Sleep Friend Or Foe?
When you get weighed down with life's many burdens that sleep becomes elusive for you or it just might be all those espressos your drinking. Like I said in a previous post, sleep became my worst enemy at one point in my life. I managed to keep my self distracted from my worries and stress during the day by keeping busy with life. Then nighttime comes and there you are in bed alone with your mind racing and all those feelings that you've stuffed deep down in you during the day. They rise up like the dead ready to haunt you at night. I remember those days vividly. As soon as my head hit the pillow it was like someone turned a light switch on in my brain which was running like a mile a minute. My body was restless, my breath out of sync, and most of all my mind wandering from one thought to the next. There were several times I awoke in the middle of the night to having a panic attack. These panic attacks scared the hell out of me. I thought I was losing my mind. I awoke to the next day fearing that I was not normal and had this feeling of doom over me.
I dealt with this sleep issue for a few years and got into the habit of taking over-the-counter sleep aids. To make matters worse, I have ringing in both ears non-stop. Just as I was about to start my Yoga teacher training I had the worst panic attack of all, which seemed to last all night. The stress and anxiety in my life had gotten to the point where my whole body was filled with it and my only release was to have these moments of panic. Meanwhile through Yoga training I was learning how to manage stress through Yoga. I realized that guilt and traumas can become stuck energy in you and these attacks were my body's way of saying that I needed to "let it go." Emotional pain has a way of showing up in your body as physical pain and of course, anxiety. It took some time for me to change some bad habits in my life and take a long, hard look at what I was keeping trapped in my body and mind. Lots of forgiving of myself needed to be done. With much support from my better half and the Yoga training I was able to work in a positive way to better my sleep habits. It's a process. That was four years ago.
I just wanted to share with you some things that I did to help myself with sleep.
HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS
- GIVE UP CAFFEINE- If you're on the severe side of stress and insomnia I highly recommend weaning off the caffeine. I myself did it cold turkey and had to deal with a headache for several weeks... I don't recommend doing it that way. For me drinking caffeine mimicked the start of an anxiety attack and I needed to do everything in my power to calm my nervous system down. Having done the work I now am able to drink a cup of coffee without it having a negative response within my body. I do notice if I'm overly stressed it still will trigger some anxiety in me and that is when I listen to my body and step away from it for a few days.
Caffeine is a stimulant and puts lots of stress on the adrenals. The adrenals release a hormone that triggers the flight or fight response in your body. At least do yourself the favor and only drink a cup in the morning.
"The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon.[a] His theory states that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system, priming the animal for fighting or fleeing. More specifically, the adrenal medulla produces a hormonal cascade that results in the secretion of catecholamines, especially norepinephrine and epinephrine. The hormones estrogen, testosterone and cortisol, and the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, also affect how organisms react to stress.
- YOGA - To practice everyday is best. Practicing even if just for a few minutes each day helped me to connect with my breath and release any negative or stagnant energy in my body through the poses. It took years for me to finally synch my breath with each movement of my practice... that's when it became a meditation for me. Practice, practice, practice...
- GUIDED MEDITATION - I would put earbuds in and listen to something I found on youtube that would help me get out of my own head and finally R-E-L-A-X. I learned through Yoga to take on a "witness mind" and allow those thoughts or emotions to just float by with me being the observer. I trained myself not to form attachments to my thoughts or feelings. I just allowed them to be. It's like with the ringing in my ears, when I focus on that sound and how annoying it is, well then it becomes BIGGER; almost deafening. We have that choice as to what we FOCUS on and I got into the habit of focusing on my breathing.
- PRANAYAMA (BREATH CONTROL) - This one was big for me. Start simple and just focus on the inhalation through the nose filling your belly and the exhalation softly exiting the nose. When my mind wanders I just come back to the breath.
- LAVENDER - I put a dab of this essential oil behind my ears and just inhale the beautiful calming scent allowing it to work its magic.
"Sleep: Lavender essential oil induces sleep which has made it a common recommendation for an alternative treatment of insomnia. Frequent studies on elderly patients have shown an increase in their sleep regularity when their normal sleep medication is replaced with some lavender essential oil being placed on their pillows. It has such a relaxing impact on people that it can often replace modern medicine for sleep issues." Organic Facts.net~
"Nervous system: Lavender essential oil has a calming scent which makes it an excellent tonic for the nerves and anxiety issues. Therefore, it can also be helpful in treating migraines, headaches, depression, nervous tension and emotional stress. The refreshing aroma removes nervous exhaustion and restlessness while also increasing mental activity. It has a well-researched impact on the autonomic nervous system, which is why it is frequently used as a treatment for insomnia and also as a way to regulate heart-rate variability. " Organic facts.net~
EPSON SALT BATH - This is one of my nightly rituals. I usually throw a cup of epson salt in the bath with some lavender oil to help relax my mind and body. Epson salt is also great for sore muscles... a win, win situation.
Stress "drains the body of magnesium, and given that most of us are under chronic stress, our bodies are magnesium deficient. In fact, 68% of adults in the U.S. consume less than the recommended daily allowance of magnesium. When Epsom salt is dissolved in warm water, the magnesium is absorbed through the skin to help replenish magnesium levels in the body. Magnesium helps promote a feeling of calm and relaxation. It also increases energy and reduces irritability. Epsom salt baths can help improve your sleep and concentration." Mindbodygreen.com
MAGNESIUM - I was personally taking Natural Vitality Natural Calm "A relaxing magnesium supplement" at night before bed. Start with the lowest dose and work your way up to the recommended amount. *Also check with your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.
..."is a mineral that is responsible for the correct metabolic function of over 350 enzymes in the body. Magnesium is found in leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and even dark chocolate. Spinach, pumpkin seeds and black beans are especially high in magnesium. However, many of us are deficient in magnesium … which might explain your chocolate cravings!" says, Kerry Bajaj~
"Magnesium can help you sleep. Dr. Lipman recommends taking 1000mg before bed to help you fall and stay asleep through the night."
PERSPECTIVE - There are still times that I struggle with sleep, but I now have a different perspective on it. I say to myself, "if I can't sleep tonight, I'll sleep tomorrow night." L E T T I N G GO of the pressure and the aggravation towards wanting to sleep quickly has really helped.
PRAYER - Give it to God.