STEP AWAY FROM THE ZZZQUIL!
With the hustle and bustle of life, a problem I hear about most from clients is that they have trouble falling (or staying) asleep. Juggling work, school, family, and attempting to have a social life leave us with our minds buzzing until all hours of the night. Personally, I’ve struggled with insomnia for the majority of my life. It wasn’t until I turned to natural approaches that I started sleeping better and actually feeling rested when I woke up. Here are my top 5 favorite ways to snooze naturally.
- Get yourself a sleep mask. It sounds silly, but I didn’t realize how many times I’d wake up throughout the night (and morning) just because my cell phone would light up (side note: keep that ish on SILENT at night, unless you must keep the sound on for emergency reasons! Best life hack I’ve ever done!) or the early morning sun would come through the window. Our sleep/wake cycle has been severely disrupted from artificial light from cell phones, computers and TVs. Put them away when it’s time to sleep, throw on a sleep mask, and drift happily off into dreamland.
- Relax with the help of magnesium and essential oils. Part of my nighttime ritual includes generously applying lavender or relaxation blend essential oils to my pillow. The scent of lavender essential oil helps to reduce anxiety and promote restful sleep. I also like to rub a magnesium salve scented with lavender oil on my arms and neck before I sleep (click here for my favorite magnesium salve DIY). Magnesium also helps promote restful sleep (among a billion other things…a whole post dedicated to magnesium is also coming soon), and this is a little trick I swear by.
- White Noise. Unless you are the type of person who needs complete silence to fall asleep, there’s nothing quite like the lull of a fan to put you to sleep. We keep ours on at night since it’s warm year round here. There are also plenty of great smart phone/tablet apps for white noise. When my friend and I traveled around Italy last month, we had a white noise app on every night to help us go to sleep (the one we used is an iPhone app called Sleep Pillow). It definitely helped us as we were in an unfamiliar environment often with thin walls in our hotels and apartments.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. We’re all guilty of indulging in these in excess at some point. The important thing to remember is to stop consuming caffeine by 2 p.m. latest, and to stop drinking alcohol at least two hours before you plan on going to sleep. They will both effect the quality of your sleep. I know it seems counterintuitive (“nightcap,” anyone?), but avoiding alcohol before bed gives your body a chance to process it before you hit the sack. Alcohol tends to put you to sleep initially, but interrupts your REM cycle later on. Plus, the effect it has on your bladder — talk about a sleep interruption!
- Practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique. THIS is BY FAR my favorite trick for falling asleep naturally. I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Fall Conference last November, and Dr. Andrew Weil was a speaker. He had us practice this method at the conference and I have used it ever since. I am not exaggerating when I say this technique has changed my life. Here’s a detailed description from Dr. Weil’s website on how to implement the 4-7-8 technique:
“The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.”
What are some of your favorite natural sleep remedies? Have you tried any of these techniques before?