Reprinted with the kind permission of Sue Ingebretson
Do you feel like better sleep is a thing of the past? Does it feel as if the whole world drops into blissful slumber as you stare at the ceiling? Besides the physical aspects of sleep deprivation, insomnia produces feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s time to turn the tables on poor sleep.
Why Better Sleep Isn’t Simple
When asked about sleep problems, I share that I call it a “Results Symptom.” Impaired sleep is a symptom that improves – as a result – of balancing fundamental health issues that are currently out of whack.
A few other key symptoms are part of this category, too. Check out this post to learn more – Why Pain, Fatigue, Fibrofog, and Sleep are Results Symptoms.
It takes time for chronic illness to bloom. It may have crept up at a snail’s pace or arrived in a blink (i.e. from an accident, circumstance, or injury), but the foundations of it were laid over time.
It also takes time to restore balance.
Approaching healing from a nutritional perspective, a toxic load impact, and by applying stress management techniques, you cover the issues from all angles. The first two take time and can be fairly straightforward.
That last one’s a doozy!
What’s at the Root of Poor Sleep?
For those of us with fibromyalgia, CFS, arthritis, MS, and other chronic illnesses, a common thread related to sleep disturbances is that familiar “tired but wired” feeling. Our over-active brains turn on conversations, images, and feelings that we can’t seem to turn off.
A busy brain translates to an overstimulated body. Every system is affected by overstimulation. We’re hyper aware, and at times, over-reactive. Our awareness prowls with the hair-trigger reactions of a hungry tiger.
To tame this tiger, we need to enlist a powerful solution.
The system of the body that controls the stress response needs to be tamed. The autonomic nervous system provides both the stress response and its opposing and balancing reaction, the relaxation response. Limiting the stress response, and inducing the relaxation response is key to taming this tiger.
Before bed is the perfect time to send the relaxation response an invitation. The following are just three (of many) ways to engage both the brain and the body in the experience of relaxation.
It’s time to set the stage for better sleep. Of course, it’s no coincidence that all three tips below relate to inducing the state of relaxation.
Three Surprising Tips for Better Sleep
Of the thousands of ways to bring about the relaxation response, I’ve chosen 3 that will probably surprise you.
ONE: Relaxation through creative expression
Using your hands to methodically create something artistic can be soothing. The brain gets the message that “all is well” when your hands are busy doing something repetitive. Activities that don’t take a lot of thought are best before bedtime. Knitting, crocheting, and putting together jigsaw puzzles are good choices. Another favorite activity of mine, coloring, is also a good choice.
For pages to color as well as positive statements and word puzzles based on healthy ideas, check out my book, Chronic Coloring.
Practice your favorite creative activity for about 30 minutes before bedtime. Focus on the feelings of joy, pleasure, relaxation, positivity, and gratitude. Make sure to turn the TV and computer off. Listening to music is helpful as long as it’s more soothing than invigorating.
TWO: Relaxation through sensory connections
The brain makes deep connections between things when they’re repeated. Favorite relaxation-inducing and therapeutic scents can be paired with deep breathing practices to form a quick and easy way to relax.
Place your favorite relaxation scent(s) into an essential oils diffuser or simply put a drop between your palms and inhale. Choose oils known for their calming and relaxing properties such as lavender, ylang ylang, jasmine, geranium, or bergamot. (If you have any questions about essential oils, please contact me HERE.)
Close your eyes and breathe deep and evenly. You may choose to focus on the exhalation as a way to rid the body of any tension, tightness, or frustration. Count the exhalations backwards beginning at 50. Calm yourself with meditations, prayer, gratitude, and anything that brings a sensation of peace and wholeness.
Through repetition, your body will soon connect the scent with deep relaxation and you can slip into this calming state quickly.
THREE: Relaxation that’s skin deep
Have you ever gotten the goosebumps from something good that’s happened to you? Perhaps it happens during a massage or a trip to the hairdresser. This tingly feeling can also happen when experiencing something genuine, peaceful, comforting, or satisfying.
(Of course, goosebumps can occur from feeling frightened or physically chilled, but that’s not the type we’re after here.)
The positive circumstances that create this tingly feeling differ for each of us. I’ve gotten goosebumps just from watching someone else do something nice for me. I’m filled with a sensation of gratitude that gives me the chills – in a good way. For others, it may be listening to certain songs, reading memorable poetry or letters, watching children play, or practicing meditation. Whatever it is for you, look for ways to incorporate it into a pre-bedtime routine.
Some recordings can help such as progressing muscle relaxations, whispering voices, and soothing nature sounds.
Taming Your Stress Tiger
What’s your favorite way to tame your stress tiger? If practical, you may wish to adapt your favorite methods into pre-bedtime routine routines.
What will you try?