One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is difficulty sleeping. It may be difficulty getting off to sleep, waking in the early hours of the morning, or waking up in the morning feeling exhausted.
There can be many reasons why sleep becomes disturbed. It is often caused by high stress levels, particularly when what is actually stressing us is out of our control. Reflexology is one way of managing a stressful period and most client’s report sleeping well when they have received reflexology.
However there are some simple steps can you take to improve your sleep:
- Set a bedtime ritual. Just as we set a bedtime routine for children, with some wind down time, bath and bed, so as adults, it is helpful to put the ‘tech’ away, resist the urge to be checking your emails and Facebook, switch off the T.V and maybe relax before bed with a bath.
- Relax in a bath of Epsom Salts / Magnesium flakes. Put 250g of magnesium flakes in a bath and soak for a minimum of 20 minutes without any other soaps. Magnesium has many functions in the body, including relaxing smooth muscle. Stress often depletes our magnesium levels and lack of magnesium can increase the effects of stress. So while you relax in the bath, your body can absorb the magnesium through the skin while you soak. You will emerge feeling very relaxed.
- Remove all technology from your bedroom – phones, tablets, computers, T.V’s. This is for two reasons: a) They emit electro magnetic fields. These are invisible vibrating electrical frequencies which some people can be highly sensitive too without realising. Many will admit to being unable to resist checking their phone if they wake up – so remove it! b) they are a source of light. We need darkness for sleep because it allows the hormone melatonin to be secreted which keeps us asleep. Light inhibits the production of melatonin and will start to wake us, just as the morning light coming through the curtains wakes us up.
- Exercise in general is beneficial for our health in many ways but exercising before bed, even 3 hours before going to bed, can actually keep you awake, because it stimulates your heart, brain and muscles. Go for exercise in the morning or, late afternoon/early evening, to give your body a chance to wind down again before bed.
- House dust mites/allergies. If you often find yourself feeling very congested at night you may need to consider the possibility of an allergic reaction to feather pillows or a feather duvet. You may need to switch to synthetic materials.House dust mites are tiny creatures that live off human skin scales and love the warm environment of the bedroom, so minimize the possible effects by not only washing bedding and cleaning regularly but also using allergen proof barriers on mattresses, pillows and duvets.
- Breathing – this is a very simple technique that can help you to fall asleep. Its called the 4:7:8 breathing technique. Put the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. Exhale completely through your mouth. Then close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of Hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale completely through your mouth to a count of 8. (As you breathe out you will make a whoosh sound). This is one complete cycle , repeat the cycle three more times so you complete four cycles in total. This calms the whole body ready for sleep and gives the mind a focus. With practise you will over time be able to slow your breathing down.
- Relaxation – like anything else, learning to relax the mind and the body to allow yourself to sleep well is a skill that takes practise to perfect. If you are very stressed and this is the reason you can’t sleep, it will take time to learn to quieten the mind and relax your body. This means setting aside some time during the day, every day, to practise a relaxation technique. Trying to learn to do this when you are in bed and frustrated that you can’t sleep is setting yourself up for more frustration. There are lots of relaxation CD’s on the market, short videos on You Tube and even apps such as’ Headspace’. Some will encourage you to visualise a relaxing scene, others will ask you to tense and relax each part of your body in a sequence, others will use self hypnosis techniques. Experiment to see which one engages your attention the most. But! stick with a technique for 2-3 weeks, it takes time to see results.
Finally, of course as a reflexologist, I do see clients who have been stressed for some time, and for whom poor sleep is one of a number of problems they are experiencing. Reflexology relaxes the mind and the body and can often help to improve the quality of sleep. Once clients see an improvement I encourage them to find ways of maintaining their improved sleep so they can manage it themselves in times of stress.
Have you found ways to improve your sleep? What do you do to help yourself when you can’t sleep? I would love to know – pop over to my Facebook page using the link below to let me know: