In spite of all the yoga and all the benefits that it brings I succumb to insomnia from time to time.
Following these suggestions works sometimes, and other times it does not in which case I just jump to point 10. Nevertheless, it is useful to know all the previous 9 steps:
1.-Eating early and light
Taking the last meal of the day before 7 p.m. helps not only from the point of view of yoga, especially for those of us who practice asana (poses) early the next morning, but also for good rest.
If the body is trying to digest a heavy meal it will be difficult for it to fall asleep. Besides, when we eat early we give the digestive system an opportunity to wind down and get into rest mode, which in is also a good signal for the psychic, one that says: “ I am ready to fast, rest, and sleep”.
I am sensitive to smells and do not like to have much of a scent anywhere. However, I have found that after an early dinner, when the dishes are in the washer and the buzz of the day is quieting down, it is good to burn one up. The benefit of it happening in the kitchen is that only a subtle scent reaches the other rooms, and the light fragrance sends a soft signal that dinner is over and the ritual of bed-time is beginning. I would not recommend strong fragrances for the bedroom because they can interfere.
Smell is a very strong way to send signals to the mind and when used wisely it can mark the end of a portion of the day and the start of another, in this case, the beginning of the ritual of sleep.
3.-The bedroom is for sleep, even if it isn’t
If you work from your bedroom the energy of the room will make it harder to sleep in it, and so it is always a good idea to do business in a separate area. This may not always be possible of course, depending on the amount of room one has, life situation, etc. But even if you only have one and you work from home, I would suggest putting a curtain or a partition that separates the space where you work from the space where you sleep.
Just as an example I practice yoga-asana in my bedroom, but before I do I make up the bed (to signal the end of sleep) and put one of those three parts foldable Japanese screens (US$ 40 at amazon) to delimit where the bedroom ends and where the “yoga studio” starts.
Of course it is all in perception as it’s still the same bedroom, but in my mind this creates a compartment which signals when I do yoga and when I go to sleep. It works.
Most of the time, good sleep comes when there is a ritual around it, so it you take big decorative pillows out of the bed, shower or take a bath, change the light, lower the curtains, put your clothes away in a closet, brush your teeth and then get in bed, these are them! Your own rituals. Do not skip them;
If you do not yet have them, perhaps you may want to consider creating a few.
The bedroom must feel cozy and needs to have clean sheets, nice pillows, and soft covers. I consider bedding an investment in good sleeping, good rest, and hence better living. I make it a ritual to change the sheets of the bed every other week, sometimes every week, and to make sure that the pillows are comfy (i.e.: how old is your pillow?).
Also body hygiene is important, take a warm bath or shower, let the body know that it is being prepared for rest. It might not work on day one but if this becomes something you do regularly then the body will respond and deploy the right chemicals, it will cooperate with the ritual.
Remember, we are all children that just happen to have grown up in size, but all the techniques we use with children (discipline, bed time stories (read “rituals” for adults) work with us too.
At least one hour before bed it is important to shut down all screens, computers, and video games. If this is too difficult (I know for me it is) then maybe a recommendation could be to watch something light and funny, i.e.: there are three whole seasons of “Arrested Development” (a very funny show) that can be streamed from Hulu ($8 per month membership) or something like that, which will keep the mind in a light state. There is also “30 Rock”, which you can stream for free. These are shows that are funny and very light. It is important to never watch news before bed, that will definitely make sleep more difficult.
7.-Sleepy Time tea and herbal supplements
This tea (from Celestial Seasons) is one of those incredible effective discoveries you come across from time to time. They also have a vanilla flavor. When I am too excited I usually put two tea bags. You can find it pretty much in any supermarket these days.
Those supplements for sleeping that you can find in the Whole Foods work well as well (i.e.: Deep Sleep, very effective, or Knock Out, which is even more powerful). Of course it is always wise to talk to a doctor before trying new supplements.
8.-Tratak yoga practice
The yogic technique of Tratak is simple and helpful. You light up acandle and put it at eye sight level (i.e.: sit on the floor and put the candle on a bed side table, use a cushion if you need to raise higher so that your eyes are leveled with the flame).
Then you turn off the lights so you only get the light from the candle and stare into it with eyes open and without blinking until your eyes fill with moist. Then you close your eyes, say a prayer (optional) and blow the candle. Then go to sleep.
Many people who try this for the first time do not get their eyes wet and that is OK, it will come with practice.
Tratak is said to clear the optical nerves and to induce lucid dreaming.
I remember my father once telling me that if he could not sleep he would say to his mind “You don’t want to sleep, good, we will study law books then”. He was going to school in his late 40s and mentioned that nothing worked better to put him back to sleep.
I do a different version; if I cannot sleep I grab the cushion and sit in meditation (I use this technique). I have tried meditating right there in bed but find it does not work because the mind gets restless very quickly, so sitting is the way to do it and, especially if it is late at night, it does not take long for the sleep waves to come back. The mind will do anything, even sleep, to avoid watching itself in silence!
10.- When nothing else works, surrender
Let’s keep it real, sometimes nothing works. In cases like this I leave the bedroom, make myself some more Sleepy Time tea, maybe with two teabags, get a “knock out” herbal supplement and read a book, a boring book. As much as possible I try to watch the stream of endless thoughts that seem to fight for attention, and not react.
What are some of the yoga inspired solutions you have found?