly in keeping asleep throughout the night.
#4 Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra, conscious sleep or yogic sleep, is a guided relaxation tool or meditation allowing relaxation throughout the physical body and subtle mind through subconscious movements.
Sleep well my tribe!