For some, bedtime is a nightly battle of tossing, turning and exhausted frustration; I have been there myself. As with any of life’s imbalances, there’s usually an underlying reason for insomnia and although stress and tension are usually the root cause, there are natural solutions to help you get the rest you deserve. Try some of these ideas and see which ones work for you.
Before going to bed, stretch out.
The day’s tensions are held in your body, so a gentle, relaxing stretching session. Even a brief one can do you a world of good.
Wear comfortable clothing – or none!
You might be surprised to find that going to sleep in your birthday suit helps you get more relaxed. Or, simply changing the type of PJ’s you wear can work wonders. If you’ve been sticking to cotton or flannel, try bamboo, which breathes well.
Skip the bedtime TV show.
I know a lot of people that like to fall asleep to the TV, and if that works for you, great. But if you find yourself wired after watching Colbert or the midnight sci-fi flick, take the hint and turn off the tube. With all those flashing images, TV stimulates the brain and that’s the last thing you need if you’re trying to sleep.
Unplug electrical appliances in your bedroom at night.
The subtle electrical hum might just be enough to keep you awake, not to mention digital numbers or standby lights. If you use an alarm to wake up, keep it at least 3 feet from your bed.
Keep your workspace separate from your bedroom.
Using your laptop in bed, or even having your desk right next to your bed will keep stress and sleep intertwined – not a good combination. If you can, remove clutter your sleeping space and make it harmonious and beautiful. Perhaps some beautiful art or make an altar of special objects – anything but the office supplies!
Is it too health-nut of me to remind you not to drink coffee or eat sugary snacks before bedtime? Hey, even a few bites of dark chocolate were enough to keep me up an extra few hours one night recently, so watch what you eat in the evening. Good choices are nuts, cheese, and nut butters.
Is your mattress uncomfortable?
Are you using the right pillow? Make sure your sleeping situation is exactly right for you. If you’re tossing and turning on a regular basis, it’s probably time for a different mattress.
Keep oxygen circulating in your bedroom.
If you don’t like to leave your windows open, at least crack them or use a small, circulating fan. The white noise might help you sleep better, too.
Try aromatherapy to help you relax and sleep. Some good essential oil choices are lavender, ylang ylang, jasmine or sandalwood. Nectar Essences has a misting spray – appropriately called Sleep – made of relaxing flower essences and essential oils. A lavender lotion on your legs at night can work wonders.
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain that regulates sleep cycles and synthetic melatonin pills are a gentle, over-the-counter option for helping you get to sleep. There are a few contraindications and potential side-effects, so do your research before taking it, but in general melatonin is considered a very mild and helpful supplement. It is safe for children, too.
Listen to relaxing music
Try ocean sounds or a meditation podcast, but make sure your stereo doesn’t stay on all night with lights and electrical feedback to keep you awake!
Try the old standard for nighttime relaxation: chamomile tea. If you consume dairy, a glass of plain old warm milk can help, as well.
Save shower or bath time for your evening ritual.
The warmth and the water will help you relax, unwind and wash away the stresses of your day. This is especially effective if you use some of those essential oils in your bath.
This is a well known drowsiness-inducing herb. It is generally considered safe, with few side-effects, but as with any supplement, do some research and chat with your health care practitioner before deciding if it’s the right remedy for you.
The Hawaiian kava root is also well known for its relaxing properties. It does have a soothing, relaxing effect without any major hangover or side effects. But kava root is not the ideal herb for everyone. Do some research before trying it, and get pure kava powder.
Wear a sleep mask.
We sleep best in total darkness, and those little slivers of light from the streetlamp outside your window or the bright numbers of your digital alarm clock are enough to be a distraction. Simply slip on a mask and enter your own dark cocoon.
Save bedtime for relaxing activities.
You’ve turned off the TV, now what? Read a book (but not a thriller!) or journal just before going to bed. Or, try a little yoga.
Write your worries or your to-do list.
If your mind is racing, grab a notebook and write everything down. Write write write until you’re out of things to write about, until you’re tired, even bored – then you’ll be able to shut your eyes and sleep.
Use a pleasantly scented dream pillow.
It sounds strange, but German scientists found that certain smells help us dream better, while other, unpleasant smells play a part in disturbing our dreams.
Slow, deep breathing.
Before you go to bed, do some deep breathing – this will help relax you. Anytime you notice your mind has drifted away from your breath, gently bring it back. Or do this meditation lying down in bed and you’re sure to fall fast asleep.
HEALTHY – HOW TO HANDLE THANKSGIVING DAY BINGEING.
On Thursday, you’ll sit down to a dinner table and eat well beyond the “normal portion” of appetizers, cocktails, main course(s), side dishes, wine and desserts (mmm, pie). In fact, there’s a chance you could end up consuming at least 1,705 calories and 61 grams of fat during that one Thanksgiving day meal.
Considering what a gluttonous occasion it will be, you may think (consciously or subconsciously) that it might be best to try to eat next to nothing the day before and day after. Stop being silly—you know you have to eat and not eating will only make you hungrier. And since you have to eat, you might as well eat certain foods and adopt behaviors that work better than others at keeping unwanted holiday pounds away, right?
Here, a few tips and tricks to employ before and after that can “soften the blow,” perhaps, of that Turkey Day dig-in …
The morning before: Eat breakfast! After all, research has shown that breakfast eaters eat fewer calories overall during the day. But just any old breakfast won’t do eating simple sugars and carbs in the morning leads to even more sugar and carb cravings throughout the day! So, try an egg white omelet, cereal, lots of fruit and some yogurt. Even better bet would be to have oatmeal with walnuts or a high-fiber toast with a shmear of peanut butter. The combo of protein and fiber (shoot for 5 grams of each) will keep anyone satisfied without turning them into a ravenous beast.
Before/during The Big Meal: You’ve heard it before: “Fill up on veggies.” OK, sure, but what kinds are particularly helpful at “priming” your system to take on a big binge? David Feder, RD, author of The Skinny Carbs Diet, says your best bet is to go with root veggies, like yams and potatoes. Besides, they’re in your house for the big meal anyway. “When steamed or slow-baked, then cooled slightly, these form the most resistant starch—a form of starch that thinks it’s a fiber,” says Feder. “It’s been shown to increase satiety, plus you end up consuming fewer calories and having the calories you eat last longer.” And root veggies also convert into glycogen more readily—that’s the form of glucose that is burned at a slow and steady pace to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel, explains Feder. In other words, your best defense against that cranberry mold is to go for the baked potato or yam (ideally sans butter, sour cream, and brown sugar) ASAP.
Before dessert: Go for a walk or throw a football around for 20 minutes. According to super celeb-trainer Jackie Warner (and RockIt Mom idol), holiday overeating raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but moderate physical activity can quash this spike, simultaneously inhibiting your appetite.
For the next week post-Turkey Day: First of all, if you had a slice of pecan pie and a slice of pumpkin pie—on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—don’t beat yourself up! Second, you can easily detoxify by sipping a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon before each meal. Warner touts lemon as a natural liver detoxifier packed with vitamin C, which can help detoxify a body that’s fighting to metabolize extra calories. A bonus: The drink may also suppress your appetite, so you can reduce your calorie intake ever so slightly over the following few days to “make up for” the feast.
RECIPE: PUMPKIN PIE MOUSSE
This is a yummy way to get your craving for pumpkin taken care of during Thanksgiving. It is so light and easy to make, although the peaks do require some challenge. Jump over to Food for the full recipe.
What are your Pre & Post Thanksgiving tips?
Remember this is just the beginning of the “holiday” season. Don’t let it get the best of you. Keep the stressors down. Maintain your regular routine, exercise and healthy eating. Don’t let this season be your excuse to let everything go. Make sure you have healthy meals and snacks along with hydration. You want to be happy with yourself on January 2, not angry for starting all over. You have done a great job this year, continue it into 2011.