Beyond Forty Winks

Rajgopal Nidamboor

There is no other thing as exasperating as not being able to sleep, soundly. You fling and move. Vex and grimace.

Your mind is not relaxed. You are living through the day’s troubles. Worse still, the most trivial of noises keeps you awake. Is there something you could do to sleep well, you’d certainly ask. Sometimes it can be something simple like buying a new mattress, so if this is something that you are considering doing.

It’s always useful to bear in mind that you should go to sleep only when you feel sleepy. This has a curative effect. It also simply reduces the time you keep your eyes wide open in bed. However, at no point of time should you make yourself feel restless, or anxious—to get your “quota” of sleep.

A good night’s sleep is as essential to health and wellness as nutrition and exercise. However, in our increasingly stressful world today, sleep does not come easy. You need to invest a little time and make a conscious effort to get into the habit because sleep is nature’s most wonderful and natural tonic for both mind and body wellness.

If it takes far too long for you to go to sleep, try to do something uninteresting. You may begin to feel sleepy. Maybe, read the label on your health juice bottle, or the pack of healthy flax seeds you bought yesterday. Try to do this “ritual” in a faintly lit area. Avoid bright lights. Bright lights are deceptive. They only tell you one thing—that it is time to get up.

Also, avoid short, quick naps as this will make you feel sleepy before bedtime. If you cannot resist the bait of a “well-earned” nap, try to accommodate time for it in the afternoon. Always before 4 p.m. However, don’t extend it beyond a good 20-minute snooze.

Exercise is good for you, doubtless. It promotes good sleep, too. But, never execute your exercise program three to four hours before your sleep time. You’d need to accommodate your exercise program in the morning, or afternoon. Otherwise, it can hamper your sleep patterns, and disturb your snooze.

Most importantly, exploit the early morning sunshine to set your inner bio-clock, which runs us all. Also, make it a practice to delight in the gentle warmth of the sun at first light for at least ten minutes. This is soothing and relaxing for both the mind and body.

You should also try to get consistent with your sleeping habits, even if it amounts to being regimental. Besides, you need to get up and go to bed at the same time, every day. This should apply to your weekend schedule too. The significance? When you make your sleep cycle a rhythmic exercise, you will only feel better for it.

Another great way to fall asleep is to tune yourself by giving signals to your body that it is time to go to sleep. You can also switch on and listen to soothing, soulful, relaxing music, or practice any relaxation technique you like, before going to sleep. It promotes calmness; and, also good sleep.

A glass of warm milk before bedtime is also soothing. It promotes natural sleep in many people. The reason is simple. Milk contains tryptophan, a natural sleep promoter.

In addition to this, you may also have a warm-water bath, an hour before bedtime. A warm bath will raise your body temperature, all right. All the same, a subsequent fall in body temperature could make you feel sleepy…naturally!

Natural alternatives

Bach flower: A combination of Aspen and Valerian, 6-8 pills, half an hour before bedtime, calms your mind and induces natural sleep. The comforting “two-some” seems to work best in high-strung, or highly-pressurized individuals, or anxious executives, who don’t think of anything else, but tomorrow’s sales figures.

Homeopathy: Passiflora incarnata (passionflower). Passionflower is useful for sleepless individuals who present with continuing emotional and mental fatigue, nervous distress, anxiety, or prolonged stress. Check with your therapist, if you are on conventional or other medications, before taking passionflower. Dosage: 10-15 drops of the mother tincture, in a half cup of water, 20-30 minutes before bedtime.

Coffea cruda 200, 6-8 pills, half an hour before bedtime, when sleeplessness is brought on by over excitement from any cause, for example, good news such as a job promotion.

Gelsemium sempervirens 200, 6-8 pills, half an hour before bedtime, when sleeplessness is triggered by anticipatory anxiety, or frenzied nervous agitation.

Nutritional medicine: A supplement containing magnesium and calcium is said to calm the nerves, and promote good, natural sleep. Speak to a therapist for appropriate dosage/s.

Sound therapy: There are a host of sound-based programs (brainwave entrainment)—including soulful music tapes—that help to bring about natural brainwave patterns of sleep. The beats, or tones, implanted in the background are “primed” to our brainwaves. They harmonize with them and guide us to fall asleep, as we listen. This wholesome therapeutic voyage occurs because our brain follows the sounds, while reaching the delta stage of deep sleep. With repeated listening, our brainwaves actually synchronize with the sounds—by way of “grounding”—and, begin to “construct” patterns of sleep.

Other useful complementary therapies include massage, hypnotherapy, relaxation and breathing, meditation, and biofeedback.

Speak to a therapist in the relevant area, and evaluate suitable or customized options to dealing with your sleep problems, effectively.

A good night’s sleep made easy

1. Preserve a standard sleep-wake schedule, with regular bedtime and wake-up time. Try to get out of bed, early in the morning—good sleep, or no sleep.
2. Avoid siestas. Try to keep yourself occupied during the time you feel like taking a nap.
3. Try to make your bedroom as comfortable as possible. It should be airy, quiet and dark.
4. Don’t get into activities such as reading or viewing TV in the evening, while relaxing in bed.
5. Avoid alcohol, caffeine etc. during the afternoon and evening hours.
6. Eat a light, filling dinner two hours before your sleep time.
7. In the event your mind is lost in thought with something that disturbs you and your sleep, or does not allow you to go to sleep, write it down on your scribble pad. Put off looking at it till morning.
8. Don’t try too hard to go to sleep. This will only make things difficult for you. Wait for about half an hour, and if you don’t feel sleepy, try to divert your mind. Try to relax, or meditate.
9. Go back to sleep only when you feel sleepy.

Forty_Winks_RajgopalRajgopal Nidamboor, a trained natural and integrative physician, is a Mumbai-based writer-editor, commentator, critic, columnist, author, and publisher. He has published newspaper, magazine and web articles; essays and critiques on a host of subjects. His published work includes four books on natural health, two coffee table books, e books, and a primer on medical therapeutics, aside from an encyclopedic essay on Indian philosophy.

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