Activity MUST be balanced by rest. Everyone has experienced the adverse effects of fatigue and sleep deprivation (not a pretty sight). Lack of good quality rest is one of the most common causes of susceptibility to illness and depletion of the immune system. Sleep deprivation takes a toll on your mind, body, and overall health in ways that may surprise you. Our bodies need rest and relaxation in order to heal, come back to center, and detoxify. Sleep can affect your hormones, metabolism (weight gain), cardiovascular system, mood, immune system, resistance to disease, and the list goes on. Sleep is single-handedly one of the most essential elements of health and will greatly change the way your body digests any food or handles any emotional issues.
There are several impediments to rest and quality sleep. Many people are unable to sleep because they are overstimulated, usually by drugs, stimulating foods, digital media (computer, TV, music, etc.), and stress. Others cannot sleep because of noise. Some cannot turn off their minds—bouncing from here to there, replaying situations, conversations of the day and such. There are simple remedies for all of these problems.
Let's look at the first culprit: stimulants. Stimulant drugs that interfere with sleep include coffee, tea, cola, and other caffeinated beverages. There are also other sources, like ephedrine, the chief ingredient in many herbal diet and energy products sold over the counter in drug and health stores; decongestants in over-the-counter cold remedies; and other ingredients used in appetite suppressants. Even when these drugs are taken early in the day, they can interfere with nighttime sleep patterns. If you have difficulty getting QUALITY restful sleep, try to eliminate all of these substances from your life. Some safe, natural herbal alternatives to assist sleeping include valerian, holy basil, hops, melatonin, chamomile tea, and Kava Kava.
Lighten up on evening meals. Finish dinner several hours before bedtime and avoid heavy foods that cause indigestion. Sleep is a time for the body to regenerate and heal. I like to call it maintenance or repair time, not time for digesting a late meal. Elimination of toxins, an issue for everyone, occurs primarily at night while the body rests. Incorporating a healthier dietary lifestyle such as eating more whole foods and green smoothies and eating fewer (to none at all) processed foods has done wonders for many. I know it has for me!
You can try soaking in a warm/hot bath with Epsom salt and essential oils (my favorites are lavender and grapefruit) before bed. This relaxes muscles in the body and soothes the mind. Do some spiritual reading before bed each night rather than watch the nightly news or a movie. This can make quite a difference for some people. It is relaxing, uplifting, and can help one to have a sense of peace and tranquility. Meditation is another wonderful relaxation practice prior to bed. Decompress from digital media and TV at least an hour prior to bed time. Turn off your cell phone, TV, computer, etc. Keep your TV and computer elsewhere in your home.
I find that noise can be a major obstacle to sound sleep. Anything from barking dogs to sounds of traffic can be an annoyance. A simple solution I incorporated into my sleep regime was to purchase a white-noise machine, an electronic device that produces restful sound. White noise is soothing and masks offending sounds. With a household of 3 dogs, this has been very helpful to me.
No matter how comfortable the bed or how quiet the room, when my mind is overactive, I sometimes cannot fall asleep or I wake during the night and am not able to get back to sleep. I use a simple breathing exercise I learned in Yoga class that never ceases to calm me, centering my thoughts and reducing stress in mere minutes. It lulls me to sleep in no time. It is very effective because it distracts the mind from its thoughts. Try a couple yourself in “The Healing Qualities of Mindful Breathing.”
When I am rested and get good sleep, I often get my best ideas and most creative, intuitive insights. Also, when I take time for me and apply these nightly rituals when possible, I’m able to recharge my batteries (and my adrenal glands) through quality sleep so that I have more to enjoy and give in my life and to those I love. Sleep is an essential part of each person’s daily life that can also be a rich time of not only rejuvenation, but of insights and other healing processes. So use these tips to sleep and think better.