After a long day, the most frustrating thing you can deal with is finally laying your head on the pillow only to have trouble falling asleep. Even though you are aware of the benefits of restful sleep such as sharper mental focus, increased health and wellbeing, abundant energy, and positive moods, you aren’t always tuned into to how your lifestyle may be affecting your sleep.
For example, if you have difficulty falling asleep, habitually look at your screens just before bedtime, wake up frequently or toss and turn during the night, find yourself multitasking, feeling drowsy during the day, sitting too much instead of regularly moving about, and engaging in vigorous physical or mental activity during the evening hours, then an imbalance in your lifestyle may be affecting your sleep.
Conflict between Relaxation and Arousal
For many of us life interferes with a good night’s rest. A common lifestyle imbalance that can lead to sleep problems is the conflict between relaxation and arousal. When the relaxation signals in your brain are derailed by too much active arousal in the cortex, you experience racing thoughts and a fidgety body that make it difficult to fall into a deep and restful sleep and stay asleep for the essential 7-8 hours. Restful sleep results when you make choices that cultivate physical and emotional balance throughout the day. Here are some tips to regain balance in your lifestyle to benefit from a good night’s sleep.
7 Tools to Promote Healthy Sleep
Here are some tried and true tools to help you develop habits that promote healthy sleep, which can then improve your daily life and give you the insights you need to balance your lifestyle.
A brief meditation practice can offer deep relaxation for both mind and body, and can serve as the best antidote to the stress of modern life. Yogis and doctors both agree that meditating – even just a few minutes of deep breathing – relaxes the brain and reduces anxiety which is conducive to restful sleep.
2. Tai Chi
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that has evolved over centuries to become a means of alleviating stress and anxiety and promote a relaxation response – a form of “meditation in motion.” As an exercise, Tai Chi comprises gentle physical exercises and stretching with mindfulness, which can affect serenity and inner peace, thus promoting a healthy, restful night’s sleep.
3. Retrain Your Brain For Sleep
When you have trouble sleeping you can dread the approach of bedtime, because what should be a restful activity at the end of your day becomes a source of stress. If you retrain your brain to think of bedtime as the beginning of a refreshing experience that will renew you in mind and body, a shift towards a positive attitude sets the stage for restful sleep. Give it a try – talk yourself into it and see how positive thoughts can retrain your brain for sleep.
4. Turn off Your Screens
Stop watching TV, using your computer, smartphone, or tablet at least one hour before bed. The brightness of LED screens arouses your brain, suppresses the release of melatonin, and prompts your nervous system into action, rather than winding down as you get closer to bedtime. So put your screens to sleep too.
5. Relax before Bedtime
The harder you try to sleep and the less successful you are, the more frustrated you can feel. Instead, try to relax with soothing music or a good book before bedtime, and make sure to keep the lights low to help your brain wind down.
6. Plants that Help You Sleep Better
If you’re unable to sleep well, changing the quality of air in your bedroom can help. Several plants, such as Aloe Vera, Lavender, Jasmine, Rosemary, and English Ivy – all with different sleep promoting qualities, will help create a restful environment and help you sleep better.
7. Breathing Exercises
One example of a helpful breathing exercise to promote sleep is the 4-7-8 breathing technique pioneered Dr Andrew Weil. He says the this yoga-inspired method is utterly simple, takes almost no time, and can help you fall asleep by acting as a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system by reducing stress and tension in the body. Here’s how you do it:
- Before you begin, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just above your teeth, and keep it there throughout the exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth quite forcefully, so you make a ‘whoosh’ sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly and softly through your nose for a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath and count to seven.
- Next, exhale completely through your mouth, making another whoosh sound for eight seconds in one large breath.
- Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three times. Remember: All inhaling breaths must be quiet and through your nose, and all exhaling breaths must be loud and through your mouth.
How do these Tools Promote Healthy Sleep?
All of these suggested tools have their own way of calming the body and promoting healthy sleep. The breathing exercises allow you to take on more oxygen which relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes a state of calm. The other tools all help rebalance the nervous system, which can become over stimulated throughout the day, especially during times of stress. They also help you connect with your mind and body, focus on the exercise along with your breathing, and distract you from the everyday thoughts that can prevent you from sleeping. Sweet Dreams!