Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3 Ways To Get To Sleep Without Drugs

These days I sleep pretty well. But that hasn't always been the case. For several years, chronic pain and various worries took their toll on my rest. Some nights I couldn't get to sleep. Other nights I fell asleep without any trouble, but woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back. Sound familiar?

I'm not a fan of sleeping pills. So for a long time, I've been on a quest to find ways to get to sleep easily and naturally. Here are three things that have worked for me. Maybe they will work for you, too.

1. Focus on Your Blessings. It's my thinking that often keeps me awake. Worrying, wishing I'd handled something differently, wondering what to do next, and then the big one: What if I can't get to sleep? What time is it? Oh no, I have to be up in 3 hours and I haven't slept at all! These thoughts provoke anxiety and make it even harder to get to sleep. How do you break that vicious cycle?
Start by remembering this: you can think only one thought at a time. So the trick is to change out the anxious thoughts for thoughts that are soothing... and calm yourself down. 
Try this: the next time you have trouble sleeping and notice that your mind is racing, stop and change the subject from worry to gratitude. Review your day, looking for the parts of it you most appreciated - a conversation that uplifted you, a funny story someone told, a brilliant sunset, a piece of good news. Mine your experience looking for anything that makes you feel good when you think of it - how comfortable your bed is, how good flannel sheets feel in winter, how you've finally found just the right pillow. Keep your focus there and notice how your body begins to relax. Drowsiness and sleep will follow.

Since I have been doing this,  my thinking during the day has shifted, too. I spend less time looking at things that worry or annoy me and more time looking for things to add to my daily appreciation list. It's Law of Attraction in action. The more things I find to appreciate, the more there is to appreciate. 

Don't forget to add yourself to the list of things to appreciate. Remind yourself of the things you did well today. Think of all the ways you make life better for yourself and others. Love yourself.

I will admit that this takes practice, especially if you are a world class worrier or were raised to believe that  it isn't "nice" to brag on yourself. You will have to learn to challenge all those "yes, but..." statements. But in time you will be able to retrain your thought habits and find greater peace, regardless of the time of day. Refocusing your thoughts gives you a feeling of control -  you will notice that you can take charge of how you feel by taking charge of what you think about. Learning to calm yourself down on purpose will help you sleep better and night and feel better during the day.

2. Rub Your Belly. A few years ago, I went to an acupuncturist who taught me how to do Mayan abdominal massage. This simple 5 minute belly rub is very relaxing, which is not surprising since our bellies are where we hold our emotions. A lot of tension builds up there, tension that we tend to ignore - until it's gone and then we say, wow! I feel so much better.

Beyond stress relief, abdominal massage is helpful for relief of acid reflux, prostate problems, and many female complaints, including difficulty getting pregnant. It isn't recommended for everyone, so talk to a licensed massage practitioner to find out if it is something that makes sense for you.

3. Listen to Music. For years I had trouble getting to sleep because of chronic pain. It was hard to get myself positioned comfortably so that I could fall asleep. After a while, I sort of dreaded going to bed because of this, and that created a certain level of anxiety before I even got there.

Then I discovered Steven Halpern's healing music. I know it sounds crazy; I've seen the looks on people's faces when I talk about this. But when I put on the Chakra Suite, it feels like my whole body listens to this music, not just my ears. It soothes and relaxes me on a deep level.

For years, this music was part of my bedtime routine. At least 1/2 hour before bed, I put on this music and let it wash over me. I found that it not only soothed me, it reduced pain.

Even though my health is much improved and chronic pain is no longer part of my life, I listen to this music from time to time when I need to relax. I'm a firm believer in the healing properties of music.

So there you have it. My top 3 sleep aids. They work. They don't have side effects. And if they are habit forming, so much the better!