Something that 2020 seems to have in common for many of us is struggling to find a good night sleep. Whether our anxiousness is keeping us from actually falling asleep, or we are unable to sleep through the night, we are spending much less time resting. The overwhelming challenges of the this year and the many stress-inducing aspects of the world, the news and our “new normal” are making it very difficult for us to get a good night sleep.
Here’s a little secret: sleep is the number one thing I get asked for recommendations to support. In other words:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
So to that end I thought I would share some of my favorite tips for getting a good night sleep and tools for getting back to sleep if you are struggling.
1.) Essential Oils:
Essential oils are my go to for sleep and emotional support these days. Aromatic use of oils works like this: you inhale the oils and they interact with the olfactory centers in your nose, which in turn talk to the emotional part of your brain. So when you are feeling stress and anxiousness about not sleeping, it serves to reason that something that might calm your emotions would support you. Diffusing essential oils is a great way to assist your sleep struggles. Try using grounding blends like Balance and Peace or calming blends like Serenity and Console. Floral oils like Lavender and Roman Chamomile can be super soothing, woody oils like Cedarwood and Sandalwood can be grounding. For extra help with sleep struggles try a root oil like Vetiver or a floral oil like Spikenard on the bottoms of your feet.
*Note: some essential oils are stimulating. Generally for example, mint oils act this way, but Lavender can also be awakening for some people. If one oil does not work for you, or stops working for you, there are many others you can try. Do not hesitate to reach out to me for recommendations.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, try putting a drop of your favorite sleep oil near your pillow or on the bottoms of your feet. Simply signaling to your body it’s time to go back to bed with this oil ritual can serve to ease you back to restfulness.
Supplements like Copaiba softgels, Serenity soft gels and Adpativ can offer further support with essential oil, herbs and/or GABA to help you relax and invite in calm. I created a custom sleep collection here if you are looking for these kinds of tools for support. Sleep Collection
It’s really helpful to remember that when we are stressed or anxious, our tendency is to spend more time in the inhale half of our breath. That part, inhales, is what tells your body “warning, danger, or worry.” Integrated in our primal brains is the sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system responses which were originally designed to protect us from harm (i.e. saber tooth tiger). In modern minds, we can imagine every day stressors in a similar fashion to the animal threats we might have once had. So a large visa bill, a challenging work assignment, online learning and so on can act like a virtual saber tooth tiger in our minds. We can find ourselves spending too much time breathing in and not enough time breathing out. And this happens as we fall asleep in a place of stress or if we wake up in that same fashion.
To counteract this tendency, we should focus on emphasizing our exhales. Exhales trigger the parasympathetic nervous system and tell our minds: “it’s ok, threat is gone.” They tell the brain that it’s ok to shift from flight or flight to rest and digest. In other words, they help us go back to sleep.
So try this breathing exercise: Inhale for four counts, exhale for six or seven. Do ten rounds of this type, seeing the numbers in your head and letting your exhale be longer. Notice how this breathing practice invites in calm. At night it can also keep your brain pretty busy relaxing and therefore less chatty.
I teach about many more calming breathing and meditation techniques at my online yoga studio home: studioBE Click that link for a 14 day trial.
Yoga can be incredibly supportive for sleep struggles. While it not only encourages us to move our body, it helps to modulate our energy and quiet the chatter in our mind. For sleep struggles, avoid lots of energy raising poses like backbends before bedtime. Instead, seek out calming practices like yin yoga, restorative yoga and any poses that are forward folding such as child’s pose. These tell the brain and body to calm down and can help support you before you go to sleep. Perhaps try a short yoga practice instead of scrolling on your phone as a way to reset your mind for rest. You can try a bunch of short yoga practices with me and other teachers at studioBE including yoga nidra, restorative yoga and yin.
While the world may be feeling unsettled, that does not mean our sleep must be as well. Try these tips for getting a good night’s sleep. May they find your rested and at ease. Let me know what works best for you.