Tips for Restful Sleep
Good-quality rest is key to optimal functioning and well-being; it’s hard to feel good when we’re sleep-deprived. Sleep issues are a common symptom of many hormone imbalances and are impacted by cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone.
Ironically, getting enough sleep is important to help balance hormones because sleep reduces cortisol, a main-stress hormone that can throw all the others out of whack. It’s a vicious cycle and important to break, especially since sleep deprivation is a key factor in premature aging and weight gain! Dr. Christiane Northrup, an expert on this subject, recommends at least 8 hours a night for women to avoid these unwanted effects.
Here are suggestions that you can practice yourself as well as modalities that can also help.
Reduce stress. Yes, this is in the “duh” category, but it’s a good reminder. Anything you do to reduce stress will improve your sleep. Meditation and gentle forms of yoga are helpful as are spending time in nature and anything else that helps you feel calmer. Avoid stimulating activities at night (other than sex), and staying up too late. (According to Ayurveda, it is ideal to sleep between 8pm and 10pm.)
Make sure your room is completely dark as even minimal amounts of light can disrupt sleep; consider a comfortable eye mask if it’s not.
Reduce or avoid caffeine. Another “duh”, but keep in mind that caffeine lurks not only in coffee but also in green and black tea, dark chocolate, and various OTC remedies.
Highly spiced food can also over-stimulate your nervous and digestive systems as can eating too late in the evening.
Magnesium is a natural sedative so eating magnesium-rich foods is a good idea: legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, brewer's yeast, and whole grains.
As mentioned above, gentle forms of yoga and calming activities such as walking in nature can all contribute to quality rest. Inverted yoga postures can be helpful especially “legs up the wall.” But avoid stimulating forms of exercise, especially late in the day.
Deep belly breathing has a calming effect on the nervous system and help quite a bit. A specific yoga breathing technique I use to promote sleep is Alternate Nostril Breathing. Click here for a short video that easily demonstrates how to do it. I recommend a slow, even breath of about 4 counts on each inhalation and exhalation.
Body Care & Aromatherapy
A warm (not hot) bath can be very relaxing, especially with Epsom salts that provide magnesium. You can also add calming essential oils or other bath products such as rose, lavender, and vanilla.
This may sound a bit unusual, but here’s my absolute best tip for promoting sleep: massaging your feet with sesame oil. This is another bit of Ayurvedic wisdom and applying sesame oil to the tops of the feet has an incredible, sedating effect on the nervous system. I’m always amazed at how well this works. (BTW, the sesame oil I’m talking about is regular cooking oil. The Spectrum brand unrefined sesame oil is ideal because it has no smell.)
Adding some lavender essential oil to the sesame makes it even better, or you can apply drops of lavender directly to your temples and/or between your brows to calm the mind. If you enjoy the scent of sandalwood, it is the ideal incense to burn for calming the mind as well.
Herbs & Supplements
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep, and many people find it to be helpful for sleep issues. It is available at any health food or drug store. The lowest dose of 1 or 3 mg is best and can be taken shortly before going to bed; be aware that too much melatonin can actually disrupt your sleep cycle.
Herbal supplements are often used as sleep aids including: valerian, chamomile, brahmi, hops, kava, passionflower, lemon balm, and ashwaghanda. Consider a calming herbal tea at bedtime, such as vanilla, chamomile, or kava.
Other Healing Modalities
Acupuncture can be very helpful for sleep disorders, and, of course, a relaxing massage is good for just about everything. Chiropractic care can also assist the nervous system in returning to a balanced state. Homeopathic sleep remedies can also be helpful.
Since sleep has mental/emotional and physical components, many people with longstanding sleep issues benefit from hypnotherapy which can help retrain the body/mind to access deeper states of relaxation.
And here’s a Feng Shui tip: make sure you don’t have too many mirrors in your bedroom; this creates energy that can interfere with sleep.
I hope these tips are helpful to you! For additional support with these, or any other wellness issues, feel free to get in touch with me at 561-353-8395 or firstname.lastname@example.org.