When our bodies and minds are overworked, achieving maximum productivity becomes almost impossible. Work, social life, entertainment, technology (screen after screen!), and even food can make it difficult to relax or sleep well. Especially as it seems that being a busy body is the new cool, we have grown accustomed to being “ON” all the time. Ergo, when the evening comes and it’s time to turn “off” and bring the day to an end, we are struggling to do so.
Sleep Health Foundation has found that 1 in 3 people are suffering from mild insomnia. This means, out of every 3 people you know, one of them is probably suffering from sleeplessness right now. The United States has a population of about 320 million people. A third of that population is suffering from an inability to sleep. These numbers are insane. Why? Because habitual sleeplessness causes depression, inactivity, unexplained weight gain, moodiness, intense irritation, unproductiveness, headaches/migraines, poor health, and greater risk of injury. The results of sleeplessness are appalling for both our bodies and our minds.
So what can we do about this?
To start, make sure you are getting the exact amount of sleep that you need on a regular basis. I cannot over stress this obvious advice enough. You’ll notice that a daily sleep pattern will make a huge difference in your mental state, productivity, creativity, and health. It is true, our only limitation is what we ourselves have set up in our own minds. But if our brain and body is tired the only yearning desire will be to sleep. Instead of productivity, listening, or paying attention to the task at hand. Life can be quite complicated and we all have a ton of things to do and worry about, but when it comes to sleep- it’s actually pretty simple. Get your 7-8 hours! With enough rest life will feel 10 times easier, you will feel 10 times healthier, and you will operate 10 times more efficiently. I promise!
Easier said than done? Here are a few more tips…
7 Ways to Beat Sleepless Nights:
Exercise. There are loads of benefits to exercise. One of them is getting a better night’s rest. When you exercise daily, a kind of spiral effect starts to happen to your body and mind. They start to synchronize. Exercise improves your energy throughout the day. This allows for more productivity and focus. As a result of all this extra output you begin to feel tired at day’s end. Notice the body and mind correlation here. If you are looking for a substitute for strenuous exercise, a gentle yoga flow in the evening has shown to improve sleep, too. Moving through a yoga flow, practitioners are advised to breathe slowly and rhythmically to connect the breath with the body movements and the mind to the body. Doing so will allow the mind to become calm, improving one’s ability to relax, shut off, and sleep.
Practice yoga. The practice of Sivananda yoga helps individuals reach physical, mental, and spiritual relaxation (see below). Yogis learn to reach these three different aspects of relaxation by bringing the body under control of the mind. This is achieved through exercising the physical body, practicing pranayama, and meditation. Next, yogis learn to manipulate the mind under the control of willpower, to make it work as we like; and make the mind concentrate its power as we would like. This is one of the main aims of yoga. It’s a step by step system that works to strengthen all the parts that make up a human being – body, mind, spirit. Thus, practicing yoga will help your quality of sleep and help you escape the awful sleepless nights that insomnia can bring.
Practice pranayama. It feels shameful to say that we don’t know much about our own bodies, but it’s true. Most people, including myself, only use a fraction of our potential lung capacity with each breath. We tend to breath pretty shallowly, barely expanding the rib cage. As a result, we suffer from lack of oxygen and don’t even know it. You see, our lungs are the ENGINE that keeps everything in our body moving. Yogis are taught that to gain control of the mind, one must have control of the body, including the organs. Pranayama allows us to exercise our organs, and enables us to recognize our own subtle forces- the nerve currents that move all over the body. Through this practice we learn to perceive and feel what’s within. The WHOLE body has the potential to be under our control with this practice; including the mind, which is connected to your nerve currents. Gaining better control of your own body and mind will help you sleep better when it’s time to snooze out.
Eat better. Our mind is formed from the essence of food. If you are living a healthy lifestyle consisting of pure, natural, wholesome foods- that alone will bring inner peace to the body and mind. Please pay attention to the fact that I mentioned lifestyle, not just a cleanse or a juice detox that you go on for a little while. Food provides the energy to keep you up and doing things throughout the day. Be conscious about this, if you are eating really late in the evening it will not only slow your metabolism, but can also disrupt your night’s rest. Believe it or not, some foods increase lust, anger, egoism, laziness, and restlessness. So, stick to meals with lots of spices or condiments at lunchtime and lighter, simple meals for dinner. Avoid soda, sugary drinks, coffee, pungent spices, and fried foods 3-4 hours before your bedtime.
Meditate. The number one reason we can’t fall asleep is not because we are not tired, but because our brain won’t stop having a conversation with itself. Dealing with a “monkey brain” that won’t stop replaying real events or imagined scenarios is by far the hardest thing to master. It’s only with practice that the mind will become clearer and steady. Through regular meditation you gain the power to control your thoughts. At first it will feel like thoughts are controlling you, but by making meditation a habit you will notice all the power that you possess. Meditation influences the mind, the nerves, sensory organs, and the body. Repetition will lead to pure thoughts. Once you make this a habit, sleepless nights will be a problem of the past.
“Mind control is the result of self-discipline and habit. You either control your mind or it controls you.” Napolean Hill in Think and Grow Rich
Go to sleep at the same time every evening. Our brains connect with patterns; thus, reducing daily decisions to a routine helps manipulate our brains to shut off when it’s time to shut off. Following a regular sleep schedule conditions the mind to slow down its activities without much effort. The most effective way to bring change is by doing it daily. Our body and mind react to external stimuli. When we establish a specific time and place to fall asleep it helps the mind settle down faster. I go to sleep between 11:00-11:30pm. By the time 10:30pm rolls in, my mind is already channeling my body to head to the bedroom.
Savasana. If for whatever reason you aren’t interested in practicing yoga, pranayama, or meditation then at least try the SAVASANA trick right before bed. Sivananda yoga incorporates savasana before the physical practice, between physical practice, and at the end of physical practice. All other styles of yoga incorporate savasana at the end of the yoga practice. Either way, it’s great! Savasana is used to help set a relaxed mood for the practice, release any blockages, allow the heartbeat to relax or return to normal, eliminate lactic acid from muscles, and sidetrack whatever thoughts or problems you were facing throughout the day.
Physical relaxation: In savasana, the body is reclined, back flat on the mat (you can make it your bed for the sake of finding a trick to fall asleep better and healthier), legs are straight but not tense. Feet are almost two feet apart, arms maybe at a 45 degree angle, hands relaxed with palms upwards, eyes closed, and mind focused on the breath.
Mental relaxation: Beginning with the toes, tell yourself to relax your toes. (Literally, inside your head- TELL YOURSELF TO RELAX.) Then tell yourself to relax your legs, relax your calves, relax your knees, and then the thighs. Feel the relaxation moving up the legs. Tell yourself to relax your internal organs. Tell yourself to relax your buttocks, relax your back. Feel yourself sinking down into the ground (or bed). Tell yourself to relax your chest. Breathing slowly and gently, feel the relaxation stream through your body. Tell yourself to relax each finger, then the hands. Feel the relaxation moving up the arms, relaxing the wrist and your arms. Relax your face and head. Begin with the jaw. Take each different body part from the toes up and tell each to relax.
This is called AUTO-SUGGESTION! Or reprogramming your body and mind to do as you say. IT WORKS, I promise. This is exactly what I do when I can’t seem to fall asleep right away or if for whatever reason I’m too excited to fall asleep. It happens to us all.
Spiritual relaxation: Tune in to a higher source. You can pray, chant, repeat “om” until you are om-less, concentrate on your favorite bible verse, or a mantra. This also works!! I have used all of these “tricks” to get myself to go to sleep naturally, without pills, without weird chemicals, without alcohol. I’m sure if you tried it, it will work for you too.
Sleep well and all will be well