Sleep. Is it your friend or your enemy?
I know Iâ€™m far from the only one who suffers from the occasional monster of insomnia and Iâ€™ve been seeing more and more articles on the importance of sleep lately. Mehdi RenĂ©â€™s 6 Tips for Waking Up Early and Getting Sh*t Done reminded me of something I already felt in my bodyâ€¦going to sleep and waking up late was not helping me. But aha! There are ways to nudge a messy sleep habit in the right direction and thanks to RenĂ© Iâ€™m on my way. The 30 Day Sleep Challenge by Katja also reminded me not only how important sleep is (more important than food? Yes!), but also how I can positively influence the quality of my sleep, which mirrors the quality of my health.
A litte over a year ago I was on a terrible run of insomnia that haunted me throughout that winter. It was the first time the beast was a consistent visitor and I was absolutely miserable. I finally found relief in the spring, but unfortunately if youâ€™re reading this and looking for the magic pill I donâ€™t have any one single solution that did the trick for me. It was actually a combo of factors that came together as a supportive solution. I think thatâ€™s the ultimate trick; instead of looking for the single generic pill, find your combo team for a personalized slumber remedy. So what was mine?
- Melatonin: My doctor recommended I take this supplement, which is a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles. Once I was “back to normal” I stopped taking this, but when I swing into a bad state I know it’s in my cabinet, ready to back me up.
- Valerian Root: I started taking a sleepytime tea on occasion as well, but this would relax me so deeply that I sometimes was left feeling groggy for a while the next morning, so it wasnâ€™t a consistent practice.
- Yoga: Practicing in the evening would help to deeply relax my muscles and calm my mind (racing thoughts be gone!).
- Sun Lamp: This is a special lamp that I purchased from a medical equipment resource. By sitting in front of it for a certain amount of time every day I benefited from the light therapy during the darkest days of the year. While this helped my mood, I felt like it also helped my sleep.
- Essential Oils: I applied a calming blend of essential oils every night. My blend contained tangerine, orange, ylang ylang, patchouli, and blue tansy. Uplifting and calming at the same time. Plus I smelled totally awesome!
- Cutting out light: I bought blackout curtains. I covered my alarm clock and any other seeping light. This helps so much.
- Eliminate night-time distraction: We fostered our cat out to someone while we started the process of moving. It might sound unrelated , but when you have a cat walking all over you at night or banging on a closed door after youâ€™ve thrown her out for waking you up in the first place, you might understand! But maybe itâ€™s not only pets. I also fixed the settings on my phone so I wouldnâ€™t get text or other noticed while I slumbered.
- Get on a regular sleep schedule: When I do this my sleep improves. When I donâ€™t I feel ill. Iâ€™ll admit Iâ€™m on the backswing for this right now, but Iâ€™m determined to set it right again.
I canâ€™t say I fully understand how each of the above elements has worked for me or what it does exactly, but thatâ€™s true of a lot of things! Sometimes you can just â€śfeelâ€ť that thereâ€™s a positive effect happening. Trust that and continue on.
My next goal is meditation. And I mean consistent meditation. I tend to have racing thoughts and I find it entertaining to follow them wherever they go. Admitting is the first step! Yes, I let it happen and sometimes even encourage it. I think this is why I havenâ€™t yet succeeded at a meditation practice. I like my drunken monkey too much. Heâ€™s fun to watch! But I know itâ€™s not helpful and by the time it becomes a problem, itâ€™s already habit and is near impossible to break. So whether Iâ€™m traditionally sitting in lotus on a pillow and chanting OM, following my breathe and coming in tune with my body, watching a candle flame for single minded focus, or taking a daily walk for a moment of spiritual contemplation, it will be a break from the frazzle I knot myself into day by day. I can do that much for myself! Iâ€™m sure I can. What about you?