Sleep. Heard of it? It’s that thing we all vaguely remember from the good old days. You know, before smartphones and streaming were invented.
Alas, as the non-stop nature of the modern world seeps into every corner of our lives, including our bedrooms, sleep problems are on the rise. So much so that the Centre Disease Control recently declared sleep disorders to be so pervasive that they now actually constitute a public health epidemic. Yikes!
What’s the solution? Dropping off the grid and going to live in a cabin in the woods might be the most effective thing to do but it’s not the most practical. Especially not if you have kids in school and a mortgage to pay.
It’s no wonder then that many of us are turning to sleeping pills in order to get the shuteye our body and beauty regimes so badly crave. These little white helpers can be very effective at knocking us out cold, but sedation is very different from natural sleep. Plus, they can get a little bit, let’s just say, moreish!
Fortunately for us, pharmacology is not the only avenue open to sleep seekers. There’s a whole range of natural alternatives to medication out there, you just need to know where to look [The Sleepadvisor [SA] seems to have got some good tips]. Below we are going to examine four ways you can help drift off fast without reaching for that pill bottle…
1. Smell your way to sleep
Humans have a powerful sense of smell, something that is often overlooked when it comes to our health and wellbeing. Herbs, incense, and essential oils can play an important role in helping to relax and destress an overstimulated mind and get you in a sleepy mood.
Lavender, for instance, has long been utilized for its deeply soothing qualities; sprinkling just a drop or two on your pillow before bed can help induce feelings of restfulness.
Sandalwood not only smells great when burnt as incense, its aroma actively helps soothe a racing brain. Chamomile is another scent with instantly calming properties. Not only does it smell great but when enjoyed as a tea it can also help to ease indigestion and boost your immune system.
Mmm, smell that? Smells, like a good night’s sleep ahead.
2. Sip on some golden milk
Sounds expensive right? Wrong. Golden milk is a favorite pre-bed beverage on the Indian subcontinent. It’s made by mixing a nice big heaping teaspoon of turmeric with hot milk, then seasoning with cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg.
Not only is the combination absolutely delicious and unbelievably comforting, like a warm hug for your insides. The concoction is also jam-packed full of antioxidants, giving your immune system a much-needed boost.
Turmeric, which gives the drink its golden color is an absolute favorite of ayurvedic medicine. The spice has been used by traditional healers for millennia but has only very recently started to gain the following it deserves here in the western world. Come on, catch up guys!
3. Silence your monkey mind
Why is it that when we lie in bed at night, all around is silent but our brain simply won’t shut the frick up? Worrying about this, stressing about that. Constantly chattering away. Shhhh!
This is what your friendly neighborhood Buddhist monk would refer to as your monkey mind.
Swinging from concern to concern, the little pest in our head is with us constantly throughout the day also but when the lights are on we have a myriad of other things to catch our attention and distract us. At night, when all is dark, you’re effectively a captive audience to your thoughts. And that’s when the trouble starts!
One proven way to tame our monkey mind is through meditation. Sitting quietly and focussing on quite how random the endless stream of thoughts that filter through your mind is, for as little as 15-30 mins a day gradually begins to retrain the brain.
Now, this doesn’t mean you will no longer have worries or that your concerns will disappear completely. It will, however, give you a new realization into just how pointless it is to worry about them.
Slowly over time, the chattering of your monkey mind at night will become so quiet that you’ll be able to drift off without even noticing it. Laters Bubbles!
4. Put a pin in your sleeping woes
Mention acupuncture to a friend or a colleague, and they will likely make a quip about not wanting to get turned into a hedgehog! Funny yes, but illustrative of the amount of misinformation there is out there about an ancient practice.
In China, acupuncture has been used to treat insomnia longer than most countries in the west have, well, even existed.
In traditional thought, the practice is linked to the notion that sickness is created by the flow of bodily energy, or qi (pronounced chi), being blocked. By stimulating areas of the body through the careful insertion of acupuncture needles, these blockages can be removed and the flow of qi restored.
Long viewed as pure quackery in the west, advances in medical science have seen researchers give new attention to the benefits of acupuncture. While most scientists doubt the notion of qi, there is a theory that the practice works by targeting ‘neurohormonal pathways’ in the body. That the needles stimulate nerve endings which communicate messages to the brain, triggering the release of hormones such as beta-Endorphins.
These endorphins then counteract the influence of stress hormones like cortisol in our system, relax us and therefore help us sleep. Thanks, ancient China. Oh, and thanks for all the tea too!
Well, there you have it – three very natural ways to help you de-stress and rediscover the joy of a good night’s rest. And not a sleeping pill in sight. Dubious? Well, why not give them a go, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You lose a little sleep!
Hi, there. I'm Sarah. I hail from sunny California. I’m a self-confessed sleep addict. I love nothing more than hitting snooze and rolling over for another hour (or two) in bed. I spend most of my day writing about all things slumber-related for the Sleep Advisor blog. When I’m not working I like to keep fit and healthy with a little hiking in the hills and a lot of yoga. I believe the secret to a happy life is slowing everything down, filtering out what isn’t vital and, well, sleeping more obviously!