9 November 2014

After a beautiful summer full of long hot days where the air becomes thick and humid, the nights can be so uncomfortable, which makes it difficult to sleep. I often find myself wanting to rest with the windows open but the city never sleeps and, with the windows open, I wont either. I have never been one to stay up all night working, I have a meticulous sleep pattern, but this wasn't always the case and over time I have learnt techniques to ensure I have a better nights sleep. This is important because the benefits of a good sleeping pattern include improvement of memory, lowering of stress, sharpening of attention, reduction in ageing, prevention of diseases and spurs creativity. I am certainly a person who has difficulty switching my mind off at night, so here are some of my techniques to help relax and unwind at the end of the day.

A little light stretching can help relax your body and unwind the tension from a hard day. Try moves such as gentle twists, cross legged bends and knees to chest, nothing that pushes your heart rate up will help you sleep. 

Deep breathing & meditation.
Meditation is something I have been practicing for a few years, it is not something that is part of my regular routine but when it is needed I will practice. If you have never meditated before it can be frustratingly difficult to switch your mind off, but the more you practice the better you will become. Often meditation is used at both the beginning and the end of yoga routines and something that is always practiced in the yoga classes I attend. 
Keeping your shoulders back and chest open, breath in through your nose and out through your mouth to help slow your heart rate and switch off your mind. There are several different techniques for meditating, some people repeat a mantra, others picture a single object or place, others try to be more mindful of how they are feeling and all the areas of their body, keeping their mind present without letting it slip away into different thoughts. You will find this helps you unwind and calm down. I would highly recommend the 'HEADSPACE' app (https://www.headspace.com/).

Take a bath with lavender oil. 
Raising your body temperature before bed can actually have negative effects on your sleep, so a warm rather than hot bath with some lavender essential oil will help relax your muscles and body. 

Of course, most of us enjoy being massaged and find it relaxing. Combine this with a little aromatherapy - essential oils diluted with a carrier oil can be used to loosen the tension of muscles whilst giving a pleasant smell. It is nice either having someone else do it for you on areas such as your back or massaging your own feet and neck, concentrating not on your thoughts but on the area of tension. 

Fruit tea.
Avoiding caffeinated drinks from the afternoon onwards and replacing them with a light fruit or herb infused drink (my tea entry). Lemon balm or camomile teas work well.

Is known for having properties that both ease anxiety and help with insomnia. For this reason I like to keep a tiny bottle of lavender essential oil to use in a bath, mixed with carrier oil to use for a massage, oil to add a few drops to water and place in my oil burner to create a beautiful calming aroma. 

Scents & White Sage.
During the evenings, I like to turn off all the lights and light a few candles or an incense stick, some white sage or my oil burner with some essential oils. Of course it is best not to fall asleep with them lit, it also a good idea to open a window to allow free air into the room before drifting off.
White Sage (Salvia Apiana) is part of the evergreen perennial shrub family native to southern California & north western Mexico and is widely used by Native Americans on the Pacific coast. It has a few different uses, but most commonly it is used by Native Americans for purification rituals. It is said that if a room has a bad aura, lighting white sage and smoking out the room will cleanse & sooth it. It is also known to have antibacterial properties. 
I love the smell of herbs and dried sage has a wonderful strong aroma, so you only need to light it for a couple seconds before stubbing it out in sand or a shell (this will stop it from continuing to smoulder, that way it can then be reused.)

Letting go.
I so often find that working up until it is time to sleep is when I have the most restless nights, holding on to tasks that must be done, thoughts that swirl around the mind. Leaving it all behind and giving yourself time to unwind will always help your sleep pattern but when you simply cannot, I find it helps to just write down thoughts and tasks, allowing them to be cleared from your mind.