I haven’t slept well this past week and I know I’m not the only one. My colleagues at work often complain about lack of sleep and we often talk about things like teas, herbs, kicking the caffeine (at least in the afternoon) and different ways to relax.
I know for me it’s been very busy few weeks and it seems that my mind is just over stimulated with thoughts, tweets, projects and things I forgot to do that day.
Lately meditation has been in the mainstream media and is becoming almost as popular as yoga. There are many different schools, traditions and varieties of meditation (here is an article on 8 Basic Kinds of Meditation from Institute of Applied Meditation).
Daily meditation helps to clear the mind and relax the body. It is also a great tool to have in daily life; it helps to develop a balanced, calm mind. This helps to lead a less reactive and happier life. I practice Vipassana meditation also known as ‘insight’ meditation. It is an ancient technique from India and you can read more about it on the Ontario Vipassana Centre website.
Be Friends with Darkness
Another thing I do is to make my bedroom as dark as possible. Darkness is our friend especially when we want to sleep. To be more specific it is the absence of light that stimulates the production of a hormone, melatonin, from its immediate precursor, the neurotransmitter serotonin. Like serotonin, melatonin plays important roles in our physical and mental well-being.
Kick the Caffeine Kick
Caffeine gives us a kick throughout the day but then often keeps on kicking when we no longer need it. I won’t go into a discussion whether it’s good or bad for you as it is a hot topic and out of scope here (here is more if you feel like it: Caffeine Anyone?). The fact is – it keeps one agitated. If you like your java as much as I do you might want to opt for half-caf or decaf altogether, especially in the afternoon. If you’re at a point where you can do without; go for it. Caffeine stays in your system for about 6 hours so, if you have a coffee at 4 p.m. it’ll still have the stimulating effect at 10 p.m. when you might want to be winding down. Try green tea (it still has caffeine but less than coffee and lots of health benefits) and caffeine-free herbal teas in the afternoon.
Exercise helps to release stress and relax so you can fall asleep easier. Be sure not to do high-intensity exercise just before you go to bed as it’ll keep you stimulated and awake. Slow yoga and forward-bending poses are good for winding down in the evening.
Other tips for better sleep
- let the bedroom be just that – no TV, no computer or other devices that keep your mind occupied
- go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time
- deep breathing/counting breaths (or sheep)
- minimize day-time naps
- spend time outdoors every day
- keep your room cool and well ventilated
- eat at least 3 hours before bed
- avoid alcohol before bed and more
Good luck and sweet dreams… zzzzzzz