Sleep. Is it your friend or your enemy?
I know I’m far from the only one who suffers from the occasional monster of insomnia and I’ve been seeing more and more articles on the importance of sleep lately. Mehdi René’s 6 Tips for Waking Up Early and Getting Sh*t Done reminded me of something I already felt in my body…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 René I’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 you’re reading this and looking for the magic pill I don’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 that’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 wasn’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 you’ve thrown her out for waking you up in the first place, you might understand! But maybe it’s not only pets. I also fixed the settings on my phone so I wouldn’t get text or other noticed while I slumbered.
- Get on a regular sleep schedule: When I do this my sleep improves. When I don’t I feel ill. I’ll admit I’m on the backswing for this right now, but I’m determined to set it right again.
I can’t say I fully understand how each of the above elements has worked for me or what it does exactly, but that’s true of a lot of things! Sometimes you can just “feel” that there’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 haven’t yet succeeded at a meditation practice. I like my drunken monkey too much. He’s fun to watch! But I know it’s not helpful and by the time it becomes a problem, it’s already habit and is near impossible to break. So whether I’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! I’m sure I can. What about you?