How to Get to Sleep Naturally.

If you’re trying to cure your insomnia without resorting to sleeping pills from the doctor, here are 3 ideas that you might want to try.  They may take a little time to work but you’ll probably find each of them give you additional health benefits as well as helping you sleep better.

If you can’t work out what’s keeping you awake then look here for some of the reasons why people suffer from insomnia and what to do about them.

  1. Learn to meditate.

Meditation gives many benefits to the body – it reduces stress, blood pressure and pain, and improves confidence, memory and learning among other things.  Practise this simple exercise regularly and you’ll find that sleep starts to come much more easily.  Like any skill, be patient with yourself and persist in order to get really good at meditation.

Start with short sessions of 5 minutes and build the time as you become better at focusing.

  • You can meditate at any time you have a few moments to yourself and can focus.  Don’t do it when you’re hungry or just after a large meal as this can distract you.
  • Find a place that you can relax in – some people like a special corner of a room or a place outdoors.
  • The traditional posture is to sit with legs crossed but if this isn’t comfortable for you, simply sit or stand comfortably.
  • Keep your eyes open so that all your senses are aware of your surroundings.  The trick is to be aware but not to focus on any one thing around you; think about what you can see (without moving your eyes), smell, taste, hear and feel but then just let each of these sensations go.
  • Focus on your breathing and hear your breath coming in and out.
  • Now take your awareness to the top of your head and feel what you feel there – is the scalp hot/cold/tight/relaxed etc?  Imagine a warm ball of light gently rolling over and smoothing out any tension you feel…over and over until your scalp and head feel relaxed.
  • Take the ball over your face and jaw line…then to your neck and shoulders…over your chest, arms and stomach…all the time focusing on your breathing as well as the warm golden ball.
  • Go to your pelvis, hips, buttocks and legs, feeling the ball’s warmth and relaxing each part as it travels there.
  • Feel the ball on your feet so that they feel warm and relaxed and remember your breathing all the time.
  • You can do the same exercise moving back up the body if you want to.

The most common reason for people not persisting with meditation is that they say their thoughts get in the way and they drift off to thinking about the kids, what’s for tea etc.  This happens to everyone so just acknowledge the thought, push it away and focus back to your breathing and the warmth of the ball.

  1. Learn self-hypnosis.

This is another technique that will help to bring down blood pressure and stress levels.   There are many descriptions of self-hypnosis but this is one that may help you fall into sleep if you do it when you’re comfortable in bed.

  • Start by being aware of the bed under your body, the pillow under your head and the covers over you.  Is your body the right temperature?  Are you comfortable?
  • Now close your eyes and in turn, tense and then relax each part of your body.  Take your time and start with your feet and toes – stretch them out, curl them up tightly and then let them relax gently.  Do the same with your legs – tighten them and then feel them relax into the bed.
  • Go to your buttocks, your stomach, chest and arms doing the same thing.
  • Tense your shoulders and then your facial muscles and relax them.  Feel how relaxed you are and take your awareness back to the bed under you, the covers over your body and the peace and comfort around you.
  • Now imagine you’re at the top of a long flight of stairs.  You’re going to count down the stairs as you move slowly down each one, starting at 100…99…98 etc until you drift off to sleep.
  1. Eat tryptophan-rich foods.

Tryptophan is essential in the production of serotonin.  Serotonin is a chemical that, among the many other things it does, helps stabilise our moods and helps us to sleep.  By eating foods that have tryptophan, your body has one of the building blocks for serotonin.

Tryptophan is found in food with a high protein content – things like red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soybeans and soy products, tofu, tuna, shellfish, and turkey.  So using these ingredients you should be able to eat your way to better sleep.  Here are a few ideas for snacks and dishes that will top up your tryptophan intake.

  • Tuna nicoise salad, topped with pine nuts
  • Banana and peanut butter smoothy
  • Cottage cheese salad with nuts and bacon pieces
  • Hot chocolate drink made with cows’ milk or soy milk
  • Turkey sandwich
  • Tofu stir fry
  • Moules Mariniere (mussels in garlic, butter, cream and white wine sauce)
  • Banana milkshake
  • Tuna and shellfish pie with a cheesy crust over the mashed potato
  • ‘Surf and Turf’ – steak with shrimp/seafood.

Be aware of what you’re eating and reduce the amount of caffeine you drink also as this could be keeping you awake.  Take some time for the levels of serotonin build in your body – 2-3 weeks isn’t unreasonable – and it might help to keep a food/sleep journal so that you monitor your progress.

Elspeth Raisbeck

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