Sleeping Problems are the number one health complaint in the western world today. Many of us have trouble falling asleep, wake up during the night or experience restless sleep. A good night’s sleep is essential to health and well-being, and latest studies suggest there is a direct correlation between healthy sleep and longevity.
While many people turn to medication to treat sleep problems, this only addresses the symptoms and not the cause. In his book A Life Worth Breathing and at his seminars, internationally acclaimed yoga teacher and writer Max Strom discusses the many causes of sleeping problems and offers some possible natural, simple solutions.
Many physical or external causes for sleeplessness can be simply and easily addressed. In a nutshell we need to decrease stimulating food, drink and activities in the evening and move towards relaxing and de-stimulating activities that activate the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for resting and digesting.
1. Consider cutting back or cutting out caffeine especially in the evening. This includes coffee, tea, chocolate and energy drinks.
2. Avoid spicy food in the evening as this stimulates your nervous system.
3. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a physical depressant but an emotional stimulant and so although it may make you sleepy and help you fall asleep, the chances are you will wake up during the night or early the next morning and not feel particularly well rested.
4. Avoid foods containing sugar especially in the evening.
5. Avoid protein in the evening. This includes meat, fish, tofu, eggs, cheese and beans. A light vegetarian meal is recommended as the last meal of the day. Eat your biggest meal of the day before 2pm when your digestive fire is at its strongest.
6. Avoid eating three hours before going to sleep. This allows the digestive system time to relax.
7. Exercise during the day has been proven to aid a more restful night’s sleep. Aim for 30 minutes daily of moderate exercise such as walking, swimming or yoga. Strenuous or competitive exercise close to bed-time is not recommended as your system will be too stimulated to sleep restfully.
8. Have wind down time or “twilight time” between working and sleeping. This means switching off the computer at least two hours before going to sleep.
9. Reduce noise exposure when going to sleep. Try listening to a recording of birds singing, crickets or frogs chirping or gentle wave or ocean sounds to signal to your nervous systems that you can relax.
10. Watching television before bed can be stimulating especially if the content of what we are watching is violent or adrenalising in any way. Try reading light-hearted material before going to sleep or read something inspiring or uplifting so that the last thoughts in your mind before sleep are positive.
If after applying these changes, you find yourself still lying awake at night, it could be emotions such as frustration, anger, resentment, fear, worry, anxiety and grief that can keep your nervous system in a continually stimulated state so that it becomes impossible to relax fully.
Our emotions are a response to what is going on in our life. If we cannot process our emotions effectively and rest easily at the end of the day we basically have two choices if we want to live a happier, healthier life:
1. Change your life. More specifically change the aspect of our life that is causing you to stay awake at night in a state of frustration, anger or fear. When applying a change to your life, ensure you consider the effect the change will have on all aspects of your life, for example financial, family time, leisure time, exercise, spiritual practice.
2. Change how you respond to life. Find a way to release the past and embrace the new. Consider attending a counsellor if necessary to resolve any past issues you have difficultly releasing. Visit an energy medicine practitioner such as an acupuncturist, reiki practitioner or a bodytalk practitioner to stimulate holistic healing. Take up a yoga practice to learn how to breathe deeply and consciously. Develop a personal practice that will enable you to live more mindfully, that will balance the energies in the body, increase your awareness and stimulate self-healing such as Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, martial arts, dance or meditation.
Max Strom’s book - A Life Worth Breathing available on Amazon