By Katherine Ward
When Sleep Eludes
The elusiveness of sleep is something that can make life difficult to say the least, causing body aches, poor health, even weight issues and eating problems. When a person does not get enough sleep, mood and temperament is effected as well as the physical effects on the body. Unfortunately, even when a person is healthy and not partaking in substances that keep them awake, he or she may still have issues with maintaining a successful sleep routine. But they are not alone in their quest for shut-eye and there are ways to calm the mind and body without prescription medications or harmful substances.
Sleep Aid Vitamin?
Melatonin is an over the counter vitamin, found in the vitamin isle of any local drug, grocery, or all inclusive store, and it is known for its ability to help people sleep. Melatonin is naturally occurring in animals, including humans. It is secreted in “darkness” or at night, regardless of an animal being nocturnal or not. Melatonin helps with a number of sleep disorders because of its effect on circadian rhythm disorders. If taken an hour or so before bedtime, it tricks the mind into a state of mild hypnosis and causes the normal blood melatonin levels to rise earlier than they would otherwise. This is a great option for those who seek help in the sleep department but do not want to risk the side effects that are found with most medical strength, doctor prescribed sleep aids.
Another way to induce the calm state that is necessary for falling asleep involves rhythmic breathing. Many people forget how much their breathing rhythm can either positively or negatively change their state of relaxation. When one is stressed, short, quick breaths or heavy breathing usually occur. The shoulders may rise and become stiff with extended stress. Unfortunately, when one does not let go of this stressed state, it is almost impossible to fall asleep. Instead, there is a way to induce a calmer, more sleep-like state with one’s breath.
By taking deep, slow and rhythmic breaths, the body is forced to slow down and the mind follows in turn. Anytime a person allows herself to stop thinking and moving long enough to pay attention to her breathing, the body and mind will react with an internal “Thank you!” The human mind and body is not meant to run twenty-four hours a day, everyday; it needs to relax and repair during the hours of the night meant for sleep. Breathing slowly and mindfully is a simple way to prepare for sleep and help the body and mind rest.
A Yogic Solution
Often in yoga, relaxation techniques are used at the end of a practice session to allow the body to be in a state of calm before re-entering the hectic outside world. One of these techniques can also be used as a pre-bedtime routine:
Lying in a comfortable, supine position, take a few seconds (10-15) to flex and relax each part of the body. Move from the toes, to the calves, to hips, stomach, and arms. Give each body part a mental thanking for being a part of a system that sustains life and allows you to perform the functions of your day. Once each part of the body has been given a chance to relax, the facial muscles should be the last of the muscles to receive special treatment. Relax and tighten the muscles in the mouth, jaw, cheeks and eyes until the mouth is slightly open and the face is fully relaxed. At this point, sleep should not be as elusive as before, because the body has been given a chance to relax one muscle at a time.