4 Ways to Unwind when You Can't Sleep

In my 10 Tips for Better Sleep post I talked about being mindful of what may be triggering your poor sleep so you can stop a bad night before it happens. Despite best efforts there are days when it seems like no amount of mindfulness will help you unwind. What do you do when the monkey mind just won’t stop?  The experts suggest that if you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes you should get up, move to another room, keep the lights dim and find some quiet activities to occupy your mind.  Here are some ideas to help calm your mind and body on those sleepless nights. This is a wonderful practice to add to your daily sleep ritual help you unwind before bed.  

1.     Use essential oils

Lavender is at the top of almost all list of essential oils for sleep. Is it any wonder its been used for years in baby products. Also on the list are: roman chamomile, bergamot, vertiver and sweet marjoram. I also love the woodsy aroma of sandalwood and cedar. They are beautiful blended with lavender to balance the floral. A go to blend for me is: 4 drops of lavender, 4 drops of cedar and 2 drops of wild orange (although orange isn’t on the sleep list above it is relaxing and mood enhancing. And, it blends beautifully with lavender and Cedar.) Look for pure essential oils. In this case you really do get what you pay for. If it seems really in expensive its probably not the real deal. A diffuser is a wonderful way to “bathe” in the aroma. If you don’t have a diffuser put a drop or two of the essential oil (or blend) on your wrist, behind your ears, on your temples (test it first to make sure it isn’t too strong that close to your nose) or on the soles of your feet.

*Always test essential oils before putting a lot on your skin especially if you are sensitivity to pollens etc.

2.     Sip a warm drink

Where lavender is the essential oils version of the "queen of sleep", chamomile is the queen of sleepy time tea. Its easy to find is a key ingredient in almost all bedtime teas. When I was a kid the best medicine for sleep was a cup of warm milk and honey. Milk isn't scientifically proven to induce sleep but it is very soothing. As I mentioned in my post 10 Tips for Better Sleep Ayurvedic medicine considers cream and milk very calming for excess energy and for calming the monkey mind .

3.     Practice Gentle Yoga

One of the main contributing factors to sleeplessness is stress. Your monkey mind feeds on stress. Studies have shown that people with chronic insomnia have higher levels stress hormones like cortisol. This hormone puts the sympathetic nervous system (the part of your brain that triggers emotions like anger, anxiety and stress) into a state of hyper arousal. Yoga is an amazing tool for lowering stress hormones, calming the sympathetic nervous system and turning on the parasympathetic nervous system (the part of you brain that is responsible for relaxation and sleep). Yoga can be calming, reduce anxiety and help promote sleep but not all yoga is created equal when it comes to the monkey mind. If you’re mind is racing and you have a lot of pent up energy a restorative pose right off the bat may be more agitating than soothing. The monkey mind needs to move before it will calm down. Slow steady movement, focusing on your breath is the best place to start. It helps to move energy and release bottled up tension. 


4.     Guided meditation

A guided meditation is one of the best ways to settle and calm your wandering monkey mind. It has very similar effects to yoga, calming the sympathetic nervous system and reducing stress hormones. I have recorded a guided meditation for you based on Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga Nidra - Yogic Sleep. If you have never practiced Yoga Nidra or mindfulness meditation you are in for a treat. Listen to it before bed or after a gentle yoga if you are having trouble sleeping.  

This 14 minute guided meditation is inspired by Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. It is deeply nourishing and a favourite with clients and my classes. Let this beautiful meditation guide you into stillness mind, body and soul.

Do you have any routines for when you can't sleep? Do you try to stay in bed or get up and find something quiet to do? I'd love to hear about what your routine is.