Many of us at some time have experienced difficulty in getting to sleep or waking in the middle of the night and lying there for hours trying to get back to sleep. Sometimes this develops into chronic insomnia and can create a lot of stress and tension around bedtime and sleeping.
Then there are those of us who suffer from snoring and/or sleep apnoea, or whose partners keep us awake all night with their noise.
Reset your body clock – go to bed early around 10-11pm and wake with the sun. Looking at a bright light on awaking will switch off the melatonin produced at night and make you wide awake and alert.
Exercise moderately – strenuously during the day, but not in the evening – a brisk walk or run or dynamic yoga practice will provide physical “stress” and help your body use up excess adrenaline produced by mental stress.
Turn off all computers, TVs and other stimulating media at least 1 hour before bed.
Develop a calming routine in that hour such as a warm bath with lavender oil; yoga breathing exercises and relaxation; meditation; soothing music, reading.
Keep your bedroom completely dark when sleeping -turn off all lights, draw curtains to shut out street lights etc; cover digital radios and other screens so the room is completely dark. (This helps with melatonin stimulation, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep and the body’s circadian rhythm.)
Avoid caffeine completely if your insomnia is chronic. Try a 30 day challenge and eliminate all coffee, tea, alcohol and avoid other foods that stimulate the mind such as chilli, curries, garlic, onions (rajasic food in ayurveda), especially in the evening. Drink plenty of water, consume lots of green leafy vegetables & healthy oils for optimum nutrition & hormone production.
Eat earlier in the evening, giving plenty of time for the food to digest before bed and avoid drinking for a few hours before bed so that you are not woken up by the need to go to the toilet.
If your problem is waking around 4am, your adrenals may be overworked. Strategies for calming the mind and decreasing stress can help you get back to sleep. Other nutritional & hormonal imbalances can cause difficulties with sleep. Consulting a naturopath or holistic GP can help you correct these with herbs and other supplements. A melatonin assay can determine your body’s ability to produce melatonin, the sleep regulating hormone.
Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs are also good for calming the nervous system.
Organise your time –leave enough time in your day for “down time”- time to rest & relax & allow the mind to switch off so that the mind is not constantly engaged. Try keeping a pen & paper beside the bed & writing down all the things you are trying to remember to do in the morning - then you can forget about the issues and go back to sleep.
Do not become attached to the hours of sleep you are or are not getting – concentrate on calming the mind and exercising the body and sleep will come. Some people need much less sleep than others. If you wake up early, get up and go for a walk, energise yourself with breathing exercises and then go to bed around the same time every night. Eventually your body will develop a rhythm and you will get enough sleep for your body.